SDSU Plans New Cleanroom For Alternative Energy Research
A new cleanroom facility at South Dakota State University will help put the school at the forefront of alternative energy research.
The South Dakota Board of Regents recently approved $1.25 million in funding for the cleanroom, which will be located in the lower level of the new Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building on campus.
Cleanroom laboratories are typically used for working on integrated circuits, which need to be created in a clean environment. The air in a cleanroom has fewer particles per cubic centimeter, reducing the risk that circuits could be damaged by a particle.
The 3,000-square-foot room will be geared toward research with some use for the instruction of graduate students. “It will be, far and away, a research facility,” according to Professor Dennis Helder, head of the electrical engineering and computer science department.
Most of the research in the cleanroom will be geared toward photovoltaics, using solar cells to convert sunlight to electricity. “With this facility, we’ll be able to research new and innovative photovoltaic devices,” Helder said. “We’ll have the same cleanroom capability as companies like Intel.”
Helder expects to bid the project after the first of the year. Tentative plans call for the new cleanroom to be ready for use as soon as October 2010, but don’t expect to just walk in off the street to get a tour.
“Most particles come from human beings,” Helder said.
The cleanroom will include a gowning area where researchers will put on lab coats that cover them from neck to ankles, booties, a hair net and, depending on the level of cleanliness required by the experiment, a mask and gloves.
Waiting to use the room are seven electrical engineering faculty members, 12 doctoral students and 12 master’s degree students as well as faculty from mechanical engineering, physics and chemistry and colleagues from the University of South Dakota and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
“This facility will be an asset to our department, the state and the higher education system as whole,” Helder said.
The current cleanroom at SDSU is less than adequate for the level of interest in photovoltaic research. Built 30 years ago and located in the basement of the Solberg Hall Annex, the 1,200-square-foot room has problems with temperature and humidity control. The facility was built for use by only one or two professors and their students.
The new facility will also be used for some research on sensors, but the emphasis on photovoltaics at SDSU is the result of a long-term effort.
“We’ve tried to develop a very focused program,” Helder said. “The opportunities are huge in alternative energies right now. We feel that photovoltaics is the future of alternative energy, and we’re trying to position ourselves to take advantage of that.”
About South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from seven different colleges representing more than 200 majors, minors and options. The institution also offers 23 master’s degree programs and 12 Ph.D. programs.
The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Cooperative Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.
Source : South Dakota State University