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BU, RPI, Infotonics Center team up to form national packaging power

By : Susan E. Barker

An alliance between Binghamton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Infotonics Technology Center will help speed the commercialization of next-generation microsystems by focusing on electronics packaging research.

Binghamton’s Integrated Electronics Engineering Center will bring to the alliance its world-class expertise in mechanics, thermal management and reliability, said Bahgat Sammakia, interim vice president for research and director of the IEEC, a New York state Center for Advanced Technology.

“The areas of research at Binghamton and at RPI’s Center for Automation Technologies complement one another very well,” Sammakia said. “We are excited to join this initiative with the Infotonics Center and we expect great things to come from it.”

Some of those positive aspects will come in the form of improved products and technologies in fields ranging from health care and homeland security to agriculture, consumer products and manufacturing processes, Sammakia said.

Others likely will include significant increases in research funding as well as new opportunities to explore and refine collaborative working relationships across the region.

Sammakia said the positive outcomes of such small-scale systems research and engineering include the creation of new machines that will be thinner than the human hair, diagnostics that function at the molecular level, and electronics packaging materials that are lighter, stronger and more versatile than existing technologies.

“Our part will be the fundamental science that supports the development of world-class products that can survive in the harshest of environments and conditions,” he said.

Electronics packaging is all-important to microsystems. Take the microprocessor out of a computer, lay it on a desk and it will create little more than an interesting product. That’s because in the same way that the potentials of the human brain are realized only as a result of the protection and environmental interfaces provided by the human body, micro-devices are wholly dependent on their packaging for the mechanical supports and interconnections needed to realize their potential.

“While microsystem devices have been researched and prototyped, very little packaging research has been developed to serve this high-growth market,” said Duncan Moore, chief executive officer of the Infotonics Center. “We are about to change that. We expect this initiative will keep high-tech jobs in this field in the United States, rather than losing them to other countries.”

Moore said the alliance is expected to have national impact because the unique packaging capabilities of the alliance are primed to provide the kind of breakthrough research needed by this rapidly emerging field.

The center is a not-for-profit corporation that operates New York state’s Center of Excellence in Photonics and Microsystems. Infotonics is structured as a consortium with industrial participants including Corning Inc., Eastman Kodak Company and Xerox Corporation.

Academic participants include about 20 New York state colleges and universities. The goal of the center is to establish a unique, world-class research and development facility to enable rapid commercialization of new products. With financial support from the state, federal government, and three founding corporate members — Corning, Kodak, and Xerox — the initiative is expected to drive economic development and to create 5,000 jobs within 10 years.

A $20 million renovation project is currently under way at the Canandaigua-based Infotonics Center. A major part of the renovation is the upgrading of 40,000 square feet of cleanroom space. A cleanroom is a laboratory-like setting featuring ultra-high filtration of particles and control of interior climate and static to meet the requirements for handling highly sensitive silicon wafers.

In addition to projects for the founding corporate members, the center’s interim packaging lab is providing services for Integrated Nano-Technologies, a Rochester-based company that specializes in chemically synthesizing complex electronic circuits and devices.

Representatives from RPI and Binghamton met recently with Infotonics management and scientists from Corning, Kodak and Xerox to review research opportunities and to discuss potential business and government customers.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08