Author Archives: Mary Anne Beaudette

Ontario Investment Office representatives tour NFK

NanoFabrication Kingston welcomed Hamid Shirazi (centre), Senior Business Development Specialist (CleanTech and Materials), and Kent Fitzhugh (right), Senior Business Advisor, from the Ontario Investment Office of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade  on Sept. 21. NFK manager Graham Gibson (second left) and colleagues Craig Jeffrey (far left) and Peter Stokes (far right) highlighted how the lab supports our region’s research and commercialization activities in advanced materials.

A CREATE-ive collaboration        

NanoFabrication Kingston congratulates Dr. James Fraser, Professor of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy at Queen’s University, who was recently awarded a $1.6 M CREATE grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. His Materials for Advanced Photonics and Sensing (MAPS) project will provide 42 graduate students and 22 undergraduate students across multiple disciplines with comprehensive training that will position them for highly skilled jobs in the photonics industry.  Photonics, which uses light instead of electricity to power technology, is experiencing dramatic global growth. “NanoFab Kingston is proud to be a part of this initiative, and we look forward to working with MAPS students in training and prototyping in this exciting, emerging field,” says Graham Gibson, Operations Manager at NFK.

Details here.

Deputy Minister, ISED tours NFK

NanoFabrication Kingston was pleased to welcome John Knubley (right), Deputy Minister of Industry, Science and Economic Development for Canada, during his visit to Queen’s University’s Innovation Park on Aug. 16. During his tour of the NFK lab he heard from Christian Baldwin (above left), CTO for NFK-enabled startup Spectra Plasmonics, who gave Minister Knubley an overview of his company’s novel sensing technology. Also taking part were Graham Gibson, Operations Manager of the NFK lab, and Gord Harling (above centre), President & CEO of CMC Microsystems, which manages NFK. Hosting the tour was Janice Mady (centre right), Director, Research and Innovation Partnerships, Queen’s University.

Feedback loop: NFK users exchange ideas, suggestions

More than 20 NFK users from Queen’s University’s departments of Physics, Chemistry, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, as well as startup Spectra Plasmonics and CMC Microsystems, gathered on Aug. 9 to discuss their work and offer suggestions for equipment and services. Thanks to Dr. Richard Oleschuk’s research group for telling us about their work, and welcome to two new members of our community (shown in front row), Drs. Peng Wang (Chemistry) and Bhavin Shastri (Physics)!


NFK welcomes CCUWIP delegates

Jan. 14, 2018

NanoFabrication Kingston welcomed visits by two groups of students from across Canada on Sunday, Jan. 14. The delegates, from the Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, were given a tour of the NFK lab by Operations Manager Graham Gibson. Their visit included a demonstration of the lab’s laser micromachining system, which has been a key piece of equipment for breakthrough research for NFK users.

The conference, now in its fifth year, welcomed approximately 150 students from across Canada at Queen’s University over the weekend. The conference provided opportunities for students to network, learn about the latest research and career opportunities, engage in professional development and tour local facilities that employ or service physicists, including NFK, the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario and the Department of Physics Laser and Optics lab at Queen’s.

Lab-on-a-chip developed at NFK enables the study of unique abilities of magnetotactic bacteria

Dec. 5, 2017
A microfluidics chip fabricated at NanoFabrication Kingston has led to exciting new knowledge about how a specific type of bacteria might be used to one day deliver drugs to treat disease.

Dr. Carlos Escobedo and PhD candidate Saeed Rismani Yazdi, both of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Queen’s University, developed their microfluidic chip to mimic the natural swimming environment of magnetotactic bacteria (MTB), tiny organisms that navigate complex water and wet soil environments using the Earth’s magnetic fields.

By observing them as they swam through microscopic channels, the researchers saw that the tiny organisms can be directed to swim against strong currents by altering the magnetic field in their environment.

The discovery is important because it shows that the bacteria can be influenced to move in more challenging conditions — such as the human bloodstream — than those found in nature, Mr. Rismani Yazdi says.

The researchers developed their tiny lab-on-a-chip using NanoFabrication Kingston’s maskless photolithography system, with the help of Dr. Graham Gibson, Lab Operations Manager. “Saeed learned quickly to use our direct-write photolithography tool, which makes prototyping much more efficient. The master mould they fabricated here can be used to make many microfluidic chips,” says Dr. Gibson.

Their work, recently published and featured on the front cover in the journal Small (Magnetotaxis Enables Magnetotactic Bacteria to Navigate in Flow), has led to a collaboration with other Queen’s researchers to use microfluidics to explore how MTB can potentially transport and deliver cancer drugs.

