We made something yesterday.
In fact, we made 2 somethings!
We spent the morning in the clean room, a place where we have to wear layers of clothing, not to protect us, but to protect the equipment from our skin/hair/bodily dirt. Microchips are in all of our electronic devices, and this is the environment where they are made/researched.
Our first step in the clean room was to take a glass wafer (basically a piece of glass) and spin a chemical on it. The chemical is called photoresist and is made up of a material that is sensitive to certain light. After we put on the photoresist the chip was heated for about 1 minute (called the "soft bake") and placed in a machine to expose the photoresist. The machine contains a mask (which can be thought of as a stencil) and only the areas where light passes through are exposed. The light reacts with the photoresist to create a new substance with different chemical properties. This means that it cannow be put in a solvent that will selectively remove the area that was exposed (or, in some cases, the areas that weren't exposed). After removing the exposed areas in the solvent, we could see some of the features that were made. The chips were then stored for future use.
I went first, and made some mistakes... Below is my first chip where the photoresist was not spread equally (though it is hard to see the imperfections). This means that there are areas of different thickness, which can cause problems down the road. The second chip came out better, hopefully it will work as we move forward.
In the afternoon, my partner Valentina and I tried to make our first monolayer of thiol on gold (which is part of our main project). It started slowly (we needed to call Carlos, our post doc leader, to find out where the vials were... which is the absolute first step in the process). But from there we were pretty independent. We will analyze the chips today to determine if we did it correctly. Is it okay that I'm nervous?
Below is a picture of the chips as they were being cleaned.