Operations Overview

Birck Nanotechnology Center (BNC) is an interdisciplinary research facility in Discovery Park at Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus in the state of Indiana, U.S.A. The 187,000-square-foot (17,400 m2) research facility is one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world. It is designed to support interdisciplinary research in nanotechnology, with six major thrust areas supported by seven areas of enabling technology.  BNC received the 2007 Facility of the Year Award by Controlled Environments Magazine.

The strength of BNC is in its collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to research. Purdue’s Colleges of Engineering, Science, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, Agriculture, and Technology are all users of BNC, as well as other universities and corporations. Many synergies result from this diversity, allowing the BNC to address societal-scale challenges and opportunities in healthcare, information access, energy, and the environment.

As a shared, open-access facility with a sustainable financial model, costs are shared among users with a “cost by cost causers” model. Using a zero-margin approach, supplemented by a university subsidy, operational costs are equably shared among the users of the facility. This minimizes research costs and drives the efficient operation of the facility.

The facility operates under a fluid operational model. Unlike traditional university operations, there is no ownership of labs and equipment – everything is shared. Laboratories are assigned to technologies, not to individual faculty. For example, BNC has an atomic-force microscopy (AFM) laboratory that is shared by four faculty. These faculty also work in other laboratories in the facility with other equipment. This maximizes the efficiency of research by limiting the number of tools and instruments that are needed. It also fosters collaboration with researchers working together in the same laboratory – often on the same instrument or similar instruments