Making measurements and learning in a cleanroom – Summer job as a research trainee in VTT's MEMS team

Blog post
Sara Akural

The large cleanroom of VTT's micro and nanotechnology centre is used for research and production of small, impactful technologies. Working in the MEMS research team opened my eyes to the micro level of technology and taught me important practical lessons. Being selected as a research trainee at VTT has been the greatest thing during my studies so far.

In my mind, my first day at Micronova evoked an image of the headquarters of a large technology corporation and gave me an instant feeling of being at the very core of technological development.  My summer traineeship began smoothly in the MEMS research team, and I was really excited about the opportunity to learn about thin film technologies and microelectromechanical systems in practice. My instructor and team supported me from the start in all my work tasks and introduced me to the cleanroom laboratory and its equipment. During my traineeship, I gradually learned to operate independently in the cleanroom, to measure properties of thin film coatings with different measuring devices and to understand the various stages of research. 

Hands-on learning in cleanroom facilities

The best part of my traineeship has been having the chance to learn about various technologies in practice in the cleanroom and then to study the theory about how all these nano- and micro-level technologies work. Learning has also gone the other way around, as, for example, in the adjacent laboratory I could immediately spot practical examples of theoretical knowledge I had just read about. As a place of training, VTT has been an inspiring place to learn new things. Whenever I began reflecting on how a specific device operates and reading about it in theory, I soon found myself thinking about physical phenomena at the atomic level. The pieces gradually began to fall in place, and I began to gain a broader understanding of microfabrication, the properties of thin film coatings and MEMS components.

One of the most interesting things I have realised during my traineeship has been that many processes and MEMS components, such as sensors, are based on fundamental physical and chemical phenomena. Even weak chemical phenomena are important at the micro level: when the scale is small, the interaction between atoms plays a major role. It has been eye-opening to see how these atomic-level interactions can be used for generating impactful technologies being applied in cars, information technology, and several industries.

Gaining a deeper understanding of research and technology at the micro level

In a nutshell, VTT has given me a great opportunity to learn about different MEMS components and their manufacturing and to develop my own skills and understanding of research. I owe many thanks for my excellent trainee period to all VTTers at Micronova, especially my supervisor, instructor and team, who were always very helpful whenever I needed help to understand the operation of a specific device, scientific concepts or their research area. 

As an engineering student, I have dreamt about learning new things and participating in the development of technologies that would promote a better and cleaner future. In VTT's MEMS team, my dream came true, and I had a chance to learn about technologies needed for producing, for example, everyday electronics, such as mobile phones and solar panels. At the same time, I felt how one level of technological development in the world opened up to me thanks to the VTT traineeship – I think I spent the summer on the micro-level instead of the grassroots level.

The author studies chemical engineering at the University of Aberdeen, starting her third year of studies in the autumn. She works in the MEMS research team at VTT's micro and nanotechnology centre Micronova for the summer 2021. 

Sara Akural
Summer Trainee 2021
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