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Posted: September 20, 2008
University of Arkansas Trustees approve $28 million nanotechnology push
(Nanowerk News) University of Arkansas trustees approved big money for the study of very small things Friday.
A $20 million nanotechnology building expanded to a $28 million project, when trustees approved a larger price tag.
"To be very honest, we thought about asking for $16 million more," Chancellor Dave Gearhart told the board.
Nanotechnology, or the properties of substances at a nearly atomic level, has potential applications in everything from improved health care to military weapons to more efficient batteries, said Greg Salamo, a physics professor.
"The future is just going to explode in this area," Salamo said. "Nanotech is really changing a lot of landscapes."
Trustees approved $20 million for the building earlier this year. It's in the design phase, but architectural work couldn't be completed until designers knew if the additional money would be approved, said Don Pederson, vice chancellor for finance and administration.
The additional $8 million will "shell out" additional space, with exact uses to be determined in coming years as the field expands, Gearhart said.
The money will be raised through a combination of state and federal grants and private fundraising, university officials said.
Salamo and colleagues in chemistry and engineering are seeking grants from agencies including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, Salamo said. The building will be constructed on a parking lot along Dickson Street, just east of the KUAF radio station.
Groundbreaking could take place as early as this spring, with completion by late 2010 or early 2011, Pederson said.
The decision to expand the building comes on the heels of U.S. Senate authorization of $2.5 million for the university to study and develop new nanostructures that could protect soldiers from biological weapons.
The original $20 million price tag would have been covered by $16 million in bonds and $4 million in economic development money dedicated to the project earlier this year by Gov. Mike Beebe.
The building will help the university become a leader in the field, especially in the South and Midwest, Salamo said. Most major nanotechnology research, both by universities and private companies, is focused on the east and west coasts, he said.
"We've got a chance to really be a leader here," he said.
Trustee John Tyson asked if the building cost would be a one-time infusion into the program, or whether nanotechnology research would require additional money in future budgets.
"There's no doubt that if we're going to be a leader in this field, we'll have to spend some money," Salamo said. "As for how much, though, there's no way to guess."