Facilities Overview

Exterior of Birck Nanotechnology Center

The Birck Nanotechnology Center (BNC) is an interdisciplinary research unit that provides infrastructure for 160 affiliated faculty members and their research groups from 36 academic units at Purdue. The 187,000 sq ft. facility includes a 25,000 sq. ft. ISO Class 3-4-5-6 (Class 1-10-100-1000) nanofabrication cleanroom—the Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory—that includes a 2,500 sq. ft. ISO Class 6 (Class 1000) pharmaceutical-grade biomolecular cleanroom. In addition to the cleanroom, the facility provides about the same number of square feet of specialized laboratories and offices for 60 resident faculty members, 30 post-docs, 30 staff, and approximately 220 graduate students. Much of the equipment in the BNC is shared, and is accessible to qualified and trained users from Purdue and from academic, industrial, and government laboratories outside Purdue. Most of the major equipment is available through recharge centers that support maintenance, supplies, and support staff.

In addition to the cleanroom, the BNC includes a suite of specialized laboratories that provide outstanding capabilities to researchers. All BNC laboratories are designed for low acoustic noise, less than 1 milligauss EMI, and +/- 1 degree C temperature stability. Additionally, the first-floor laboratories achieve NIST A vibration rating. From this base, certain laboratories have been modified to provide even more stringent limits to accommodate specialized needs. For example, the TEM laboratory has tighter temperature controls, has specialized airflow patterns, and has special acoustic materials on the walls and floors.

Hall Nanometrology Laboratory

For highly sensitive functions, the Kevin G. Hall Nanometrology Laboratory provides enhanced control of temperature, vibration, acoustic noise, and EMI. Temperature is controlled to +/- 0.01 degree C, EMI is controlled to less than 0.1 milligauss, acoustic noise is within NC-35 criteria, and vibration is controlled to NIST A-1 criteria.

Scanning Laser-Doppler Vibrometry

A specialized laboratory that meets NIST A-1 vibration criteria houses the Scanning Laser-Doppler Vibrometer. The Polytec MSA-400 Micro System Analyzer uses a variety of methods to characterize motion in micro- and nanostructures.

Scanning Probe Microscopy

Nine atomic force microscopes provide topographical data on surfaces as well as allowing the manipulation of materials at thenano scale. Two systems are designed especially for analyzing biological samples, with one located in a BSL-1 laboratory and the other in a BSL-2 laboratory.

Electron Microscopy

Four electron microscopes provide the ability to image nanoscale devices and materials, as well as to study reaction mechanisms at the atomic scale. A Fisher Scientific double aberration-corrected Field Emission Environmental Transmission Electron Microscope-Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope provides single-atom resolutions. The system contains an in-situ reaction chamber, and is equipped with a high-performance camera and data server.

Supplementing the capabilities of the TEM are a Fisher Scientific Apreo low-voltage Field-Emission Scanning Electron Microscope,a Helios Focused Ion Beam-Scanning Electron Microscope system, and a JEOL table-top general purpose SEM.

Surface Analysis

The surface analysis laboratory contains a Kratos Imaging x-Ray Photoemission Spectrometer (XPS) with an in-situ reaction cell and an Omicron surface analysis cluster tool. The XPS has a 15 micrometer spot size, and provides atomic-level analysis of materials. The cluster tool contains multiple devices to characterize the surfaces of materials, including a high-resolution electron-energy-loss spectrometer (EELS), a scanning electron microscope (SEM), a scanning auger spectrometer, a hemispherical electron spectrometer for XPS, AES, UPS, ISS, a focused ion beam (FIB) system and an Omicron UHV Scanning Tunneling Microscope—all connected under ultra-high vacuum. An inert atmosphere glove box is available for sample preparation in inert conditions.

X-Ray Diffraction

The x-ray diffraction laboratory contains a high-resolution PANalytical “x” Pert Pro x-ray diffraction system with a heated chuck accessory.

Roll-to-Roll Nanomanufacturing

A newly created laboratory is dedicated to mid-volume nanomanufacturing utilizing roll-to-roll processing tools. A plasma-enhanced deposition tool, and micro/nanogravure system, and a 3D printing system comprise the fabrication tool set. Additionally in the cleanroom E-Bay is a 40-Ft extremely versatile roll-to-roll system with a variety of optional capabilities including electric and magnetic field alignment, electrospinning, various drying techniques and other capabilities.

Laser Laboratories

Specialized laboratories for optical materials development, optically enhanced deposition, and optical characterization methods have been implemented in the BNC. Using lasers of various power levels—up to Class 4—BNC researchers are able to develop materials, processes, and devices for energy conversion and other applications. These laboratories also support research strengths in nanoelectronics and nanophotonics.

Electrical Characterization Laboratories

A significant amount of BNC laboratory space is allocated to electrical characterization of materials, structures and devices. A fleet of 8 probe stations provides ambient or high vacuum environments, semi-automatic probing, temperatures from 3.2 –675 K and magnetic fields up to 0.5 T. The cryo-cooled DynaCool PPMS provides temperatures from 1.8 –400 K and variable angle magnetic fields up to 9 tesla for measurements of electrical and thermoelectric transport as well as ferromagnetic resonance (FMR).

Magnetic Characterization Laboratory

A cryo-cooled MPMS-3 SQUID magnetometer provides state-of-the-art measurements of DC and AC magnetic moment at temperaures from 1.8 –1000 K and fields up to 7 tesla.

Biosafety Level 2 Laboratories

The BNC has five biosafety level 2 (BSL-2) laboratories. The biocleanroom also houses a small BSL2 cell culture room for work requiring live cells in a pharmaceutical-grade environment. These specialized laboratories allow for the safe handling of pathogenic biological materials used in the development of devices and delivery methods. One of the BSL-2 laboratories is dedicated to human/mammalian cell culture, including human and animal blood and tissue, while another is dedicated to bacterial culture work.

Biosafety Level 1 and Nanochemistry Laboratories

The BNC provides three laboratories rated at biosafety level 1 (BSL-1) for less hazardous nano-bio and nanochemistry research—including the main biocleanroom space. These laboratories are used for both mechanical and wet-chemical research activities.

3D Cell Culture

The BNC provides a laboratory area and two isolated cell-culture rooms for 3D cell culture, allowing a more authentic representation of biological structures.


The BNC laboratories contain equipment for specialized, highly precise epitaxial growth. Two ultra-clean Molecular Beam Epitaxy systems for III-V epitaxy, an Epigress VP-508 hot-wall CVD reactor for SiC and graphene.


Axic PECVD and PlasmaTherm High Density plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition systems allow film growth of specialized materials. A specialized Parylene deposition system deposits type C and N polymer onto a variety of substrates.