2003 Winner: Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Technology
Researcher Leads Alberta In Innovative Nanotechnology
Dr. Michael Brett’s laboratory invented a new platform nanomaterials technology – Glancing Angle Deposition (GLAD) – that has enormous potential for application in a wide range of products. GLAD is a process for engineering unique structures such as helixes and chevrons using simple thin film deposition techniques. It has applications in areas such as thermal barriers for turbine blades, photonic devices, sensors, supercapacitors for hybrid car engines, and catalysis.
Four U.S. patents have been issued for this technology and three more are in progress. GLAD technology has led to a spin-off company, Chiral TF Devices, which is developing products based on nanostructured thin films. This venture builds on the early successes of the province’s budding nanotechnology industry.
Dr. Brett developed a simulation software package, called SIMBAD, which aided in the development of thin film processes for the microelectronics and related industries. The Alberta Microelectronic Centre at the University of Alberta commercialized the technology and sold the software in 18 countries to customers including IBM, NEC, Intel, Hitachi and Toshiba. Dr. Brett was one of the core researchers who helped build the Alberta Microelectronic Centre into a viable standalone company, now known as Micralyne.
Leading the Way
Dr. Brett led the initiative to create the University of Alberta’s $15-million Micromachining and NanoFabrication Facility (NanoFab) and as principal investigator has raised over $11 million for operating the facility. NanoFab offers open access to its laboratories and a training program for academics and industry across Canada. Used by some companies for advanced technology product development, NanoFab provides Alberta an opportunity to become a leader in this emerging sector.
Dr. Brett also helped establish the iCORE Nanoscale Engineering Physics initiative, which supports the nanotechnology research of eight U of A faculty members. The combination of iCORE and NanoFab was instrumental in convincing the National Research Council and the Alberta government to establish the $120-million National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) at the University of Alberta.
As director of the Engineering Physics program, which prepares undergraduate students to embrace leading edge technologies, Dr. Brett has overseen significant expansion in enrolment from seven or eight students per year in 1996 to 27 today. In 2002, he was awarded the prestigious Canada Research Chair in Nanoengineered Thin Films. He also holds the Micralyne/NSERC Senior Industrial Research Chair and has built a team of 18 graduate students and research staff to study applications and commercialization of thin films fabricated using the GLAD technique.