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New Paltz chemistry students conduct groundbreaking research

CNSE students

With support from Intel, STEM research flourishes at New Paltz

The State University of New York at New Paltz has joined forces with the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) to conduct groundbreaking research in developing the next generation of computer chips.

"It means a lot to me. Something like this could really help me," said Peter Nastasi '13 (Chemistry). "It's given me a much broader understanding of inorganic chemistry and the entire lab experience as a whole."

Funded by $500,000 in grants from industry giants Sematech and Intel, School of Science and Engineering Dean and chemistry professor Daniel Freedman and six New Paltz students have been working for the last two years to develop inorganic-based compounds that can be used as photoresists in the industrial process of photolithography, which is the first step toward forming circuitry on silicon wafers.

"It's a really nice collaboration between two SUNY schools," said Freedman. "My colleague at CNSE-Albany, Dr. Robert Brainard, has been working for years to further miniaturize devices on computer chips, continuing the trend since Moore's Law was stated in the 1960s."

Dr. Brainard’s group has been trying to figure out how to advance to the next level of miniaturization using Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) radiation. “That’s where the research we’re doing comes in because we provide expertise in designing and synthesizing inorganic compounds that can more efficiently use EUV radiation than the traditional organic polymer photoresists," said Freedman.

Current students, recent grads, team up to make new discoveries
Recent New Paltz graduate Nastasi is currently working on the project full-time at Freedman’s lab at SUNY New Paltz. Miles Marnell (Chemistry) ’11, currently a PhD student at the University of Rochester, and Hashim Al-Mashat (Chemistry) ’12, pursuing his PhD at the University of California San Diego, also worked on the project full-time. Chemistry students Amber Aslam ’12, Kara Heard ’12, and Rachel Kaminski ’14 have been working on the project over the summers and throughout the academic year.

Through their work, Freedman and his students – in collaboration with Associate Professor at the Center for Nanoscience and Engineering Dr. Robert Brainard and his graduate students – have been able to invent materials that have never before been considered for Extreme Ultra Violet (EUV) lithography, which parallel some of the world’s best EUV resists. The group recently submitted a patent for the process titled Molecular Organometallic Resists for EUV (MORE), with Freedman, Marnell, Brainard, and CNSE’s Brian Cardineau credited as the inventors.

“It’s not just making a colored powder to hand in to your teacher at the end of the day,” said Marnell. “You’re going to follow it through the application process. You’re going to test it. You’re going to optimize it. You’re going to expose it to light and see how it works. It’s really nice to actually be able to see real applications of chemistry other than theory and the stuff you get by getting your degree. It’s invaluable.”

Research at New Paltz goes international
The project has even brought Marnell to the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland to utilize the facility’s synchrotron, a device required to access the necessary light source for testing the materials. Marnell and Nastasi also had the opportunity to use the synchrotron at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.

“Going to other labs in America and Europe was a really good experience to see how chemistry can be done in other places, and how people interact,” said Marnell. “I got to work with scientists who are known in the industry and in academia.”

In addition to their patent submission, Freedman and his students have also submitted abstracts to the Photonics West conference of the International Society for Optics and Photonics, which takes place this February in San Francisco and is the “major conference for new developments in photoresist chemistry,” Freedman said.