ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Over the past few years, politicians have been making a big push for “chips” funding, with nanotechnology being an essential component of electronics we use every day. The industry in the United States is fiercely competitive with other countries, like China. Albany Nanotech could soon become the center of it all.
NEWS10 got to walk through the fabrication area, known as a “fab,” at Albany Nanotech. We had to get dressed in white “clean suits” and wipe down all of our camera equipment before entering the facility.
“It’s a cleanroom facility,” explained engineer Steve Shaw. “This particular room is for developing equipment for producing wafers that need to be in a particularly clean environment.”
Mike Cummings, a field service engineer for Tokyo Electron, which designs and manufactures the tools and equipment that make semiconductors, showed us a robot loader module, just one example of the work done at the facility.
Although the facility is manufacturing-capable, Cummings isn’t making the chips for our smartphones, computers, and tablets, he’s testing out and improving the technology that eventually will.
“On this side, it’s all R and D, so it’s mostly just testing,” Cummings explained.
R and D stands for research and development. It won’t be long before the equipment tested is in use.
“It could be as little as five years, so the technology is moving quick,” Cummings said, “but Tokyo Electron is on the forefront of developing.”
Being at the forefront of development and research is what the leaders at the facility are striving for. Expansion plans are underway for a new fab, and the design phase is set to begin soon. It’s a multi-year project that’s expected to be completed in the 2025 time frame.
Dave Anderson is president of NY CREATES, which owns and operates the Albany Nanotech Complex. “We really bridge the gap, the ‘valley of death’ they call it, from research to manufacturing,” Anderson said.
The CHIPS and Science Act, which this year became law, calls for a National Semiconductor Technology Center, or NSTC. Anderson believes Albany Nanotech has the most advanced capabilities for semiconductor research in the U.S., and perhaps equal to any in the world, and therefore is the obvious choice.
“We have the most advanced technology and the broadest platform for building, essentially, the most number of generations of technology at the 300-millimeter scale on a full manufacturing-capable toolset,” Anderson said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who spearheaded the legislation, has said that despite private companies wanting in on it, he’ll work to make sure the NSTC is located in the Capital Region. Anderson believes NY CREATES is more than ready.
“We’re excited to work with the other regions to create that capability that gives us that national footprint for continuing to be world leaders in semiconductor innovation,” he said.
A spokesperson for Schumer said The U.S. Department of Commerce expects to have the funding competition for the R&D programs, including the NSTC, sometime in the spring. Schumer is pushing for everything to happen as soon as possible.