Foundry in a Box

An inspiring X-Logue on Foundry in a Box by Dr. Ahmed Busnaina, Founding Director of NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for High-Rate Nano-Manufacturing at the Northeastern University. This talk is part of the PUZZLE X 2021 program on 16th November 2021. SDG Relevance: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9)
November 16, 2021

An X-Logue about industrialized nanofabrication, a transformational innovation in material technology. The discussion provides a high-level overview of how revolutionary technologies can be brought to scale and how the speaker’s current fabrication facilities operate. The speaker delves into how these technologies can be done at scale and have the potential to dramatically shift the way society industrializes.

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PUZZLE X™ 2021 | Nov 16-18 is the world's first collision grounds for science, business, venture and societal impact. It brings Frontier Materials to the forefront to aid the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations by 2030.

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Electronics & Devices


Frontier Materials


2D Materials

Nano & Low-Dimensional Materials


What SDG is this related to?

Ahmed Busnaina  0:00  

My name is Ahmed Busnaina, I'm from Boston, Northeastern University. I'll be happy to talk to you about the new technology that probably most of you did not know existed. And so in this talk, I will go over, at a very high level, go over the technology and explain how it works and what the impact is. I used to work in the semiconductor industry for more than 20 years, working with every company, you can think of IBM, Intel, Applied Materials, Samsung, and so even TSMC, helping them solve problems, and helping them scale up processes. So I'm very familiar with that part of nanofabrication technology. And so, for example, back in 1990, ‘92 or ‘93, the fabs, each fabrication facility's price tag reached 1 billion. Now, each fab is about $20 billion. Not only that the power that each fabrication facility uses is equivalent to the power used by 50,000 homes in one year. They use massive amounts of water, massive amounts of chemicals, a lot of them being toxic chemicals and harsh chemicals, also, they basically cost 1 billion per year to operate. And that's not the only challenge, the challenge with this old technology, which has served us very, very well and I don't think it's going to go away, but we have a lot of novel materials today. We heard a lot of talk about graphene, we talked about other types of materials, where there are materials that are still being discovered. Well, this technology is not conducive to using these materials. We need a new manufacturing technology that's materials agnostic, which means it should be able to use whatever material you want in your device or your electronics. Zina this morning talked about the puzzle, you know, the different puzzles and how we have new materials, and we have to put the puzzle together. And this is one piece of the puzzle that would put all the materials together. 

Ahmed Busnaina  2:20

Imagine that you can make your chip in your lab in one day, your own design on one machine, and at 100X less cost. Imagine that that machine will reduce the carbon footprint by 2,500%. Imagine that machine can actually use any material you want. Is this technology in the future, or is it current? Well, actually, this technology exists, you can do that now and the concept has been demonstrated. And I'll show you some examples and I'll tell you how it works, but it is possible to do that now. And this is something that I worked on in the industry for 20 years and got to a point where I said there has to be a cheaper and simpler and easier way to build electronics. You have to be able to use any material you want, you have to be able to use organic material, you should be able to use biomaterial, biocompatible electronics, for example, you should be able to do all that.

Ahmed Busnaina  3:29

Okay, so how does it work? Well, the inspiration came from nature. Nature, when you put a seed, whether you're doing it a pot in a plant, or planting a tree, it's a seed you start with, right, and it's a small factory, it's a nano factory, it starts to build cell by cell, molecule by molecule and it goes up. That's how we were made, right? Nine months, cell by cell, you get a human being, it's the same thing. Inspiration is the same, except nature is very slow, they do a much better job than any manufacturing, but it takes time because it's very complicated. So we wanted a technique that will build electronics, particle by particle, molecule by molecule, but we want it to be faster. So basically, we have started using direct assembly technology, which directs each particle to where you want to make your chip or your electronics. And we wanted to do it fast, we wanted to print one layer in one minute, whether you're printing micro or nanoscale. And that's actually what this machine does. So here you can see, you can see some of these 30 nanometer particles. These are silica fluorescent particles. These are interconnected gold or silver, we can make them tungsten copper, this is 25 nanometers. And this is done in 30 seconds by the way over the whole wafer. So, it's a very, very fast process. So how does it compare to current fabrication technology, or how does it compare to inkjet or 3D printing technology? So, first of all, it can do pretty much most of the technology that nanofabrication technology can’t, we can go down to 20 nanometers and can go down to millimeters, for example. It's 100 times less cost. It's 100 times faster than conventional fabrication, and that's where you get your memory chips or processing chips, but it's 1000 times faster than 3D or inkjet printing and can print 1000 times smaller features size which is very, very small. And so basically, you can get your chips the same day, you can get multiple layers, you can make whatever devices you want, where we have the basic building blocks of a circuit you have a resistor you have diodes, you have capacitors, you have resistors you can print all that using whatever material you want and you can mix organic and inorganic as well. So, what have we demonstrated so far? So this process had been funded by the National Science Foundation and several agencies in the United States to the tune of about 70 plus million dollars over 10 years. So, lots of people have worked on this and they have 40 patents, lots of publications available and so forth. But what have we demonstrated so far? So, for example, we made transistors from organic transistors for example, like pentazocine Pdot, BTT based, we get we make transistors from 2D material like Maleimide Disulfide, and we made transistor from carbon nanotubes, we made transistors from 3-5 semiconductors, which are useful power electronics, we made transistor using 2-6 semiconductors. We mixed some in cases, where we used 1D material and 2D material in the same circuit. You can do that, it actually allows you to do that.

