MTL News Archives for 2004

Lab/Industry Collaborations Give Birth to New Visions

June 30, 2004

Imagine an HP printer that prints electronics and optical devices in sheet form either for large area displays or low cost electronics. This vision is the central theme of a newly formed partnership between the Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) of Hewlett-Packard (HP) and the Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL).

Building from the established HP-MIT Alliance, MTL and IPG have developed a program and process to explore this compelling research vision. IPG has committed $1 million annually to this effort. Launched last year, the program involves several MIT School of Engineering faculty research groups in three major research projects. An HP resident scientist participates in the research on campus and helps to cultivate new proposals within this broad theme.

Since 2000, the broader HP-MIT Alliance has brought together researchers from MIT and Hewlett-Packard Laboratories to work on a range of digital technologies, focusing on three major research areas: communication and computing platforms; e-services for business and commerce; and fundamental research, particularly in quantum science. HP invests approximately $4 million a year in the projects and infrastructure of the Alliance. Although currently planned to continue through October 2005, the HP-MIT Alliance is expected to be extended beyond that point.

Established in the 1980s by the MIT's department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the Microsystems Technology Laboratories was envisioned to foster research in semiconductor technologies and integrated circuit design. MIT's vision and sustained commitment to these areas has created a vibrant community that involves a large number of faculty and students and a broad range of uses, including many that could not have been foreseen when the MTL was established. About 85 MIT faculty from every department in the School of Engineering, and many from the School of Science, work with the MTL in a variety of endeavors: from building micro-gas turbine engines (the size of a shirt button) to developing a powerful wireless microsensor network, and fabricating a variety of novel devices for biomedical applications. This year, more than 350 students from 29 departments, laboratories, and centers throughout MIT also worked at the MTL facilities. Following recent, extensive upgrades, MTL is now one of the three largest university micro- and nano-technologies fabrication facilities in the country, supporting novel investigations in biology, optics, micro/nano mechanics (MEMS), nanoelectronics, wireless microsystems, and other areas.

Central to the MTL's success is a vibrant relationship with industry. This is accomplished through a consortium called the Microsystems Industrial Group (MIG), as well as specially focused centers in Integrated Circuits and Systems, Intelligent Transportation, and MEMS, as well as a Center for Integrated Photonic Systems (CIPS). Recently, through consultation with its industrial partners, the MTL developed a new value proposition for the MIG that supports industry interactions with individual faculty and centers through "customization."

In addition, the MTL is planning to expand the physical infrastructure to support "tiny technologies," including the addition of 2000 sq. ft. of new, shared cleanroom facilities, specifically to support research in biology and nanotechnology. By teaming with the Computational Systems Biology Initiative (CSBi), the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN), and the Nanomanufacturing Initiative in the Mechanical Engineering Department, the MTL has designed a state-of-the-art facility that includes equipment for rapid prototyping and micro/nano fabrication of novel materials and structures. This plan addresses a pressing need on the campus and integrates this capability within the existing umbrella of shared facilities at MIT, providing the campus community with what will be the most complete research infrastructure for tiny technologies of any university in the world.