11/6/2012 10:08:33 AM
WIRED: The Birth of a Computer Chip Explained During NANOvember
ALBANY, N.Y. -- As I’ve mentioned before,
there’s a lot of nanotechnology going on in my part of Upstate New
York. So I was very pleased this weekend to finally make it to Community
Day at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the
University at Albany.
The event was part of the school’s month-long community and educational outreach initiative, which they’ve dubbed NANOvember.
Although my son and I did not have time to explore all the
family-friendly demonstrations and activities around the CNSE’s
modernistic $14 billion campus, we did get to see the facility’s clean
rooms and find out how a computer chip is made.
Our tour guide was Dr. Scott Tenenbaum,
Associate Professor of Nanobioscience, who studies RNA biology using
nano-based technology. (See the video below for a little more about his
work.) Amazingly, the process as Dr. Tenenbaum described it was easy to
understand, although the work involved is obviously incredibly complex.
Through a wall of observation windows, we could see banks of “tools” —
actually, large machines lined up much like the room-sized computer
banks — used in creating the microchips found in virtually every device
imaginable. Stacked up on the other side of the window were carriers
filled with stacks of silicon disks, about the size of a bowling ball
bag (but much more precious, with each disk costing a few thousand
dollars). And the clean rooms glowed with a mysterious bright yellow
light, for reason we were soon to learn.