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Institute manager Marjan Fretz about ARNCL's new building: ‘Happy with extreme low-vibration floors and no more blacking out windows'

Proud as a peacock, institute manager Marjan Fretz gives us a tour around Matrix VII, the long-term accommodation of ARCNL, the Advanced Research Center for Nanolithography. Last December ARCNL's employees moved from the temporary office units at the Amsterdam Science Park to the brand-new Matrix VII building opposite. In the subsequent weeks, the labs were relocated. Marjan is pleased with the modern appearance of the building and all of the state-of-the-art facilities in the labs that have been fitted to make cutting-edge research possible.

On 21 March, the building owner Matrix IC organised a festive opening event. Martijn van Calmthout, head of communication at NWO Institute Nikhef, interviewed ARCNL director Joost Frenken about the importance of working, studying, investigating and doing business at Science Park Amsterdam. Geert Haksteen, director of Matrix IC and Joost Ector of Ector Hoogstad Architecten explained the unique properties of the building. After that Udo Kock, councillor Economic Affairs in Amsterdam performed the official opening ceremony.

High requirements
In Matrix VII, ARCNL has rented almost the entire bottom two floors of the building, about 40 percent of the total floor space. Other companies have also found a place in the building. From the start of the planning process, ARCNL held discussions with the architect to ensure that the institute's specific needs would be included in the same. Fretz says: 'At ARCNL we do research that poses high requirements on the type of labs with respect to vibration, air treatment, relative humidity, dust, temperature and light. During a preparatory tour around our former labs located in the PIMU building of Nikhef, the architect noticed that no outside light entered the labs. “The less daylight, the better”, we explained to him. In the units, we had to blackout windows to keep experiments free of light. Thankfully that is no longer the case in the new building.’ On the bottom floor of the new accommodation, the labs have therefore been built in the middle, like a box with a ring around it. Furthermore, the "box" without daylight has been constructed independently of the rest of the building with extremely low-vibration floors to minimise the chance of effects caused by vibrations. Six labs also contain special blocks of 11 m² that stand independently in the room. If you step off a block, you hear the air suspension that with a sigh brings the block back to its original position. This air suspension must reduce the last bit of resonance during experiments. The air treatment and temperature can also be adapted as desired. Fretz shows that most of the lab spaces have been built with a modular design so that in the future they can be adjusted to meet the needs of experimental setups. 'And via holes in the wall you can connect a laser in one lab to a tin drop source in the neighbouring lab to make Extreme Ultraviolet Light (EUV)', she explains.

Fretz says that research into the highly precise positioning of samples is important in 2019: 'A wafer, a thin plate that serves as the semiconductor for producing a computer chip, must be positioned to an accuracy of less than a nanometre. If you shift it, then the chip will be produced lopsided. ' ARCNL has eighty employees and nine research groups and will soon expand. Researcher Ronald Bliem will lead a group for research into processes that take place on the surface under the influence of EUV light. There is currently a vacancy for a tenure-track group leader as well. The planning of the lab and office spaces took growth into account. Fretz explains that the ARCNL research on nanolithography is still significantly inspired by questions from joint owner ASML: 'How can you seek the boundaries of the technology contained in a chip machine? Do I understand the physics that plays a key role in generating high intensities of EUV light? Our researchers are trying to be the first to understand the physical processes at and beyond the atomic scale, and to control these.'

ARCNL is a public-private partnership between the University of Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, NWO and ASML, and their research is evolving. Together with the partners, the institute will shortly hold its annual strategy away day during which the course of the coming year will be shaped. 'There is a shared optimism about the future. The increase in output in the form of publications and the first researchers to gain their PhDs are certainly contributing to that', says Fretz. Also in the new building, ARCNL will continue to share the administrative and technical support with its neighbour and fellow NWO Institute AMOLF. This arrangement has its origin in the recent past because ARCNL started as a department of AMOLF in 2014. Fretz: 'AMOLF was one of the initiators of ARNCL and therefore played a leading role in ensuring we got off to a flying start. AMOLF has an excellent infrastructure. Briefly walking to the neighbours is not a problem.' In passing, she points to a "big dipper" developed at the workplace of AMOLF, which is a robot that dips glass slides or wafers into a liquid.

Close together
The tour continues: via the natural stone tribune steps with an interactive whiteboard– where a film evening has already taken place – and the coffee bar with a terrace, you reach the ARCNL atrium via corridors with bright workrooms. It looks something like an industrially designed hotel lobby with the high ceiling, lounge areas and trendy lamps. In the canteen, two PhDs say it is a real advantage that the labs and offices are so close together. Fretz adds that the canteen in the atrium can be joined to make a single large room for colloquia, poster presentations, symposium or 'yes, perhaps a party as well'.

About Marjan Fretz
Dr Marjan Fretz has been the institute manager of ARNCL since 2015. She gained her PhD in biopharmacy from Utrecht University and worked for eight years as a programme coordinator at Technology Foundation STW, which is now the NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences. There she worked, amongst other things, on the programmes NanoNed and NanoNext NL. 'My current work is highly gratifying because I facilitate the researchers with matters that they would rather not spend time on, such as finances and contracts. The researchers are passionate, and so I am always working with people who enjoy their work. I am extremely proud of their fantastic results.'

Newsletter Inside NWO-I, March 2019
Tekst: Anita van Stel