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CNEU Additional Information and Frequently Asked Questions

Additional Information

Nanofabrication encompasses making things in the nano-range (10 to 1000 times the size of an atom) and in the micro-range (more than about 1000 times the size of an atom).

Nanofabrication is the technology that grew out of semiconductor microelectronics "chip" manufacturing. Today it is used in information storage, opto-electronics, sensors, micro-electro-mechanical (MEMs) devices, power semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, bio-medical applications, and, of course, in microelectronics.

Nanofabrication is the driver technology in fields such as information technology, computers, the Internet, and bio-medical technology.

The nanofabrication manufacturing workforce is not tied to one industry. Workers can find employment in a broad range of industries from pharmaceuticals to microelectronics.

Pennsylvania has a nanofabrication workforce development program to nurture the broad spectrum of nanotechnology-based companies and to bring more of the high paying jobs of these high-tech companies to Pennsylvanians.

This workforce development program is the Pennsylvania Nanofabrication Manufacturing Technology (NMT) Partnership. This is a joint effort between the State's leading research university and colleges from across the commonwealth.

In this Partnership, the CNEU NMT curriculum, and the Penn State Nanofabrication Facility are shared with other educational institutions to offer two-year degree students Nanofabrication Manufacturing Technology (NMT) two-year degrees and to offer two-year and four-year degree students Nanofabrication Manufacturing Technology (NMT) Certificates or degree concentrations.

To earn these NMT degrees and certificates granted by the participating institutions across Pennsylvania, students must spend one semester at the Penn State Nanofabrication Facility in a hands-on nanofabrication "capstone experience". This semester is set-up by the student's home institution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Nanofabrication is the technology that grew out of making semiconductor chips. Everybody wanted faster computers and faster access to the Internet, which resulted in transistors getting smaller. Things have gotten so tiny now that this technology has become "machining at the atomic level" and it has spread from being used to make chips to being used to make a variety of technological innovations, including, for example, artificial organs, tiny valves, and flat, picture-like televisions.

What is the outlook for industries using nanofabrication?
Every year some industries spurt ahead and some slow down. That is the way the world economy is. However, the ones that do more spurting ahead are the high-tech industries like optoelectronics (fiber-optic communications for the Internet), displays (flat TVs, computer screens, etc.), sensors (pollution, food bacteria detection, etc.), pharmaceuticals (DNA immobilization, "lab-on-a-chip"), and microelectronics. These industries use nanofabrication technology now and will use nanofabrication even more in the future.

The Federal Government, in stressing the unprecedented spread of nanotechnology, has stated that it " likely to change the way almost everything-from vaccines to computers to automobile tires to objects not yet imaginable-is designed and made."

What are the opportunities for a graduate of this program?
The spectrum of industries using nanofabrication technology is broad-from pharmaceuticals to opto-electronics and microelectronics. A person with a nanofabrication technology skill set can work in any of these industries, all of which continue to grow. The Federal Government, in stressing the unprecedented spread of nanotechnology, has stated that it " likely to change the way almost everything-from vaccines to computers to automobile tires to objects not yet imaginable-is designed and made."

What is the environment like in the industries that use NMT?
The companies using nanofabrication technologies are high-tech leaders. Their overall environments are dynamic and stimulating. The specific work environment of a person skilled in nanofabrication technology would be in a cleanroom, a highly disciplined, ultra-clean world of machining at the atomic level. To give you an even better idea of this cleanroom environment, the Class Ten cleanroom facilities of the Nanofabrication Facility are 10,000 times cleaner than a typical hospital operating room.

If one considers just the "chip" industry, the need for skilled technicians specifically in the microelectronics industry has been well documented. Nanofabrication manufacturing technology has propelled the integratedcircuit (chip-based) companies to the status of the world's largest industrynow larger than the steel and automotive industries combined.

What type of machines are used in Nanofabrication Manufacturing Technology?
Basically the equipment used for machining at the atomic level falls into three categories: tools that deposit films, tools that remove films, and patterning (lithography) tools that lay out where the deposition and removal will occur. These very sophisticated machines are often run by a team composed of an operator, a technician, and an engineer.

What science and math skill sets are needed in NMT?
Students should discuss this question in detail with their adviser at their "home college." Basically, a person in nanofabrication technology needs some chemistry background because of all the chemistry involved in deposition, etching, and lithography. An understanding of electrical measurements and basic physics is also needed, as are basic computer and algebra skills. Recommended high school subjects include two years of algebra and one year of physics. Chemistry also is strongly recommended.

Are teaming and supervision involved in NMT?
Nanofabrication technology is defining the forefront of technology. The sophisticated equipment used usually requires an operator/technician/engineer team. Technicians usually acquire supervisory or progress to technical decision roles.

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Sponsors:  National Nanatechnology Infrastructure Network and National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development The Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK Center) was established at the Penn State College of Engineering in September 2008 through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.