Modutek Corporation, which specializes in custom wet process equipment for various industries, was selected to provide equipment for Michigan State University’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) project in 2014. The equipment Modutek provided was a precision cleaning tool for superconducting radiofrequency resonators, which are the essential parts of FRIB’s linear accelerator (known as LINAC). The equipment Modutek provided to support this project continues to be used for research today.
FRIB has been organized and established by Michigan State University (MSU) as a U.S. Department of Energy Office and designated as a National Science user facility. This facility will be used to support the mission of the Office of Nuclear Physics. The FRIB project will accelerate various elements from hydrogen to uranium to over 200 MeV/nucleon (about half the speed of light) in a superconducting linear particle accelerator, creating rare isotope beams through in-flight separation. These rare isotope beams will allow scientists to make new discoveries in nuclear physics, astrophysics, and beneficial applications of rare isotope beams.
Built according to MSU’s specifications in 6 months, the 33 ft. long precision cleaning tool from Modutek is designed to clean the accelerator’s Niobium (Nb) metal tubes with harsh chemicals in very controlled environments. High-purity (RRR) niobium tubes and cavities are used as resonators in superconducting accelerators because of their mechanical and superconducting properties. Modutek designed the equipment to ensure that the niobium tubes would be cleaned to remove any impurities so the cabinet and bench material would withstand constant exposure to acids and harsh chemicals.
The precision cleaning tool consists of a chemical delivery and reclaim system, parts cleaning compartment, cavity etch compartment, and wastewater pumping system, along with 55-gallon waste chemical drums that allow acids to be purged and neutralized. The tightly controlled system includes multiple toxic gas sensors, alarms, and automatic door locks for added safety. To insure against leads, all of Modutek’s welders and tools are certified for plastic welding and plumbing of the chemical tanks.
As with the linear accelerator’s process tool for Michigan State, Modutek’s projects are about providing customization to meet the customer’s requirements. Their process tools, process tanks, and components are built to customer spec under highly guarded proprietary agreements.
From its beginnings in 1980, Modutek has expanded over the last 40+ years from a component manufacturing company to a custom wet process tool manufacturing company. This transition included a series of acquisitions, including a robotics company that promoted the development of automated wet benches. When semiconductor manufacturing became more environmentally regulated in the late 80s, the company developed products for acid neutralization and also added pollution control capabilities.
Today, Modutek provides precision cleaning equipment to both domestic and international customers who need any wet process equipment. This includes chemical delivery systems for pharmaceutical, biochemical, nuclear, and solar, as well as going with the ebb and flow of the semiconductor industry with wet bench manufacturing. Modutek is a well-positioned company with capabilities in both chemical delivery and being its own OEM — essentially providing a turnkey solution for wet process system integration in a manufacturing operation.
Elite projects that include the MSU superconducting linear accelerator, which requires highly specialized equipment, have become Modutek’s trademark. “The intricacies of this project, with materials like Flametec and our quality control on welding and other techniques, open up a world of possibilities for us,” said Modutek’s CEO, Doug Wagner. “Our hands-on approach and responsiveness will continue to propel us forward.”