University of California -- Irvine
UC Irvine's Henry Samueli School of Engineering has a stand-alone facility named the UCI Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility. The Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility focuses on developing engineered nanoscale systems consist of microscopic and smaller systems comprised of mechanical, photonic, biological, electrical, fluidic, and chemical subsystems.The vision of INRF-UCI is to provide the key technologies required to engineer the microworld. The INRF also hopes to foster communication between traditionally distant fields such as bioscience and engineering.
Researchers at INRF believe that nanosystems engineering will be one of the great technological revolutions to come, affecting all fields of engineering and science. Nanosystems engineering can grow to become a significant source of economic stimulus and improve the quality of human life. The INRF is dedicated to providing the resources and training necessary for performing first-class, cross-disciplinary research in a safe and responsible manner.
TAKING MEMS ONE STEP FURTHER
The INRF promotes research and develops technology for integrated nanosystems, targeting areas such as biomedical, communication and networking technologies. Integrated nanosystems is a new field of research, similar in nature to MEMS (micro-electrical-mechanical systems) research, but with a different emphasis.
MEMS technology uses semiconductor techniques to build microscopic mechanical devices in silicon or similar materials – typical devices are pressure transducers and accelerometers. Integrated nanosystems takes MEMS technology and integrates it with micro-scale technologies from biology, chemistry, photonics and other fields to produce hybrid integrated systems. Integrated nanosystem technology allows a much larger assortment of devices to be developed for broader applications. Industries such as life and health sciences, environmental sciences, and chemical sciences can benefit from such technology. Example devices might be a self-analyzing biological assay on a chip, a self-powered, communicating remote sensor, or a micro chemical factory. Integrated nanosystems require a strong cross-disciplinary approach, a willingness to pursue new, non-traditional manufacturing techniques, and full understanding of the total needs of the technology.
The INRF employs four full-time development engineers and several part-time technical staff to maintain the facilities.
One recent advance at INRF has been the development of techniques for microfabricating plastic devices. Plastic microdevices are more suitable for biological and medical applications, can be used for more effective micropackage design, and allow for the development of cheaper, disposable devices. Work is underway to integrate this technology with silicon-based processes to produce more functional "bio-chemical-electrical-mechanical-optical" systems for applications such as fiber optics communications switching, combinatorical chemistry, and total analysis biochemical chips.