Ahmed Busnaina  7:15

Also we have a paper published, probably earlier than anyone else, where we made inverters using nanotubes and Maleimide Disulfide to make MEMS devices, same thing directed assembly. We made nano LEDs, these are 15 nanometer LEDs, which means your pixel size in the nanoscale could be no more than 200 nanometers. So there are many, many applications. You can make sensors, we made lots of sensors. I'm going to go over sensor examples in a minute. So these are some of the sensors that we have made. The first one which is here, this one is a sweat based sensor for glucose and lactate, and uses carbon nanotubes or graphene. And that means it's like a bandaid. You put it on the chest or lower back and we've tried it on people with a partner company and it gives you continuous monitoring of lactate and glucose. And we made it through an app that will send the data to your iPhone, for example, or any smart device. We also made gas chemical sensors for example, that are carbon nanotube based. This is cancer cells. So these are nanoparticle bases that can be used for early detection of cancer so that you can detect cancer early on. For example, a lot of people who have cancer surgery who are fortunate enough to get cancer and have cancer surgery, they're asked to come back to see the doctor, to find out if the cancer came back. But they asked him to come back in six months. Wy six months? Why not come back the next day? Well, because the detection limit is very high. So they wait for the cancer tumor to grow in order to produce enough antigens to basically be detected. But with 200 times more sensitivity you can do that on the day after the surgery for example. So there’s examples done with the sensors and the printer can do that. So what's the impact? Well, first off it is sustainability. Very sustainable, does not use any harsh chemicals, we have no etching for example, no chemical reactions, all physical chemistry. And you can have many workshops that actually can bring your chip in the same day. So sustainability is 25 times less embodied energy. And the supply chain is not an issue anymore because every city and every neighborhood can have their own one tool. The tool is from out here to here and it's about this wide. It's not very big.

Ahmed Busnaina  10:02

Cybersecurity, there's nothing better than having your own design to have secure hardware, and no one knows your design because your design goes into your machine. Material innovation, you can use any material you want, you can suspend an illiquid or dissolve an illiquid, you can print that material. And chips on demand, think about the development cycle, how fast you can do this, you can design your chip one day and then next day, you find out oh, it would be better if I change the design, well, you can change the design and have it printed the next day. So the development cycle is very, very short. Applications, I'm not going to go into details, but the applications you have include semiconductor applications and that’s about 40 $440 billion. You have a lot of displays with quantum dots. And OLED displays, sensors is a huge market, for example. And just to close, basically, I think this fits very well with Smart Cities entrepreneurships. Think about all the chips that are needed, people have to either go to TSMC and pay $100,000 to get like 30 chips, so you can try them. And then you wait for six months, for example. And sometimes you want a chip that's not very complicated, but is a 1000 transistor, but it's an IoT chip that has a neural network, for example, that's needed for certain sensors, well you cannot do that. It's very difficult to do that. So imagine having the same shop that will provide any city or any lab or any small business with their own devices. And you can hire a consultant to design your circuit and then you can print it. And it's very inexpensive. You can set up a shop for less than a transmission electron microscope, for example, these microscopes people buy, this is cheaper than most electron microscopes. So thank you very much, and I will be happy to answer any questions afterwards!


Related Contacts

Ahmed Busnaina

Ahmed A. Busnaina, Ph.D. is the William Lincoln Smith Chair Professor, Distinguished University Professor and founding Director of the National Science Foundation’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (CHN) for High-rate Nanomanufacturing since 2004 and the Advanced Nanomanufacturing Cluster for Smart Sensors and Materials (CSSM) since 2015 at Northeastern University, Boston, MA. Dr. Busnaina is internationally recognized for his work on nano and micro scale defects mitigation and removal in semiconductor fabrication. He specializes in directed assembly-based printing of micro and nanoscale electronics and sensors. He developed many techniques for directed assembly and nanomaterials based manufacturing of nanoscale structures for energy, electronics, biomedical and materials applications. His research support exceeds $58 million. He authored more than 600 papers in journals, proceedings, and conferences. He also has 23 granted and 40 pending patents. He is an of the Microelectronic Engineering Journal and an associate editor of the Journal of Nanoparticle Research. He also serves on many advisory boards including Samsung Electronics; International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, Journal of Particulate Science and Technology. He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, National Academy of Inventors and the Adhesion Society, a Fulbright Senior Scholar and listed in Who's Who in the World, in America, in science and engineering, etc.). He was awarded the 2006 Nanotech Briefs National Nano50 Award, Innovator category.

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