Process Development and Integration Design Features
The cluster tool and transport pod are at the heart of the research approach used within the Process Development and Integration Laboratory. In developing this approach, scientists in the National Center for Photovoltaics worked closely with their industry counterparts to design a system with maximum functionality and flexibility.
In this section, we refer to the schematic below to illustrate a process development and integration cluster tool and a transport pod. We also highlight some other critical design features. View a short animated video that explains seven terms related to sample measurements in the PDIL.
Cluster Tool—A research cluster tool consists of modular depositional, processing, and characterization capabilities configured around a system in which samples are transferred using a central articulated robotic arm. This arm provides the mechanism for moving samples within a cluster tool. In these "intra-tool transfers," samples remain within a vacuum environment.
Mobile transport pod—A mobile transport pod is a special chamber used to transfer samples from one tool to another while maintaining the vacuum ambient condition. This type of sample transfer is called an "inter-tool" transfer. Using the transport pod prevents contamination or reactions on sample surfaces when moving samples between cluster tools. The pod thus eliminates the need for expensive cleanrooms and provides controlled-ambient access to expensive capabilities without the need to replicate these capabilities on cluster tools.
Standard sample size and shape—The maximum sample size is 157 mm x 157 mm (just over 6 in. x 6 in.). A special metal frame—or platen—can hold samples of various sizes and shapes. The standard platen can be picked up and moved easily by an automated transfer system.
Standard mechanical interface—The interface between the mobile transport pod and research cluster tool uses a centered 10-in. "conflat" flange, which is 1.1 m above the floor. This interface allows a tool to be aligned accurately before being connected to a port around the central transfer chamber, while also maintaining a vacuum seal.
Contact Kaitlyn VanSant for more information on how we have made process development and integration possible.