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August 21, 2007

Magazine names Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center its Experts' Choice 'Facility of the Year'

Birck Nanotechnology Center cleanroom
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Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park has been named Facility of the Year by Controlled Environments, a monthly magazine that focuses on the cleanroom industry.

In the May issue of Controlled Environments, editors highlighted Birck's state-of-the-art laboratories, its partnership with facility designer, Omaha, Neb.-based HDR Architecture Inc., and the role the Purdue facility now plays in encouraging interdisciplinary research. Birck was one of five winners honored through the magazine's 2007 Experts' Choice Awards.

"The goals established for Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center were daunting," editors at Controlled Environments wrote. "The program called for 25,000 square feet of cleanroom with very stringent operating parameters. Purdue University partnered with HDR Architecture and created an environment of collaboration that engaged all parties by stimulating creativity at all levels."

The $58 million facility has helped Purdue recruit 16 faculty members in various areas of nanotechnology since 2002. Nearly 150 faculty members from 36 Purdue schools and departments are involved in Birck research to address everything from super-small computers, spacecraft and microscopic machines to tiny life-saving medical devices and a plethora of new materials. More than 400 graduate students also regularly use the facility.

Timothy Sands
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"Birck is a one-of-a-kind facility for nanotechnology research on a university campus in this country, and we are now seeing what research is capable because of the laboratories and its state-of-the-art cleanroom facility," said Timothy Sands, director of the Birck Nanotechnology Center and Purdue's Basil S. Turner Professor of Engineering.

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, manipulate and manufacture objects between 1 and 100 nanometers in size. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers in diameter.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center, which became fully operational to campus researchers last October, has 187,000 square feet of laboratory and office space. Included is 25,000 square feet of cleanroom space in Birck's $10 million Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory.

Cleanrooms are specialized labs designed to tightly control the amount of airborne dust particles where work is done. Temperature and humidity also are closely regulated. Birck's cleanroom, however, goes further to minimize vibration and electromagnetic interference from radio waves and other sources.

In Birck's cleanroom, research is conducted in a particle-free environment for fabricating microscale and nanoscale devices.

Birck also has a biocleanroom suite, the only such facility at a U.S. university that integrates a biological- and pharmaceutical-grade environment for research with pathogen-detecting biochips and other biological nanotechnology with a fabrication cleanroom. Scientists and engineers can marry biological molecules, such as proteins and DNA, with electronic devices.

Using the university's cleanroom, the research promises to make possible a new class of portable detectors for a range of applications, such as sensors for quickly testing food for bacterial contamination and sampling the air for biological and chemical warfare agents, as well as advanced medical diagnostic devices for analyzing blood and bodily fluids.

"One of the most valuable aspects of the building is its flexibility," Controlled Environments wrote of the Birck Nanotechnology Center. "The adaptable configuration of the cleanroom suite, the full subfab, and the accessibility of the systems will allow the building to be reconfigured as necessary to serve forms and techniques of research in the future.

"The Birck Nanotechnology Center truly breaks new ground in the scope and quality of the environment it promises to make available."

In the May/June issue of Small Times magazine, Purdue's facilities built around the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park were ranked eighth best in the United States. That's an improvement from 10th last year in the survey that considered 50 U.S. universities based on education, research, facilities and commercialization.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center is a cornerstone for Discovery Park, Purdue's $350 million hub for interdisciplinary research and home to 10 established research centers focusing on endeavors ranging from life sciences, entrepreneurship and manufacturing to cancer care, alternative energy and health-care engineering.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133,

Sources: Timothy Sands, (765) 496-6105,

Barbara VanRenterghem, chief editor, Controlled Environments, (508) 210-3149,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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