Celebrating every generation of MIT

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Many generations, one community.

MIT's Great Dome has come to symbolize our community of faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Now these individuals have lent their names to embody the Great Dome. The image in this exhibit incorporates the names of every member of the MIT community - more than 270,000 individuals in all since our founding in 1861 - that have been etched into the surface of a silicon wafer. The result: generation after generation coming together to represent the shared history, character, and sense of purpose that unites us. We call the project "One.MIT". It's an apt name for an exhibit in MIT.nano, which serves every department and school, and is open to any researcher who needs its tools. See the One.MIT installation in the first floor gallery at MIT.nano.

Gathering the names.

Over 270,000 names are etched in the wafer representing names, students, faculty, staff, and alumni since 1861 up to the spring of 2018. The Alumni Association and Institutional Research keep the lists of students and alumni, as well as lists of faculty and staff since 1991 onwards. The records of faculty and staff before 1991 existed only in paper form. With the help of MIT Libraries and Institute Archives, over 6,000 pages of old paper directories were scanned and examined with optical character recognition (OCR). Then, a combination of custom-built programs extracted the text from the digitized data, reformatted the names, and removed duplicates. This was followed by hours of manual editing to catch OCR problems and other errors. Even so, as our historians and archivists remind us, no record is perfect!

Creating the image.

Each letter was drawn as dark or light. Each letter inherited its characteristics from the underlying drawing of MIT's Great Dome. The global text size was determined by an algorithm to maximally fill the printing space, which is an nonlinear optimization problem. The code was written in the Wolfram Language and TeX. Each letter had to be turned to a vector object due to file size considerations. Even so, the vector data was too large to be printed and thus was separated into multiple PDFs. The PDFs were subsequently combined and converted to a CAD format that could be processed by a direct-write photolithography system. How long did the computational process to create the image take? It took many, many days on a high performance workstation. How large and complex are the files? Just opening the PDF file on a typical workstation is a challenge, and the final CAD layout was more than 4GBs.

Fabricating the wafer.

Despite the complexity of computationally generating the image and layout files, patterning the tiny text on the silicon wafer was easy - for someone familiar with the fabrication process used every day for micro- and nano- technology. First, the specially cleaned wafer was loaded into an oxidation furnace at 1000°Celsius to grow a silicon dioxide layer approximately 100nm thick. Although colorless, this oxide layer appears dark blue due to the interference of light reflecting off the silicon and oxide surfaces. The wafer was then coated with photo-resist and exposed in a direct-write photolithography tool to make an etch mask. Finally, the oxide layer was selectively etched and the photoresist removed to create the image on the wafer. The wafer was fabricated in the Microsystems Technology Laboratory on campus.

See One.MIT on display at MIT

One.MIT is on permanent display at MIT.nano, a nanoscale research facility located in the center of the MIT campus. Come see the wafer in the MIT.nano first floor galleries located in the southwest corner of the building, the corner closest to the MIT Great Dome. (map).

Creative Team

Vladimir Bulovic

Director of MIT.nano, Professor of Engineering and MacVicar Fellow

Project Idea, Project Space, and Commisioning

W. Craig Carter

POSCO Professor and MacVicar Fellow, DMSE

Computational Implementation, Website Design

Annie Wang

Research Scientist, Special Projects MIT.nano

Project Coordination, MIT Name Lists, CAD File Preparation

Georgios Varnavides

Graduate Student, DMSE

Name Search Implementation, Website Development

Dennis Ward

Research Specialist, Microsystems Technology Laboratories

Wafer Fabrication

Kristofor Payer

Research Specialist, Microsystems Technology Laboratories

Wafer Fabrication

Heidi Erickson

Graphic Designer and Web Administrator, Arts at MIT

Original Dome Drawing

MIT Community

Inspiration and Support

Special thanks to Jon Daries, Lydia Snover | Office of the Provost, Institutional Research; Vicky Diadiuk | Microsystems Technology Laboratory; Mark Mondol | Nanostructures Laboratory; Katherine Higgins, Leila Kinney | Center of Art, Science and Technology; Nora Murphy | Institute Archives and Special Collections; Jennifer Morris | MIT Libraries; Deborah Douglas | MIT Museum; Kai-yuh Hsiao, Jocelyn Shiue, Haripriya Mehta. Sincere appreciation to Israel Ruiz | Executive Vice President and Treasurer, MIT; Class of 2018 Senior Class Gift; and many others who expressed their excitement and support for this project.

One.MIT is a project of MIT.nano

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | 77 Massachusetts Avenue - Building 12 | Cambridge, MA 02139 | mitnano@mit.edu