Details about their work can be found here.

NFK welcomes Dr. Roseann Runte, President of CFI

Sept. 11, 2017

NanoFabrication Kingston and CMC Microsystems were pleased to welcome Dr. Roseann Runte, newly appointed president of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Dr. Pierre Normand, CFI’s VP (Communications), who toured NFK’s lab at Innovation Park on Monday, Sept. 11.

Three of the lab’s principal users at Queen’s University, Dr. Carlos Escobedo (Chemical Engineering), Dr. Robert Knobel (Physics) and Dr. Richard Oleschuk (Chemistry), were on hand to show Dr. Runte some of the leading-edge research that is being made possible through the CFI-funded lab’s facilities and expertise. Dr. Runte was welcomed by Dr. Ian McWalter, President & CEO of CMC Microsystems, which manages the lab.

Dr. Runte also met with graduate student Prashant Agrawal (supervised by Dr. Oleschuk), who demonstrated how he is using the lab’s laser etching machine to create superhydrophobic patterned microfluidic devices enabling chemical analysis using extremely small amounts of sample.

Another graduate student, Josh Raveendran of Dr. Aris Docoslis’s lab in the Dept. of Chemical Engineering at Queen’s, displayed a novel silicon chip developed at NFK that is the core technology of a new startup company, Spectra Plasmonics.

And graduate student Saeed Rismani Yazdi (supervised by Dr. Escobedo) showed Dr. Runte novel microfluidic devices made from a silicone material using a master mould fabricated at the NFK lab by photolithography techniques. These chips enable the study of the behaviour of bacteria using magnetized chips.

Also demonstrating the lab’s capabilities were students Kasia Donovan and Leo Mahlberg, who were being trained on the Oxford Lasers micromachining system that day.

To commemorate her visit, NFK lab manager Graham Gibson presented Dr. Runte with an engraved “micro-plaque”. Measuring just 20 mm by 20 mm, the tiny chip was created by laser ablation using the Oxford Lasers micromachining system in the NFK lab.

Kingston’s mayor tours NFK

Aug. 31, 2017

A different kind of potato chip was on display when Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson toured NanoFabrication Kingston’s lab in Innovation Park. Professor Richard Oleschuk, one of the lab’s earliest users, was on hand to talk about his research into superhydrophobic surfaces, which he uses to develop digital microfluidic devices. These tiny labs-on-a-chip enable simple and speedy analysis of chemicals and bio-relevant materials using minuscule amounts of sample. One application of this work is his “potato chip,” a digital microfluidic chip that can be used to detect diseases in potatoes.

Sensing success: Queen’s-NanoFab Kingston student project leads to international business award

Spectra Plasmonics team (from left), Yusuf Ahmed, Malcolm Eade, Christian Baldwin, Tyler Whitney and Ryan Picard. (Photo: James McLellan)

Sept. 15, 2017

A novel, portable chemical detection device developed by Queen’s University graduate students with the help of NanoFabrication Kingston (NFK) has resulted in a prestigious international business award for the startup company that is commercializing the technology.

Competing in Singapore in September, Spectra Plasmonics won the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition, placing first in a field of 550 international competitors. The prize includes $125,000 in cash and an offer of $100,000 in venture funding, as well as legal, corporate and marketing assistance.

PhD candidates Hannah Dies and Josh Raveendran, creators of the sensing technology.

The company’s device, designed and fabricated by PhD candidates Hannah Dies and Josh Raveendran, under the supervision of Professors Aris Docoslis and Carlos Escobedo of Queen’s Dept. of Chemical Engineering, enables rapid, inexpensive and highly sensitive detection of chemicals without the need for expensive laboratory facilities or specialized staff.

The students’ project was one of the first brought to NanoFabrication Kingston’s Innovation Park lab, a $5 million facility that opened in 2015.  NFK is a partnership between Queen’s University and CMC Microsystems, which manages NFK.

Staff at NFK and CMC trained the students and Spectra to operate the facility’s highly specialized nanofabrication equipment and then provided expertise and trouble-shooting to help them create the metal-coated chip that forms the basis of their sensing technology, says Graham Gibson, Lab Operations Manager.

Using the chip with an ultrasensitive chemical detection method called Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) on samples spiked with melamine, thiram (a fungicide) and cocaine, the inventors were able to detect the contaminants at extremely low levels.

Their patent-pending device has applications in pharmaceutical development, food safety and drug detection, among others.

