The University of Chicago’s Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility, completed in 2015, has an ISO Class 5 cleanroom which specializes in advanced lithographic processing of hard and soft materials. Its cleanroom components are part of the nearly unlimited range of scale and focus in research space found within the University of Chicago’s Eckhardt Research Center (ERC). The Pritzker facility hosts a 13,000 sf, Class 100 cleanroom. It was envisioned to serve as a core facility with highly specialized tools to enable chemists, engineers, and physical scientists to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges at the molecular level.

The cleanroom was originally designed for a generic “straw man” program by Abbie Gregg Inc., which worked with HOK to obtain approvals for the facility. Jacobs Engineering was selected as the final designer of the cleanroom build-out.

The designers sought to create a high-performance, vibration-free space for the cleanroom, imaging area, and other high performance laboratories on a tight urban site next to high-traffic streets. Working with Colin Gordon and Abbie Gregg Inc., HOK determined that these spaces must be located well away from the street traffic. This resulted in the creation of two deep basement levels that extend beyond the building to the west under the landscaped quadrangle to achieve the area requirements. The cleanroom and imaging areas are in the area on each basement level that is furthest from the street.

The University of Chicago‘s William Eckhardt Research Center. All images: HOK

Electromagnetic interference was also mitigated using epoxy-coated reinforcing bars, tested and used for their ability to conduct electric current, in foundations. In addition, moving metal elements such as steel doors were eliminated.

The cleanroom offers a unique view corridor, with large expanses of glass, which enables visitors to easily observe the cleanroom scientists in action while also visually connecting the cleanroom users to building activity.

The Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility has partnered with Northwestern University in the NSF-supported Soft and Hybrid Nanotechnology Experimental (SHyNE) resource. It is open to all properly trained users through a fee for use structure. 

Cleanroom lab with view of corridor.

Equipment includes advanced electron beam lithography systems; I-line optical stepper; direct write lithograpy capable of handling piece parts to 150 mm wafers; physical vapor deposition tools including sputtering systems, electron beam evaporators, and a thermal evaporator; plasma etching systems configured for both chlorine- and fluorine-based etching; inspection tools including scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and high performance optical microscope; profilometry, ellipsometry, thin film interferomety, and stress; a probe station; and a 150 mm capable dicing saw.

Foundation looking southeast.

The University of Chicago’s William Eckhardt Research Center provides a link to transformative, interdisciplinary discovery. The facility’s laboratories, collaborative spaces, and precision instrumentation support the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, the new Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME), the Dean’s Office of Physical Sciences, and their partners in their collective work toward scientific discovery.

Finite Element Analysis of LL1: Colin Gordon Associates provided finite element analysis to predict the vibration characteristics of the ERC lower levels in design. Highest performance zones are revealed in the blue areas.

The facility provides a home for the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility cleanroom’s work at the molecular level, as well as flexible physics laboratories where the origins of the universe are studied and Chem-Bio laboratories where researchers explore the efficacy of new molecules in curing disease.

MaryBeth DiDonna is Editor of Controlled Environments.; Twitter @CEMagazineUS