Friday, June 19, 2009

IMEC Update 6/19/09

I realize I haven't discussed much about my research over here at IMEC. The major reason for this is the fact that the first couple weeks have been rather slow.

The work atmosphere at IMEC is similar to a research position at a university. The company structure is divided into departments that are then subsequently divided into groups. Each department has a department leader and each group has a group leader. For example, I'm in the Bio-Nano Electronics department in the Functional Nanosystems group. The work day is very relaxed. You can essentially come to work whenever you want, as long as you put in 8 hours a day. I've typically been coming in around 9 am and leaving around 5:30 or 6 pm. I imagine once the research starts picking up I'll be staying later in the evening.

The company places itself as a link between university and industry. Almost all of the students who work here already have their Bachelors or Masters degrees and are either here for an internship, like myself, or working towards a PhD. In my temporary housing, the age of the interns ranged from 21 to 28. Only two of us did not have a degree.

IMEC's link to industry stems from their collaboration with other companies. Several third party companies conduct their research here and fabricate their products using IMEC's facilities. This 3rd party presence has contributed to the slow progress of my research. For the past 2 weeks, I've been trying to get approval to use one of the instruments, specifically a plasma etcher. One of the companies that conducts their research here depends on this instrument for their products. As a result, the IMEC technician for the instrument was hesitant to let me introduce a new process into the mix. Yesterday, I finally got approval to use the instrument, so hopefully the research starts to pick up.

So what have I been up to these past couple weeks? I spend a lot my time getting trained on the procedures here. One aspect about university research that I miss is the ability to use instruments on my own, whenever it was available. At IMEC, a lot of instruments are serviced, meaning that technicians, and only technicians, operate them. Coming in to this internship, I expected technicians to be responsible for the instruments. With a single technician, the company saves itself a significant amount of time in training each employee on the tool. Additionally, the company saves money. People who aren't well-trained on a piece of equipment are more likely to have an accident and not know how to remedy the situation.

In addition to being trained on procedures, I've been learning how to use a simulation program for electrodynamic modeling. Before we physically fabricate some structures, it's important to know what we should expect and if it's worth investing time in fabricating them in the first place. This past week I've been running simulation after simulation hoping to get some usable results. The structures I'm currently modeling are a combination of the cubes we fabricate in the Gracias lab and plasmonic nanostructures developed over here at IMEC. In these simulations, I'm looking for localized charge distributions and resonance wavelengths. Within the next week or two we should be physically fabricating these structures.

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