NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

A dedication ceremony for the new three-story Microdevices Laboratory building at Jet Propulsion Laboratory is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. October 27, Dr. Lew Allen, JPL director, announced.

The new Microdevices Laboratory (MDL) will house the Center for Space Microelectronics Technology, established in January 1987 by Memorandum of Understanding between NASA and California Institute of Technology.

Invited to attend the dedication were scientists, members of the California Institute of Technology faculty, state legislators and city officials from Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge, and other dignataries.

The center provides long range research and development in advanced microelectronics for NASA and Department of Defense space missions.

The Microdevices Laboratory is the principal facility of the center. Using the new 38,000-square-foot, three-story laboratory, the CSMT will develop and test improved sensors and high-datarate information processing and storage devices.

"The Microdevices Laboratory is major milestone in reaching JPL's goal of building center of excellence for research and development of space microelectronics," Dr. Allen said.

With laboratories on the ground floor and offices on the second and third floors, the Microdevices Laboratory offers full complement of modern equipment for device fabrication. It includes clean rooms, diagnostic laboratories, conference rooms and offices for approximately 50 scientists and engineers. The clean rooms, which occupy about half of the floor plan, provide the dust-free environment needed for lithography and semiconductor device fabrication.

The CSMT encompasses four major research areas. They are solid state devices, photonics, custom microcircuits and computer architecture.

Research in the MDL is focused on new focal plane detectors for Earth observation and astronomy, accelerometers and other sensors for guidance and control, lasers for communication and active sensing, photovoltaic solar cells for spacecraft power, high-speed devices for signal and data processing, and novel approaches to data storage.

The equipment in the MDL includes an electron beam lithography instrument that offers unsurpassed resolution in the fabrication of microdevices. The instrument can form circuit patterns on semiconductors and superconductors with features smaller than 7.5 nanometers (one nanometer is one billionth of meter).

This is more than 50 times smaller than the feature size of the highst density chips currently in production. Any lithography required during the next several generations of micro miniaturization can be carried out using this instrument.

One of the innovative tools used by the MDL is the scanning tunneling microscope. It uses process called electron tunneling to look at the surfaces of structures and materials at the resolution of single atom. The microscope has been used at JPL to make images of semiconductors and superconductors needed in space devices.

Another focus of the MDL is the electronic implementation of neural networks that imitate many of the functions of the human brain. Of particular interest to space applications are fault tolerant computer memories, ultrafast analog computers for star tracking and computers capable of learning to be used for robotics.

Devices created and developed in the MDL through proof-of concept stage will be turned over to private industry for production. All work at the center is unclassified and research results will be publicized in the appropriate technical literature.

Design and engineering of the MDL were completed in 1986 by the JPL staff in collaboration with the architecture and engineering contractor Anderson, DeBartolo, Pan, Inc. of Tucson, Ariz.

The CSMT is directed by board of governors chaired by Dr. Allen. Other members of the board include Dr. Thomas E. Everhart, president, California Institute of Technology; Dr. Barclay Kamb, provost, California Institute of Technology; Dr. William Ballhaus, NASA Associate Administrator, Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology; Dr. Lennard Fisk, NASA Associate Administrator, Office of Space Science and Applications; Dr. Raymond Colladay, director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Dr. Dwight Duston, Director of the Innovative Science Technology Office, Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.

Dr. Terry Cole, JPL chief technologist, will introduce speakers and guests at the dedication ceremony. Remarks will be made by Drs. Allen, Everhart, Fisk, Duston, and Carl Kukkonen, Director of the Center for Space Microelectronics Technology.

JPL is division of Caltech, operated for NASA as NASA's lead center for planetary and other space science missions. Caltech faculty collaboration is principal feature of the CSMT.

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