Construction of new chip factory is MUSiC to US ears

Photo by Whit Pruitt

A university in the United States has held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction for a new chip manufacturing facility that will itself break new ground.

Officials from the University of Arkansas – including its chancellor, Charles Robinson and ther senior leaders – gathered at the university’s Research & Technology Park in South Fayetteville to mark the occasion.

The national Multi-User Silicon Carbide Research & Fabrication Facility (MUSiC) is set to host new semiconductor research and fabrication for the production of microchips made out of silicon carbide. This material is said to outperform basic silicon in several critical ways.

According to the university, the facility will enable the federal government – via national laboratories – businesses of all sizes, and other universities to prototype with silicon carbide, a capability that does not presently exist elsewhere in the US.

Work at the facility will bridge the gap between traditional university research and the needs of private industry, and will accelerate technological advancement by providing a single location where chips can go from developmental research to prototyping, testing and fabrication.

Alan Mantooth, distinguished professor of electrical engineering, and principal investigator for the MUSiC facility, said: “This fills a gap for our nation, allowing companies, national laboratories and universities around the nation to develop the low-volume prototypes that go from their labs to fab, ultimately scaling up to the high-volume manufacturing …

“We fill that gap. And there’s no other place like it in the world. This is the only place that will be able to do that with silicon carbide.”

The 18,660 square-foot facility is located next to the National Centre for Reliable Electrical Power Transmission at the research and technology park.

It is intended to address obstacles to US. competitiveness in the development of silicon carbide electronics used in a wide range of electronic devices, circuits and other consumer applications. The building will feature approximately 8,000 square feet of clean rooms for fabrication and testing.

Education and training within the facility will also accelerate workforce development, helping supply the next generation of engineers and technicians in semiconductor manufacturing, which Mantooth and other leaders say is critical for bringing semiconductor manufacturing back to the US., after it was offshored in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Robinson, the university’s chancellor, said: “This is truly a special day in the life of the university of Arkansas. This building, it really doesn’t need to be hyped. It is a very important building, and you just know it, important for our university, important for our state, important for our nation.”

Main image: The University of Arkansas holds a groundbreaking ceremony to mark construction for the Multi-User Silicon Carbide Research and Fabrication Facility (MUSiC). Photo by Whit Pruitt

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