Purdue celebrates decade of research at Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park

November 2, 2015  


Birck anniversary

Panelists looking at the center’s past and future were (from left) Rashid Bashir, former Purdue professor and Birck researcher, now the Abel Bliss Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and head of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; inaugural Birck co-directors James Cooper, an electrical and computer engineering professor, and Richard Schwartz, dean emeritus of engineering and professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering; former President Martin C. Jischke; Timothy Sands, president at Virginia Tech and Purdue's former provost and Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of Birck; and Ali Shakouri, the Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of Birck Nanotechnology Center and a professor of electrical and computer engineering. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University celebrated a decade of research advancements in nanotechnology on Friday (Oct. 30) at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the $58 million Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park.

The anniversary celebration featured a Discovery Lecture Series discussion, Nanotechnology Research Beyond 2025, with panelist Timothy Sands, president at Virginia Tech and Purdue's former provost and Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of Birck. Joining Sands on the panel were Roger Howe, the William E. Ayer Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Lundstrom, the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue.

"When the Birck Nanotechnology Center opened on that sunny October day in 2005 for our faculty and graduate and undergraduate students, it was clear Purdue was launching the most advanced nanotechnology facilities on a university campus anywhere in the nation," said Ali Shakouri, the Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of Birck Nanotechnology Center and a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

"The investment that Purdue and our donors, especially the Birck family, have made in nanotechnology has propelled us to the top in this exciting and promising research field during the past decade. The Birck Center and its faculty are also playing a key role in College of Engineering's preeminent teams in quantum photonics, implanted bioelectronics, spintronics, cold plasmas and nanomanufacturing."

Debasish "Deba" Dutta, Purdue provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity, and Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Discovery Park, provided remarks. Former Purdue President Martin C. Jischke and Sands also participated in the panel discussion, "Nanotechnology at Purdue: Birck Nanotechnology Center History and Prospects." They were joined by Shakouri and inaugural Birck co-directors Richard Schwartz, dean emeritus of engineering and professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, and electrical and computer engineering professor James Cooper.

Former Purdue professor and Birck researcher Rashid Bashir, now the Abel Bliss Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Head of Bioengineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also participated.

Howe also delivered the Discovery Lecture keynote, titled "Progress Toward Wafer-Scale Thermionic Energy Conversion and Perspectives on Future University-Shared Fabrication Facilities."

The celebration also included tours of Birck and a reception honoring Birck staff.

Nearly 160 faculty from 25 Purdue departments utilize the 187,000-square-foot facility to advance nanoscale science to create nanotechnologies addressing societal challenges and opportunities in computing, communications, the environment, security, energy and health.

"In 10 years of operation, the Birck Nanotechnology Center has become a leading research facility, operating 24/7 with graduate and undergraduate students and our best and brightest faculty," de la Rubia said. "It's also a key component for Purdue Moves and the university's focus on world-changing research and transformative STEM education, and a cornerstone for our interdisciplinary activities and industry partnerships in Discovery Park."

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 globally could reach $1 trillion by 2020. The global market for health care nanotechnology alone is expected to reach $196 billion by 2020, growing at an annual rate of 12 percent, according to a study by Grand View Research Inc.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center is named for the late Michael and Katherine (Kay) Birck, of Hinsdale, Illinois, who contributed $30 million for the building. A Purdue alumnus, Michael Birck was a member of the Purdue Board of Trustees and co-founder and chairman of Tellabs Inc. He died on July 6 after a three-year battle with an uncommon form of bone marrow cancer. See original release.

The Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory in Birck consists of 25,000 square feet of Class 1, 10 and 100 cleanrooms and the first integrated biopharmaceutical cleanroom within the nanofabrication cleanroom. The lab is named for Purdue alumni Donald and Carol Scifres, who donated $10 million for the building.

A section of the cleanroom has been modified to create roll-to-roll nanomanufacturing facility, which was inaugurated during a workshop in June. The initiative brings faculty from colleges of Agriculture and Pharmacy to work with colleagues in engineering and sciences and develop next-generation smart pharmaceutical pills, smart sensors for precision agriculture and smart food labels.

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

Launched in 2001, Discovery Park is Purdue's $1 billion 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, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources: Ali Shakouri, 765-496-6105, shakouri@purdue.edu

Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, 765-496-6625, tddlr@purdue.edu 

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