From Closet to Cleanroom... No Sweat!

Nanotechnology Cleanroom, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, Massachusetts

One of the scarcest resources on a university campus is space. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges for us, as designers, is to maximize the efficiency of the space at our disposal. Continuing a string of projects completed for the University of Massachusetts System, SMMA was commissioned to design a nanotechnology cleanroom within the Conte Polymer Research Center at the Amherst campus. Beginning with a storage room, janitorial closet, and facilities office, we created a 1,500-square-foot, Class 1000 cleanroom that now houses the University’s Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing. 

SMMA replaced the warehouse shelving, cleaning supplies, and attic stock with clean bays for metallization, deposition and etch, lithography, wet chemistry, and metrology. The existing janitorial closet was repurposed for gas storage.

We fed process cooling water from a heat exchanger across the hall in a vacant corner of the shipping/receiving dock, where we also relocated the acid-neutralization system, and pulled the air handler out of the space entirely, hanging it above the ceiling in the adjacent lobby space. By locating the majority of the services outside of the clean space, we were able to maximize white space within the available square footage.

Location Is Everything

The placement of the cleanroom on the campus is as strategic as it is opportunistic—it is central to the many departments that collaborate in its space. Cross-discipline research is a keystone of the program, which involves the physics, chemistry, biology, and chemical engineering departments.

The nanotechnology facility has enabled new possibilities in student and faculty research in polymer synthesis, characterization, morphology, rheology, physics, engineering, biotechnology, and green technology.

They are currently developing band-aid-sized, patch-type sensors capable of gauging stress and fatigue through a chemical analysis of the wearer’s sweat.