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June 12, 2007

Purdue's nanotechnology research facilities rank 8th in U.S. survey

Tim Sands
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Purdue University's nanotechnology research program, built around the new Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park, ranks among the best in the nation, according to a new survey released by a trade publication.In the May/June 2007 issue of Small Times magazine, Purdue's nanotech facilities ranked eighth best, up from 10th last year, in a survey that considered 50 U.S. universities based on education, research, facilities and commercialization.

Overall, Purdue's nanotechnology program tied for 13th, down from 11th in 2006. A year ago, Purdue also ranked third nationally for its industrial outreach efforts, but that category was not a part of this year's Small Times survey.

"When the $58 million Birck Nanotechnology Center opened in October 2005, we knew Purdue was launching one of the nation's most advanced nanotechnology facilities on a university campus," said Tim Sands, center director and Purdue's Basil S. Turner Professor of Engineering.

"Although these surveys must be interpreted with
Birck Cleanroom
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caption below

caution, it is safe to say that the Small Times survey supports our expectation that the investment Purdue and our donors have made in nanotechnology has propelled us to the top tier in just a few short years."

Other universities ranking high in the key categories of the Small Times survey were the University at Albany/State University of New York, Cornell University, Penn State University, Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California-Berkeley.

Purdue's 187,000-square-foot Birck Nanotechnology Center has helped recruit 16 faculty members in various areas of nanotechnology since 2002. And 146 Purdue faculty members representing 36 Purdue schools and departments are involved in research at Birck. More than 400 graduate students regularly use the research facility.

"The strength of Purdue's nanotechnology research and its Birck Nanotechnology Center begins with people," Sands said. "We believe Birck, which became fully operationally in the fall of 2006, is poised to make greater strides in this critical area of research as we look to expand the scope of what our facilities can provide for researchers and industrial collaborations."

The Small Times, in elaborating on Purdue's nanotech facilities ranking, also highlighted:

* The Birck Center's low-vibration metrology lab, which is shielded against electromagnetic interferences, and the $10 million integrated semiconductor nanofabrication and biopharmaceutical cleanrooms that distinguishes Purdue's facilities from its peers. "An airlock glove box that allows materials and devices to move between these two cleanroom spaces is the first such arrangement in the nation," Small Times editors wrote.

* Purdue's Network for Computational Nanotechnology, which is a center based at Birck and funded by the National Science Foundation that allows researchers to perform computer simulations of nanomaterials and processes.

"More than 350 educational resources - including seminars, tutorials, podcasts and online nanotechnology simulation tools - are available through nanoHUB, a project of the Purdue-led Network for Computational Nanotechnology," Small Times reported.

The Small Times survey, introduced in 2005, includes 26 questions about facilities, patenting, company formation, research, publishing, and micro and nano-specific courses and degree programs. Respondents also rate which of their peer institutions are leaders in micro and nanotech research and commercialization.

Nanotechnology involves making devices on the atomic and molecular level with applications in computer, medical, military and even textile industries. Annual sales of products and services using nanotechnology could hit $2.5 trillion by 2015, according to Lux Research.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center is named for Michael and Katherine (Kay) Birck of Hinsdale, Ill. The Bircks contributed $30 million for the building, and Michael is a Purdue alumnus, a member of the Purdue board of trustees and chairman of Naperville, Ill.-based Tellabs Inc.

The Scifres Nanofabrication Lab of cleanrooms is named for Purdue alumni Donald and Carol Scifres, who donated $10 million for the building.

Alumni William B. and Mary Jane Elmore provided $2 million toward the center's William and Mary Jane Elmore Advanced Concept Validation Laboratory.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center is a cornerstone for Discovery Park, Purdue's $350 million hub for interdisciplinary research and home to 10 established research centers focusing on endeavors ranging from biosciences and manufacturing to oncological sciences and health-care engineering.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133,

Source: Tim Sands, (765) 496-6105,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Journalists interested in touring the Birck Nanotechnology Center, including the cleanroom suites within the Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory, can contact Phillip Fiorini at (765) 496-3166,


A researcher at the Birck Nanotechnology Center works at an optical pattern generator in the Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory. The instrument, which was donated to Purdue by Raytheon, allows researchers at the Birck cleanroom to pattern intricate shapes on silicon wafers, creating novel devices. The instrument rests on a 4,000-pound granite table in a specially lit lab to protect photo-sensitive images. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)


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