You head to the new Micro Electro Mechanical System (MEMS) Fabrication facilities in the engineering building at UBC’s Okanagan campus, put on a bunny suit, enter a class 100 clean room that provides a dust-free atmosphere, and use a combination of chemistry, light technology and lasers to fabricate devices — or microsystems — as small as one-millionth of a metre, also known as a micron (μm).
What the design and application of that microsystem might be is as varied as the expertise of the UBC faculty who’s creating it.
“The tools we have access to in the MEMS lab are incredible,” says Jonathan Holzman, associate professor in the School of Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “But I would say that the greatest advantage is not so much the equipment, but the people who use it. We have a diverse and talented faculty in mechanical, civil and electrical engineering who are working together to create solutions for a wide scope of industry and community partners, both locally and globally.”
This multidisciplinary approach often leads to to an interesting subset of applications and ways to approach different problems, Holzman adds.
For example, Jonathan Holzman, who is an electrical engineer specializing in micro-sensor technologies, is collaborating with UBC mechanical engineering colleagues specializing in micro-fluidics to improve water quality sensing for the City ofKelowna.
“We are developing a very small microsystem — essentially a lab on a chip –with multiple sensing techniques that has the ability to quickly detect cryptosporidium pathogens in water, helping to ensure a potential problem in water quality can be detected before it makes its way into the public water systems.”
It is essential for the MEMS lab to be able to test and view the microsytems in tremendous detail. That’s where the new Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) facility comes in — another new lab opened this year at UBC’s Okanagan campus.