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Volume 2, 2013

One big ‘nano-kitchen’

More than 1,000 square metres of cleanroom, 250 pieces of equipment, 400 users from 34 research groups and 50 companies. MESA+ NanoLab is one of the showpieces of Dutch nanotechnology. An interview with Gerard Roelofs, head of MESA+ NanoLab. “Our motto is: Creating opportunities.”

The door is closed for the interview; a card with ‘do not disturb’ hangs on the door outside. Generally speaking, Gerard Roelofs’ office door is kept wide open. It is a constant coming and going of people from the world of science and industry. Roelofs: “Making a device sometimes takes twenty to thirty steps that have to be completed in one to two weeks. We have the entire chip manufacturing process under one roof here. We have an extensive array of apparatus comprising 250 pieces of equipment. I sometimes call it a ‘big kitchen’. Our team ensures that all equipment is in good working order and that it does what the specifications promise. Nothing is more annoying for a scientist or a company if step 7, for instance, is unsuccessful. There is no way back and you have start from scratch again.”

Thirty process steps in two weeks. That means you have to get your planning right. How do you do that? Do you have to reserve equipment?
Roelofs: “Yes, that’s done over the Internet. Companies often have planners and they know exactly what they need and when they need it. Recently we started to allow researchers to draw up their own process plans, and we can assist them to do that.”

MESA+ NanoLab attracts many companies. Doesn’t that conflict with the more fundamental-oriented researchers that also use the facilities?
Roelofs: “No, on the contrary. You see that researchers and companies discuss their processes and problems with each other. The NanoLab is en environment for researchers and companies in which they share their knowledge and expertise. What we do make sure of is that there is no glut of people using the various equipment. No company wants entirely different things being done by others on what for them is critical apparatus. We certainly take that into account. We always plan similar processes on the same equipment. And if a company wants to have a piece of equipment totally for its own use, then the company can get in touch with the High Tech Factory which is also located here on the campus.

NanoLab
MESA+ NanoLab offers a wide range of opportunities for researchers of companies and knowledge institutes in the Netherlands and from abroad:

- 1,250 m2 of equipped cleanrooms focusing on microsystems and nanotechnology.

- Fully equipped central analysis laboratory.

- Specialised laboratories for chemical synthesis and analysis, material research and characterisation.

Name: Gerard Roelofs (1959)
POSITION : Head of ME SA+ NanoLab
PREVIOUSLY: Roelofs studied chemistry at HTS Enschede. After that he worked more than a year for NatLab, Philips’ research laboratory. He returned to Twente in 1985 where he became head of the electrotechnology cleanroom. Since 2005 Roelofs has been the head of ME SA+ NanoLab
MESA+... “makes it possible for scientists and businesses to share their knowledge and expertise”