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Headine: Microelectronics Grows into Nanotechnology

Researchers work in a clean room
Researchers work in a clean room space of the Marcus Nanotechnology Building at Georgia Tech. The facility is part of the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology.
Photo: Rob Felt

In 1983, largely on the strength of Georgia Tech, Georgia became a finalist to headquarter the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC), a pioneering consortium of technology companies. Though Georgia lost out to Austin, Texas, the economic potential of microelectronics was a lesson learned by the state’s economic development community.

In the Summer 1986 issue of Research Horizons, plans were announced for a new Microelectronics Research Center, which was envisioned as a $10 million facility funded by the Georgia General Assembly to boost microelectronics research in Georgia. The facility, which became the Joseph M. Pettit Microelectronics Research Center, replaced a smaller facility in the basement of the Van Leer Building, which then hosted the work of some 35 researchers, according to the magazine’s archives. Pettit, Georgia Tech’s president from 1972 until 1986, had promoted microelectronics research and played a key role in the effort to win MCC.

Today, the Pettit Building is part of the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN), anchored by the new Marcus Nanotechnology Building. IEN supports the work of some 200 Georgia Tech faculty members, who conduct more than $150 million in total sponsored research. IEN operates approximately 80,000 square feet of clean room, research, fabrication, and characterization laboratories that, in addition to being used by Georgia Tech faculty and students, are shared by users from more than 70 academic institutions, companies, and government agencies engaged in microelectronics and nanotechnology research. In total, more than 700 users benefit from the IEN fabrication and characterization facilities on an annual basis.

IEN is a member of the NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) and has shared user equipment valued at nearly $250 million. The equipment is used for a broad range of technologies, including nanomaterials and structures; compound and next-generation semiconductors; processing and device fabrication; optoelectronic and photonic devices; micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and nano-electromechanical systems (NEMS); high-speed electronics and wireless systems; interconnect technology; system integration and packaging; and energy harvesting and storage.

“Electronics and nanotechnology are essential to all facets of today’s economy, from traditional electronics to new areas in health care and renewable energy,” said Oliver Brand, executive director of IEN. “The original vision for microelectronics has expanded into so many other areas, and just recently to include the manufacturing of therapeutic cells, an innovation that could not have been envisioned with the concept of a shared user facility back in the early 1980s.”​

 — John Toon

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John Toon

John Toon

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