Editorial Feature

Cleanrooms for Nanotechnology Research

The use of nanotechnology has expanded across several industries, such as the semiconductors, photonics, and pharmaceutical sector. These applications often involve delicate manufacturing processes, requiring ultra-clean conditions free of dust, fumes, and other impurities that might cling to component surfaces and compromise production efficiency and test reliability.

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What are Cleanrooms?

Cleanrooms are carefully designed environments free of contaminants and air particles that can obstruct product testing and fabrication.

Cleanrooms provide accurate testing and production in an extremely hygienic environment across a broad array of industries, contributing to the accomplishment of high-quality control and safety requirements. They can be used in a wide spectrum of applications, including research, production, quality assurance, packing, and delivery.

As air flows via the exhaust system in these rooms, high-efficiency filters capture and safely remove dust contaminants. Permanent and flexible are the two kinds of cleanrooms. Flexible cleanrooms offer the same operational advantages as permanent environments but in a more customizable and cost-effective configuration.

Main Characteristics of Cleanroom Design

Several characteristics must be present for the cleanroom to be recognized as high quality and for it to function correctly.

The High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration system traps particulates of sizes more than 0.3 μm. HEPA filters purify all air entering a cleanroom by successfully eliminating almost all airborne contaminants.

Polished and smooth surfaces are utilized to reduce the accumulation of contaminants. Strictly enforced washing and dressing standards must be maintained to prevent contamination externally.

The type and number of acceptable particles are determined by legislation and government organizations based on the industry and the necessary protective measures. The fewer particles allowed, the greater the level of cleaning within the cleanroom.

Nanotechnology Research

All aspects of a project's workflow should be considered as the first stage in cleanroom design. It is crucial to realize that some experiments necessitate more controlled environments than others; nanoscience and nanotechnology often require extremely high cleanroom standards. 

Humidity and temperature are important factors in many nanotechnology applications. To ensure perfect operating conditions, all sterile rooms used for nanotechnology applications must have humidity and temperature monitoring.

Modular cleanrooms are popular in nanotechnology because they provide exceptional contamination and environmental control while allowing building and reconfiguration flexibility.

Requirements for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Sterile environments are required for numerous nanoanalysis techniques such as scanning electron microscopy, scanning near-field optical microscopy, atomic force microscopy and focused ion beam. These nanoanalysis techniques require extreme precision and accuracy for nanomaterials characterization to be valuable.

Nanoparticles are very reactive due to their smaller surface area. They can easily react with air particles and containments and can affect the characterization results. Filtered air that is free of air particles and containments are required while testing and characterizing nanomaterials for accurate results.

As nanotechnology advances, traditional laboratories must evolve to match. Cleanrooms are just one critical component for research innovation. For example, a sophisticated laboratory is needed to develop membranes for removing CO2 from the exhaust system, photo-catalysis for cleaner procedures, or more effective solar cells. Such a laboratory necessitates cutting-edge equipment and controlled environments.

Silent features are also a critical component of high-functioning cleanrooms. These include ecologically conscious factors like low energy consumption, as well as systems like high-efficiency particulate filtration and fan filter units to produce highly filtered air.

Temperature control and interlock entrance mechanisms also help to keep the cleanroom a stable, isolated environment.

Other features included in nanotechnology cleanroom design include clean benches, and both laminar and longitudinal flow canopies.

Operational Examples

Leeds Nanotechnology Cleanroom is a leading environment for nanoscience research. Its objective is to be a top manufacturing facility, enabling cutting-edge investigation and igniting innovation in nanotechnology and material sciences.

The facility contains an ISO-certified cleanroom with a variety of cutting-edge technology to support all nanofabrication needs, such as photo- and e-beam lithography, nano-coating, wet and dry etching, post-processing, and characterization.

The Necessity of Nanotechnology Cleanrooms
Contaminants like air particles can directly reduce productivity; however, a cleanroom isolates the product from pollutants that could contaminate it and cause it to be discarded by product testing.

There is also a need for cleanroom operators to be able to achieve small-scale options that are as effective as larger units for nanoscale start-ups. Manufacturers are attempting to reduce operating costs as much as possible to protect their capital investment for manufacturing, but without sacrificing quality.

In the future, more emphasis should be placed on enabling smaller institutions to establish cost-effective cleanroom facilities so that the production of high-quality, contaminant-free products is not restricted to those with larger organizations. 

Cleanrooms' significance and capabilities for nanotechnology manufacturing and experimentation will only expand. Almost every sector, from agricultural production to pharmaceutical development and aviation, need regulated facilities.

As industries evolve, precise and efficient facilities will be required. Cleanrooms are a desirable, if not critical, choice as they provide configurable and cost-effective places that do not require in-house resources.

Continue reading: Following Graphene Along the Industrial Supply Chain

References and Further Reading

Cleanroomsbyunited.com. (2022). Nanotechnology Cleanrooms. [online] Available at: https://www.cleanroomsbyunited.com/modular-cleanrooms/nanotechnology-cleanrooms

NGS Cleanroom Environments. (2022). Cleanrooms in Industry. [online] Available at: https://ngscleanrooms.com/2021/02/12/cleanrooms-in-industry/

Eps.leeds.ac.uk. (2022). Leeds Nanotechnology Cleanroom. [online] Available at: https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/dir-record/facilities/3876/nanotechnology-cleanroom

Total Clean Air. (2022). Nano Tech Cleanrooms | Modular Cleanrooms By Total Clean Air. [online] Available at: https://www.modular-cleanroom.net/cleanrooms/nano-tech/

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Usman Ahmed

Written by

Usman Ahmed

Usman holds a master's degree in Material Science and Engineering from Xian Jiaotong University, China. He worked on various research projects involving Aerospace Materials, Nanocomposite coatings, Solar Cells, and Nano-technology during his studies. He has been working as a freelance Material Engineering consultant since graduating. He has also published high-quality research papers in international journals with a high impact factor. He enjoys reading books, watching movies, and playing football in his spare time.


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