Some Electronics Engineering Technology students engaged in some highly-advanced, hands-on learning at the Applied Research Center Consortium in Newport News, Virginia, one of the nation’s leading research facilities involved in a variety of fields, including free-electron lasers.
Dr. Ibrahim El-Kholy’s Material Science class visited laboratories used for Surface Engineering and Nanomaterial Research and participated in several sample experiments. They also observed the testing of different materials, including semiconductor samples and a human hair. Imagine seeing a single strand that looks like a six-inch pipe!
The class also witnessed transmission electron microscopy; a machine that exceeds the ability of optical microscopy and can image features as small as 1 Å (a unit equal to one ten-billionth of a meter) with magnification up to 2,000,000 times. One researcher was scanning Quantum dots (nanomaterial) for a new type of solar cell. Then, it was on to the tunneling microscope, and atomic force microscope.
From there, the class toured the Thin Film manufacturing labs that feature different types of coating machines like electron beam, and sputtering. One of the labs was used to develop oxide semiconductors, a method involved in microprocessor manufacturing.
They ended that day at the femtosecond laser lab where they observed three different experiments:
- Pulsed laser deposition, a new technique used to fabricate different types of thin films
- Time-resolved reflection high energy electron diffractions, an experiment used to probe the surface morphology for different materials
- Electron stimulated desorption ion angular distributions, used to detect the oxide bonds on surface of semiconductor materials
“These are hot topics in manufacturing technology,” says Dr. El-Kholy. “And it’s these kind of experiences that help prepare students for the technology they will encounter upon graduation and beyond.”