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NSERC/Teledyne DALSA Industrial Research Chair in Next-Generation MEMS and Microphotonics - Chip-driven innovation

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SHERBROOKE, QC, Oct. 27, 2020 /CNW/ - The Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS) is pleased to be working with Teledyne DALSA on the NSERC/Teledyne DALSA Industrial Research Chair in Next Generation MEMS and Microphotonics. Held jointly by Paul Charette, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Luc Fréchette, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Scientific Director of the Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT), the Chair will develop and improve materials, manufacturing processes, and applications for the microsystems and microphotonics of tomorrow. Nearly $4.5 million will go towards this five-year chair program, which will cement collaboration in micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and photonics that has been emerging in the Bromont-Sherbrooke corridor for several years now.

Directly linked to one of UdeS's cross-cutting research themes of innovative materials/processes and quantum sciences, the Research Chair will let its partner Teledyne DALSA play a world-class scientific and technological role in MEMS and microphotonics, which are the micro/nanotechnologies behind all high-tech miniaturized devices.

Night vision for cars

A focus area of study for Professor Paul Charette is integrated photonics (or "light on a chip"), which can be used to miniaturize sensors. "Innovation in on-chip photonics requires pushing the boundaries of materials science and micro/nanofabrication processes. We want to deploy these new technologies in the industry so that they can be produced on a large scale and at a low cost," explained the professor. The main goal of his work is to improve the sensitivity of infrared imaging and hyperspectral imaging. These innovations could help identify pollutants in the atmosphere or monitor the health of forests. Improving this sensitivity could also give cars night vision for assisted or autonomous night-time navigation.

New functional materials

The world is digitizing, and sensors are all around us. For Professor Luc Fréchette, the work of this Chair will lead to new functional materials and their on-chip integration and encapsulation. MEMS systems integrate on-chip sensors or actuators whose motions are on the order of micrometers. "The idea is to develop these functional materials that can transform physical phenomena such as force, heat, or vibration into electrical signals," the professor explained. "For example, a sensor that measures the wear of bearings in a machine could automatically recharge itself simply through the machine's vibrations."

The other part of Professor Fréchette's work relates to on-chip vacuum encapsulation, a key operation in the manufacturing chain. "Our methods aim to maintain these miniature vacuum cavities throughout the sensor's life span. Since encapsulation is what determines the price of sensors, we should be able to perform encapsulation at a low cost.  We are therefore pursuing the simultaneous and combined encapsulation of chips to significantly reduce costs and increase miniaturization to integrate MEMS into a wider range of applications, such as thermal imaging," added Professor Fréchette.

Long-time partner: Teledyne DALSA

A long-standing partner of UdeS, Teledyne DALSA has been integral to a number of projects that have developed from previous partnerships. Many UdeS students currently work at Teledyne, which highlights how everyone plays their part in this collaborative approach: the university trains research students in innovation, while partners reap success with new developed products while benefiting from highly qualified personnel post-project. "Teledyne DALSA is a key player in the market mainly thanks to the range of manufacturing technologies we have access to and the expertise that our employees have been honing for over 20 years," explained Stéphane Martel, Project Management Office Director, Teledyne DALSA. "We can serve just about any market and any type of MEMS application, from automotive, industrial, and defence applications to telecommunications, biomedical equipment, and mass consumer electronics. The Chair will undoubtedly benefit from this positioning."

The industry-university connection: Risking the risk

This Chair will be a bridge between academic research and transfer to industry. The goal: take a prototype conceived of, thought out, and designed in the laboratory and put it to innovative and revolutionary use. This research is said to be highly relevant in particular because it stems from actual industrial needs.

"While this 'bench-to-business-and-back' approach has risks, it has benefits too," said Jacques Renaud, MEMS Process Integration Manager and manager of the Chair's activities at Teledyne DALSA. "There are technical challenges that the industry doesn't tackle because the risks are high and the return on investment is hard to quantify. But the current framework will let us delegate these challenges to the Chair and, ultimately, make amazing and unexpected discoveries with a lot of value. This puts us in the mindset of a start-up rather than the established company we are and therefore lets us take more risks."

The integrated innovation chain: A strategic ecosystem

"The Chair's work fits perfectly within the integrated innovation chain, which includes the complete pathway from basic research to market release. Thanks to UdeS's Quantum Institute, the Chair's industrial partner, the Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT) and the MiQro Innovation Collaboration Centre (C2MI) in Bromont, all stages of research and development are covered. Very high-quality science is being done here, and the potential for transfer to the industry is very high," explained Professor Vincent Aimez, Vice-President of Knowledge Transfer and Partnerships, UdeS. This ecosystem also opens a very promising door to structure research in the longer term based on a quality relationship with the Chair's partner.

Exceptional careers

Everyone involved with this Chair agrees: the need for students in research is enormous. Companies developing advanced technologies are always looking for good candidates. The Chair will launch a stream of activities and collaborations that will train students to meet the challenges of an industrial environment such as that of Teledyne DALSA. They will be able to get comfortable with complex interdisciplinary problems, see the bigger picture, and understand the concepts of time, challenges, risks and solutions in their work. The Chair will offer multiple and exceptional career opportunities!

Chair partners

"The NSERC is proud to fund this Industrial Research Chair, which will develop and improve materials, processes and applications for next-generation microelectromechanical systems and microphotonics. The Chair will help us transfer scientific knowledge and research results from UdeS to companies that work in this field. The Chair will also provide students with an integrated and multidisciplinary training environment that incorporates the dimension of industrial research and development, which will develop and reinforce Canada's potential to commercialize these technologies and increase their economic spin-offs," said Marc Fortin, Vice-President, Research Partnerships, NSERC.

"UdeS and Teledyne DALSA have been working together for many years, and this partnership has greatly contributed to Teledyne DALSA's success in its market. Over the past 20 years, our company has completely reinvented its technologies and services. UdeS has played a big role not only through many collaborative projects but also thanks to its co-op trainees and its engineering and science graduates, who have gone on to work for us and directly participate in this transformation. We are very proud to continue our partnership with this new research chair," said Claude Jean, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Teledyne DALSA.

For Prompt CEO Luc Sirois, "Actively and relentlessly helping to build Quebec's future by funding collaborative research and development in ICT and digital technology is PROMPT's reason for being. This is why helping to create the NSERC/Teledyne DALSA Industrial Research Chair in Next Generation MEMS and Microphotonics was a natural and logical choice for us. Through this funding, we want to help consolidate and develop cutting-edge expertise and help transfer it between research and business. In the long term, this funding will also support the training of new talent and create both public and private jobs in a leading global field that is behind the production of all high-tech miniaturized devices."

"C2MI, the largest centre for research and innovation in microelectronics in Canada, is excited to contribute to the success of this industrial chair. The quality and unique nature of our infrastructure set us apart globally and will help students further their training as they interact with industrial researchers and use state-of-the-art scientific equipment. University/industry collaborations not only create marketable products but also give students a solid understanding of industrial challenges. These collaborative projects bolster our role in the digital innovation ecosystem to help us pursue our goal of positioning ourselves as a world expert in all sectors of digital development," said Normand Bourbonnais, Chief Executive Officer, C2MI.

SOURCE Université de Sherbrooke

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