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Posted: April 11, 2008
University of Michigan expands Nanotechnology Center, part of 13-school US network
(Nanowerk News) The University of Michigan on Friday opened its expanded nanotechnology lab, a $40 million project dedicated to inventing ultra-small tools for reshaping the worlds of medicine, computing and energy.
The Ann Arbor lab doubles the research capacity at one of the 13 inter-linked, federally funded sites dedicated to nanotechnology.
"Microsystems are going to be pervasive," Kensall Wise, the center's director, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday at the lab.
Nanotechnology takes its name from the nanometer, a unit of measurement that is one billionth of a meter. An ant is about 5 million nanometers long, and a human hair about 100,000 nanometers wide, and a strand of DNA is about 2.5 nanometers wide.
Breakthroughs in microscopes allowing researchers to see individual molecules and atoms have opened up the field of nanotechnology, and the quest for smaller and smaller computer circuits and improved systems for detecting and treating disease have spurred on the field.
"We expect it to reap huge dividends in terms of jobs and contribute to the quality of life ... across the globe," Wise said.
University President Mary Sue Coleman said the project could point to a way out of the gloom that has overtaken the state with the declining fortunes of the domestic auto industry, driving the unemployment rate to No. 1 in the nation.
"If you have ever wondered what an economic engine looks like, look no further," Coleman said in her prepared remarks for the opening. "We all know that our state is undergoing a difficult and sometimes painful economic transformation, as we evolve from a manufacturing base to one that seizes the power and promise of technology and innovation."
The project adds 37,500 square feet to the center, renamed the Robert Lurie Nanofabrication Facility in recognition of a $15 million gift from the widow of the late Chicago real estate investor.
With the addition, the center has 11,000 square feet of ultra-clean specially ventilated laboratory areas where researchers can manipulate molecular-level materials free from contamination.
Michigan's particular research focus is on micro electromechanical systems, known as MEMS. The center's work has applications in biology, medicine, chemistry, and environmental monitoring.
Wise said they will be able to take on tasks ranging from continuously monitoring bridges for stress to delivering electrical stimulation into the brains of Parkinson's patients.
The 13-member National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network was created in 2004, funded by a $14 million National Science Foundation grant. Michigan gets $1.2 million from the grant.
Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Penn State and Howard universities are part of the network, which also includes the universities of Texas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Washington and California-Santa Barbara; Georgia Institute of Technology; and a joint project of North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina.