Advancing tiny technology

Advancing tiny technology

New Queen’s nano-fabrication laboratory removes barriers to prototype development.

By Anne Craig

April 24, 2015


Queen’s University has secured its place at the forefront of transforming innovative research with the opening of the Kingston Nano-Fabrication Laboratory (KNFL).

The laboratory enables researchers and industry to explore new frontiers in the design, creation and testing of innovations on an extremely small scale.

The laboratory, located at Innovation Park, represents a milestone in the 30-year collaboration between Queen’s and CMC Microsystems for advancing Canadian strength in micro-nano innovation.

“Over the last five years, we have come a long way with our understanding of the importance of space that is not located on our main campus and space that speaks to the benefits of convergence, provides an opportunity for collaboration and partnership, and enhances Kingston’s innovation ecosystem,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “I look forward to seeing the new frontiers in research, collaboration and training that the lab will facilitate and foster.”

Queen's PhD student Jennifer Campbell explains what the lab will mean for her studies.

The KNFL’s highly specialized equipment and advanced expertise provide users with more automated, faster and cost-effective methods and processes for transforming innovative research into physical prototypes. Prototyping is an expensive but crucial step in developing the materials, components and circuitry that drive the future of technological innovation. This lab helps to remove a key barrier to advancing novel technologies to working prototypes.

“This facility is the latest manifestation of a long and productive relationship between Queen’s and CMC Microsystems,” says Ian McWalter, President and CEO, CMC. “For more than three decades, this partnership has enabled research and advanced training activities nationwide that would not have otherwise occurred. The KNFL is a significant enhancement, and we look forward to exploring the expanded opportunities that it offers us for building Canadian strength in micro-nano research and innovation.”

A key feature of the lab will be its participation in a national network that offers a repository of shared knowledge, enabling researchers to accelerate the development of their innovations, while generating new knowledge for up-and-coming innovators. The lab will also offer engineering services to researchers and companies looking to advance their technologies without having to do the hands-on work themselves.

The lab also provides advanced training for students, who not only learn to operate highly advanced equipment, but also have the opportunity to explore its limitations and opportunities, enabling them to push the envelope on established manufacturing practices, potentially leading to better products and processes of value to industry.

Partnering in the KNFL are Queen’s University, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and CMC Microsystems. The new facility expands Canada’s network of university-based micro-nano discovery labs and is part of Embedded Systems Canada, a $50 million, five-year project involving more than 350 university researchers at 37 institutions.

Queen’s distinguishes itself as one of the leading research-intensive institutions in Canada. The mission is to advance research excellence, leadership and innovation, as well as enhance Queen’s impact at a national and international level. Through undertaking leading-edge research, Queen’s is addressing many of the world’s greatest challenges, and developing innovative ideas and technological advances brought about by discoveries in a variety of disciplines.