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Macro Gifts for Nano Technology

Equipment propels lab to cutting edge

It’s hard to fathom how to manufacture at the nano scale—at sizes smaller than a red blood cell—without hands-on experience. This was a main impetus for Professor Robert White’s successful effort to acquire new equipment for the Tufts Micro and Nanofabrication Facility. “Students have to interact with the equipment, so that it’s less magical and more practical,” he says.

Thanks to a $300,000 award from the Richard H. Lufkin Memorial Fund, White and lab manager James Vlahakis have been able to purchase a number of items, including a dual gun RF Sputter system, for the laboratory. "This generous gift from the Lufkin Trust will allow us to keep our laboratories modern and refresh our toolsets so that we're providing the best education possible to our students," White says.

The dual gun RF Sputter system from Angstrom Engineering is used to deposit smart materials—metals, polymers, or other materials that make controllable and reversible changes in their shape, volume, color, or thermal or electromagnetic properties. The gift also allowed lab staff to purchase a Bruker DekTak profiler to measure the film stress and film thickness of the materials deposited by the sputter system. Next year, the gift will support the acquisition of a nano patterning tool used to create patterned structures at a microscopic scale. In addition to the Lufkin award, Draper Laboratory gave a gift-in-kind of a Denton e-beam evaporator and a Karl Suss MA 6 mask aligner. The e-beam evaporator is used to apply thin films of metals and dielectrics, materials that can store energy. The MA 6 is used for contact printing down to 1 micron or smaller. "There were a number of people involved in bringing us the award from Draper," White says. "And we're extremely grateful for their continued collaboration with Tufts."

"These are critical gifts, and we appreciate both organizations for their ongoing support," White says. As a core facility, the lab is used by many undergraduate and graduate students across the engineering school and in the sciences. The experience the students will gain has applications for emerging technologies in a wide range of industries from optics and medical technology to semiconductors and aerospace. "Having this equipment available helps our students learn cutting-edge skills that they can take to their future careers and build things that will make the world a better place," White says.