This Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC), founded in 1986 as a National Science Foundation Center for Microsensors and Microactuators and “graduated” as a self-sufficient I/UCRC in 2008 is devoted to interdisciplinary engineering research on micro- and nano-scale sensors, moving mechanical elements, microfluidics, materials, and processes that take advantage of progress made in integrated-circuit, biological, and polymer technologies. BSAC's overarching vision harnesses the benefits of scaling in multiple domains, including electrical, mechanical, chemical, and biological, where minizaturization delivers performance enhancements for practically any scalable application. BSAC is perennially the top University-based MEMS/Microtechnology research center in peer rankings (e.g., Small Times Magazine and others).
Goals of BSAC
- Establish and provide a leading microsystems research environment that combines the best researchers, faculty, and industrial partners and benefits from the collective appeal of top rank University resources, an environment of collaboration, and access to a diverse group of Industrial members who are current or future market leaders in their segments.
- Enhance the educational experience of our graduate students.
- Reduce the time to commercialization of BSAC research by Industrial Members and entrepreneurial researchers by establishing systematic progress in multiple phases of new technology formation: a) materials/process/packaging; b) devices and structures; and c) system integration. This strategy requires a broader range of projects and a larger research organization than most research consortia would be able to maintain.
- Maintain collaboration with Industrial Members to insure commercial relevancy of the research.
Again, BSAC's overarching vision harnesses the benefits of scaling in multiple domains, including electrical, mechanical, chemical, and biological, where minizaturization delivers performance enhancements for practically any scalable application. Since this is quite broad, it encompasses a diverse range of topics that in fact have morphed with the decades. Some traditional topics include: (1) phenomena useful for sensing various measurands (mechanical, electromagnetic, optical, fluidic, thermal, chemical and biological variables); (2) physical and electrical methods for interfacing arrays of sensors, actuators, and other MEMS and NEMS structures to electronic devices for detection, control, analysis, communications, and display purposes; (3) fabrication techniques for making economical integrated MEMS/NEMS in large quantities; and (4) materials, processes, and packaging to enable new applications and new levels of performance. Individual research projects are expected to last from two to four years.
The research involves more than 100 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, more than 30 faculty from Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Bio-Engineering, the University of California at Davis, and the University of California San Francisco; and more than 100 research projects. Collaboration with other on-campus research groups expands the research impact of BSAC. Several Industrial Members have researchers in residence; others visit campus frequently to use laboratory facilities.
Benefits to Industrial Partners
Participation in the Center provides Industrial Members (partners) with access to wide-ranging research from the best and brightest researchers in a University with worldwide recognition. Members see Center research at an early stage for a timely view of new developments before publication. Extensive formal research reviews are conducted on-campus twice per year, in March and September and periodically in Japan and Europe, specifically for Industrial Members. Members, through the Industrial Advisory Board, influence the directions taken in the research and policies of the consortium. Members can obtain exclusive or non-exclusive, royalty-bearing rights to inventions made in the Center prior to any non-member disclosures or licensing. Member organizations can nominate researchers to be seminar speakers and medium-term Center visitors. Industrial funding for the Center has been granted full DoD IR&D status. Industrial Members are invited to special presentations of research at the Center. Relationships formed among Industrial Members, faculty, and researchers tend to persist throughout developers’ and researchers’ careers, creating subtle but lasting organizational value to members and graduates. Contact with graduate students in training can lead to hiring for summer and long-term positions. Nearly 50% of BSAC PhD graduates take, at graduation or thereafter, positions with BSAC Industrial Member companies or Laboratories. No single Industrial Member is likely to establish the high risk, high reward multi-project environment available through the research consortium. BSAC research has spawned new businesses or divisions for its members and new start-ups from among its researchers.
The Center is directed administratively by the Executive Director and the faculty co-Directors, with administrative support from the campus and college and by the Engineering Research Support Organization. The Industrial Advisory Board mentioned above includes up to two voting representatives from each member organization.
BSAC researchers are the largest users of the new extensive Marvell Nanofabrication Lab (integrated circuits) in Sutardja Dai Hall and the major Bionanotechnology Laboratory in Stanley Hall. We have access to other specialized facilities, such as those for polymer and plasma-deposition research in Lewis Hall (Chemical Engineering), photonics laboratory at UC Davis, and surface characterization and advanced tools at the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
Federal and State research funds, together with annual Member contributions, support the Center. The funds from BSAC Industry Membership fees comprise only about 15%-20% of BSAC research funds, the bulk of which are from competitive federal grants. But 100% of the research results are made available to Industrial Members, as they happen, before external disclosure or publication, and with favored IP access by members. This funding gain represents a large advantage in the research investment for Industrial Members.