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Over a Decade in the Making, Plans for MIT Semiconductor Research Facility Take Shape

Feb. 9, 2022
The $279 million project will be funded by the US Department of Defense.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers  has awarded a contract to Gilbane-Exyte Joint Venture to build a Compound Semiconductor Laboratory – Microsystem Integration Facility at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

The $279 million building project, scheduled to begin this spring, is funded by the U.S. Air Force military construction program, under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers, which will manage the building of the 160,000-square-foot, three-story facility. Lincoln Laboratory will install and calibrate the facility’s specialized microelectronics fabrication equipment.

When fully constructed and integrated, the facility will enable scientists and engineers to grow, fabricate, and characterize semiconductors made of two or more different elements (compound semiconductors) and package specialized heterogeneously integrated electronic prototypes.

The capability to integrate different semiconductor material systems and device technologies allows for the creation of customizable microsystems targeting a wide range of applications.

Technologies of focus will include 3D-integrated focal plane arrays for scientific imaging and surveillance, integrated electro-optical systems for space-based optical communication, superconducting microsystems for integrating quantum information bits (qubits) and advanced 3D-ladar imaging systems. The capabilities will be complementary to those of the laboratory’s existing Microelectronics Laboratory (ML), the U.S. government’s most advanced silicon-based research and prototyping fabrication facility.

The project has been over a decade in the making. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense acknowledged a critical need for Lincoln Laboratory facility modernization.

For the past four years, Lincoln Laboratory Capital Projects Office (CPO) staff have been working on the design architecture and engineering of the CSL-MIF. They adopted a bottom-up design approach that incorporated much input from research staff. Two of the critical design requirements involve control of vibration and contamination. Even the slightest vibrations or the smallest amount of dust in the air can interfere with experimental research or device manufacturing. The design team integrated these and other requirements into a set of construction specifications while adhering to budget constraints.

Of the 160,000 square feet, 35,000 will be high-end clean room space, most of which will contain fewer than 10 particles of 0.5 micrometers or larger per cubic foot of air. Typical office space air contains more than 1 million dust particles of this size per cubic foot of air.

The clean room will sit on its own vibration-isolated floor within the building. The floor beneath will contain all of the equipment feeding the clean room, including the vacuum pumps, chemicals, and power supplies. With this setup, operations and maintenance can be performed without contaminating the clean room spaces. The floor suspended above the clean room will house the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment for controlling air flow.

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