“The students brought their design to us because they couldn’t effectively make the chips anywhere else on campus,” Dr. Gibson explains. “Their idea required sophisticated manufacturing on an extremely small scale. We helped them to fabricate the chips and develop and optimize the nanomanufacturing process. It gave the students hands-on, advanced nanomanufacturing experience while producing an innovative technology with commercial potential.”

“We’re thrilled for Hannah and Josh,” he adds. “It’s wonderful to see their work recognized, and it’s rewarding to see how our facilities and expertise helped them to bring their idea to life.”

“NanoFabrication Kingston has played a central role in the discovery of some very exciting chemical phenomena,” says Ryan Picard, Chief Technology Officer, Spectra Plasmonics. “We are fortunate to have the expertise of CMC in our backyard. It’s a huge value-add for institutions and businesses in the area, and we plan on making the most of it. Everything matters when you’re a start-up, and dependability on the sub-micron scale is our business.”

NanoFab Kingston will continue to assist Spectra with R&D as it advances its product towards market readiness, while also ensuring that the knowledge gained is shared more broadly, Dr. Gibson says. “This project has also resulted in a useful fabrication process, operating procedures and a user guide, which will be made available to other NFK users as well as investigators across Canada’s National Design Network.”

Graham Gibson
Lab Operations Manager
P: 613. 530. 4786

About NanoFabrication Kingston:
NanoFabrication Kingston (NFK) is a collaboration between Queen’s University, Innovation Park and CMC Microsystems, providing researchers and industry with access to leading-edge equipment, methodologies, and expertise for designing and prototyping microsystems and nanotechnologies.

Novel wetting properties made easier through laser micromachining

April 3, 2017

Researchers at Queen’s University have developed a fast, easy and inexpensive way to create surfaces with different wetting properties for the emerging field of droplet-based microfluidics.

The researchers used laser micromachining at the NanoFabrication Kingston lab to finely pattern a microarray with alternating hydrophilic (water-attracting) and superhydrophobic (water-repelling) areas. The work, recently published in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b16363), was some of the first research to be published out of the new state-of-the-art facility.

Droplet-based microfluidics enable simple, rapid analysis of chemicals and bio-relevant materials by manipulating extremely tiny amounts of sample on surfaces that are patterned to alternately attract and repel moisture. Current analytical approaches can be expensive and cumbersome because they require complicated instruments, large amounts of sample, and lengthy processing times.

“You can learn a lot from manipulating droplets at nanolitre and sub-nanolitre volumes, but until now, creating the surfaces to do that droplet manipulation has been complex and time-consuming,” says principal investigator Richard Oleschuk of the Department of Chemistry at Queen’s.

Surprisingly, these novel surface properties take their cue from nature, mimicking the differential wetting surfaces found in a desert-dwelling beetle, which survives its arid environment by collecting dew on its wings and back.

Using a directed laser beam, the researchers generated circular hydrophilic patches on glass microscope slides that had been previously coated with a commercial water-repellant compound. They experimented with patch sizes from 100 to 1500 micrometres in diameter, and using droplets less than one nanolitre in volume (a nanolitre is one billionth of a litre).

They 3-D printed a microfluidic device to perform fluorescence-based measurements, which enabled them to quickly demonstrate how their patterned chip could be used to generate measurable, reproducible results in a cost-effective manner.

One of the benefits of this work is that is provides some starting reference points for others wanting to experiment with other materials and patterns, says Kyle Bachus, a PhD candidate who developed and executed the project. “What is really nice is that this work can be applied to various types of analysis including those that are biologically or environmentally relevant,” he says.

“With this Oxford laser system we’re able to write and mill many different patterns in a wide variety of materials. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this work without this instrument.”

“This work is a great example of the innovation that can be achieved using new technology, such as the laser in our lab,” says Graham Gibson, Operations Manager at the NanoFabrication Kingston lab and co-author of the article. “This was all made possible by the new infrastructure enabled by grants from the Canadian and Ontario governments, and support from Queen’s University and CMC Microsystems.”

The group now plans to try this approach with other, more cumbersome analytical schemes in the hopes of making them faster, easier and less expensive without sacrificing sensitivity and detection limits.

Graham Gibson
Lab Operations Manager
P: 613. 530. 4786

About NanoFabrication Kingston:
NanoFabrication Kingston (NFK) is a collaboration between Queen’s University, Innovation Park and CMC Microsystems, providing researchers and industry with access to leading-edge equipment, methodologies, and expertise for designing and prototyping microsystems and nanotechnologies.