Zbigniew Wasilewski

Zbigniew Wasilewski, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

The ability to precisely control material engineering at nano-scale will play a key role in the development of new quantum technologies.

The state-of-the-art Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) lab in the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, equipped to grow novel compound semiconductors structures, will accelerate progress in nanotechnology (nano-materials, nano-electronics and photonics), quantum computing and quantum encryption as well as other areas of research.

Compound semiconductors are already used in many areas calling for the highest performance electronic and photonic devices. This includes smartphones, the high efficiency solar cells and LED-based lighting. Photonic devices such as semiconductor lasers, amplifiers and detectors, which push digital information at incredible rates along optical fibers of the internet, are all based on thin epitaxial layers of compound semiconductors. Growing demand in all these areas is behind the intense research efforts aimed at pushing device performance to new heights and applying the technology in new ways.

“Molecular Beam Epitaxy is the most powerful technology for materializing the devices of the future,” says the head of the laboratory Zbig Wasilewski, professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of University of Waterloo and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology Endowed Chair. “Well-controlled manipulation of material structure at atomic level is now essential in achieving the desired properties of devices. MBE is arguably the most powerful tool for such nanoengineering. Because the processes are conducted in ultra-high vacuum (UHV), contamination by foreign molecules is minimized. This is very important, since even a single contaminant atom in a strategic part of the nanostructure can alter considerably its properties.”

The MBE lab, located in the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, is fully operational and was formally inaugurated on June 5. It will support research programs and training for students in areas ranging from photonics to nanoelectronics to quantum computing.

The 1,200-square-foot lab, which received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the University, houses a robotic cluster-based MBE system designed to accommodate additional two growth reactors in the future. The robust automated wafer transfer and extensive computer control add entry-level production capabilities to this high-end research system, enabling seamless progression from research to prototyping to pilot production, a feature which is expected to catalyze interactions with other research groups and industrial partners.

Here's a look inside the lab:

Work inside the lab

Preparation for loading semiconductor substrate on which deposition of complex sequences of atomic layers will take place in the MBE reactor.

Researcher at work

Loading of the substrate into the special entry-lock chamber located on the cluster tool of the system.

PhD student at work in the lab

Man Chun Tam, Nano-Engineering PhD candidate, working in the lab.