Cleanroom User Spotlight: Alex Weidenbach

Alex Weidenbach is a graduate research assistant and Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech working with W. Alan Doolittle. In the following Q&A, Weidenbach briefly discusses his work in the IEN cleanroom and gives advice to current and future users.

How long have you been using the IEN Cleanroom?  

I was hired as an intern at the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN) in 2014 during my undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech. In this role, I worked with both the processing and equipment teams and gained a wide range of skills in just about every aspect of cleanroom work. Those skills ultimately led to a job at Axion Biosystems, a local BioMEMS company, upon graduation. While at Axion, I continued to work in the inorganic cleanroom on proprietary research on microelectrode arrays (MEAs). I also developed some new fabrication processes to increase Axion’s manufacturing throughput. I returned to Georgia Tech to pursue my Ph.D., and I am currently in my fifth year of Ph.D. studies under Professor W. Alan Doolittle. All in all, I have been working in the inorganic cleanroom for the past seven years, and I have done everything from tool maintenance to consulting to academic research.

What tools do you use when you are in the cleanroom and what are you doing? 

I primarily use the Denton Discovery 2 sputterer to co-deposit lithium-containing films to make memristive devices for neuromorphic computing applications. To make these films into devices, I frequently use a plethora of tools in the IEN cleanroom which includes the SCS G3P8 Spinner, Karl Suss TSA MA-6 Mask aligner, Heidelberg MLA 150, Vision RIE, Plasma Therm ICP, CtrLayer AET RTP, and the SSI RTP. I regularly need photolithography, dry etching, and rapid thermal annealing to finish my devices.

What is/has been your favorite project you have worked on in the IEN cleanroom?

My own research on memristive devices has been the most rewarding work I’ve done in the IEN cleanroom, though I’m not sure there has been a project that I did not enjoy. I find fabrication to be mentally satisfying and personally fulfilling, so I find enjoyment in the cleanroom work itself. I especially enjoy interacting with other users, recommending tools, and trying to help improve their process flows.

What advice do you have for people thinking about using a tool in the IEN cleanroom?

My advice to future cleanroom users is to make sure you get trained on multiple tools that can perform the same process. Having backup tools ready in case your favorite tool goes down or you run into issues is an absolute must, and it will save you countless hours in the future. Plan ahead and get trained on as many tools as possible. Also, take care to understand how the tool works and what exactly the tool is doing rather than just learning how to operate it. By knowing what is going on inside the chamber of the tool you are using you can more easily debug your process when you inevitably run into problems or challenges with your devices.

What is your favorite thing about the IEN Cleanroom? 

My favorite things about the IEN cleanroom are the number of tool options and the amount of space available to quickly prototype new devices and explore fabrication processes. There are not many general-use cleanrooms set up to do what IEN does at the scope in which it operates. Having so many tools available really makes exploring new fabrication techniques and replicating research easier.

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