An MDL researcher programs an etching process on MDL's newly installed plasma-therm Deep Silicon Etcher.
Since its inception, the Microdevices Laboratory (MDL) and its precursor entities, not surprisingly, has depended on state-of-the-art technologies to create its outstanding micro-electronic products. This process of updating to stay at the cutting edge of the field continues till today.
Microfabrication technologies under development at MDL continue to support NASA’s mission to drive advances in science, technology, and exploration. Using state-of-the-art fabrication tools at MDL, engineers are developing new techniques to fabricate the next generation of components. This will bring new small and large spacecraft mission capabilities to fully utilize the capabilities of advanced spacecraft instruments.
The 3D microfabrication technique, developed at MDL, has enabled the fabrication of scalable electrospray thruster needle arrays with integrated capillary-force-driven feed systems to spray indium charged particles to generate micronewtons to millinewtons of thrust at very high efficiency and specific impulse to enable interplanetary missions.
Also, the ability to define ultra-black surfaces adjacent to highly reflective or transmissive surfaces with lithographic precision has enabled JPL’s black silicon technology to be incorporated into several terrestrial flight instruments. These include HyTES, AVARIS, UCIS, HyspIRI, MaRS2, PRISM, and NEON.
In MDL, Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) films have been employed in the coating, passivation, and fabrication of UV, infrared, and submillimeter detectors. ALD processes also enabled the conformal coating of three-dimensional structures, an extremely challenging process, which results in unique materials with excellent strength-to-weight ratios, tailorable surface-free energies (for contamination control on instruments), and metamaterial-like optical properties. ALD is an area of rapid growth at MDL. The ability of ALD to produce novel materials such as nanoalloys uniformly on large substrates could make the precise control and selection of superconducting transition temperature for a given detector more achievable with a wider variety of materials.