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 Tuesday, December 12, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Nanotechnology Laboratory Supports Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration
By Carol Rowe, College of Engineering and Applied Science

University leaders officially opened the new, multimillion-dollar Nanomaterials Characterization Facility in the Discovery Learning Center on Nov. 16. The facility will support collaboration among business, government, and academic researchers involved in nanotechnology development throughout the area.

Nanotechnology involves understanding, controlling, and manipulating matter in the range of 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable many novel applications. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, or about 75,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair. More than 100 faculty in biology, chemistry, engineering, and physics at CU-Boulder, and dentistry, medicine, and pharmacy at the CU Health Sciences Center are involved in the research.

Colorado's business sector also is engaged in nanotechnology with 75 companies currently working in the field, according to a study by the Business Research Division at the Leeds School of Business. Nanotechnology represents a potential $2.6 trillion market by 2014, according to one estimate, and Colorado has the opportunity to capture a significant share of the market, according to the "Colorado Nanotechnology Roadmap" prepared by Gary Horvath of the Leeds School.

More than 240 people, including 100 from industry or government labs, attended the facility opening. Participants saw live demonstrations of five pieces of high-tech equipment, including a low-vacuum scanning electron microscope, which is used for high-resolution imaging of biological and insulating materials, and a confocal laser scanning microscope, which can be used to optically section a sample in order to assemble a highly accurate three-dimensional reconstruction.

Mechanical engineering Professor Y.C. Lee, the facility's administrative director, told industry representatives he wants to make the facility a gateway for industry to develop collaborations with CU faculty. Facility users must attend training and become certified before using the equipment.

Lee also directs the new Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Center on Nanoscale Science and Technology for Integrated Micro/Nano-Electromechanical Transducers (iMINT), which will be a major user of the equipment. iMINT expects to receive federal grants totaling more than $10 million over the next six years for research on integrating nano devices with micro devices.

The new facility has been funded with $1.6 million in federal earmarks, $1.3 million in university matching funds, and $700,000 from various equipment grants awarded to faculty in mechanical engineering. Additional funds are being sought to purchase more equipment.

For more information, visit or contact Professor Y.C. Lee.

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