Engineering and science of the very small continues to surprise and delight us. It has been doing so at MIT for well over 35 years. MTL, the Microsystems Technology Laboratories, was created in the early 80s to bring faculty and students together to share experimental resources to advance the then emerging field of silicon integrated circuit technology. What happened in the following 35 years has been nothing but astounding. The microelectronics revolution has transformed human society like no other technology before. In fact, no other human endeavor has enjoyed sustained exponential progress over such a long time to such great benefit to us all.
What was perhaps unexpected 35 years ago was that the increasing ability to precisely engineer small and very complex structures would extend to materials well beyond silicon and far passed the initial set of applications in electronics. We have marveled at the explosion of creativity in fields as diverse as chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, material science, aeronautics and astronautics, biology and many others. MIT, through the facilities and services of MTL, has played a leading role in this exhilarating quest.
A key design principle of MTL has been the broad sharing of lab resources. This made it possible for MIT to afford complex and costly fabrication and characterization equipment requiring extensive facilities, as well as expensive and sophisticated design software. A commitment to sharing also contributes to creating a large and diverse community of engineers and scientists that learn together, help each other, and collaborate on serendipitous projects that happen because they hang out together in the lab, in all manner of gatherings, or in social events.
35 years later, MIT is doubling down on its interest in the very small by opening a new center for exploration and innovation of nanoscience and nanotechnology right at the heart of campus. This is MIT.nano. Founded on the principles that made MTL successful, MIT.nano will continue to explore the potential of the nanoworld to solve some of the world’s most urgent problems in areas of transportation, communications, energy, health, computation, water and the environment.
As part of the launch of MIT.nano, MTL is transferring all its fab equipment and fab personnel to MIT.nano, from here on trusted to continue its legacy. The new “fabless” MTL will remain deeply engaged in micro-and nano-scale engineering, from materials to systems, will continue to nurture a community of scholars with a thirst for all things nano, and will maintain a close communion with industry to draw inspiration and mentorship as we seek to attack the world’s most relevant problems.
The Nano Age is upon us, and MIT is ready. I invite you to join us in our quest, as collaborator, supporter or actual member.
Donner Professor and Professor of Electrical Engineering