JILA, site of Nobel Prize-winning research, expands into new wing on CU-Boulder campus

JILA, a joint institute of the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology that has produced three Nobel Prize winners since 2001, has opened a new wing with advanced laboratories for its world-renowned science.

“With the laboratory environment so much better controlled -- and I'm talking about vibrations, room temperature, electromagnetic noise, more stable cooling water and power, everything -- our researchers can concentrate on what really matters, the experiments themselves,” said Nobel laureate Eric Cornell, chair of JILA. “Everything we could do in the old labs, we’ll be able to do a little, maybe a lot, better in the new labs.”

The new six-story wing of the joint institute located on the CU-Boulder campus will add 56,065 gross square feet including laboratory space in the basement and first floor. Because highly precise laser experiments require a highly stable environment, the basement laboratories are built on special 2-foot-thick concrete that transmits less vibration than regular concrete. In addition, each of these labs has access to a special hallway with completely separate spring-loaded flooring where pumps and other mechanical equipment can operate without disturbing experiments in the laboratory.

NIST contributed $22.5 million and CU-Boulder contributed $10.2 million to the $32.7 million project. CU’s portion came from dollars from indirect cost recovery or other sources restricted to research facilities.

“Our long-standing partnership with NIST has produced many of the world’s leading scientists in atomic, molecular and optical physics and 11 companies currently operating in Colorado,” said Stein Sture, CU-Boulder vice chancellor for research. “We’re excited that this expansion will enhance the research staff’s capacity to train graduate students to develop cutting-edge laser applications, nanoscale manipulation tools, and other technologies needed to keep U.S. industry at the forefront of science.”

In the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings, JILA and the CU-Boulder physics department are tied with MIT as the nation’s No. 1 graduate program in atomic, molecular and optical physics.

The growing number of JILA graduate students was another reason behind the need for more space. The number of graduate students at JILA in 2000, 69, has grown to 104 today, along with 57 postdoctoral researchers and 94 scientists and support staff.

JILA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding this summer and the last previous expansion of its facilities opened during its 25th anniversary in 1987. With the new wing, JILA now totals 162,959 gross square feet.

“The new JILA wing will further strengthen the CU/NIST partnership that fosters innovation through research, new measurement tools, and training future generations of inventors and scientists,” said Tom O’Brian, chief of the Quantum Physics Division, the NIST part of JILA.

After the 1995 creation in a JILA laboratory of the world’s first Bose-Einstein condensate, a new form of matter created at a few hundred billionths of a degree above absolute zero, the institute appropriately became known as “the coldest place in the universe.”

The JILA fellows behind the Bose-Einstein condensate, Cornell and Carl Wieman, illustrate the collaboration between NIST and CU-Boulder scientists that JILA was intended to foster. Wieman is a distinguished professor of physics at CU-Boulder and Cornell is a NIST scientist and an adjoint professor of physics at CU. They were awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery.

Retired JILA/NIST fellow and adjoint CU physics professor John “Jan” Hall received the 2005 Nobel Prize for contributions to laser-based precision measurement techniques, including frequency combs -- a tool with an increasing array of applications in medicine, astronomy, telecommunications and many other areas. And two other JILA fellows, Deborah Jin and Margaret Murnane, are recipients of prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” awards.

In addition to a wide range of studies in atomic, molecular and optical physics, JILA also makes extremely precise measurements of ultrafast processes and at ultralow temperatures, Cornell said. These efforts could result in better materials for data storage and computation, improved imaging of biologically and medically relevant molecules, progress toward quantum information technology and a better understanding of the early universe.

JILA scientists and discoveries have generated 11 companies currently operating in Colorado, including a Boulder firm developing ultracold matter technology centered on Bose-Einstein condensate.

Because the institute is known around the globe for its pioneering work with lasers, lasers are a theme that runs throughout the new addition. The core of the new wing features a dramatic staircase leading up to a skylight with laser-like lights illuminating the darker undersides of the stairs. And a unique wall made of brick and “sensitile” transmits light when a light source is placed next to it.

JILA scientists will gradually move their laboratory equipment into the new “X-wing” over a period of months as they reach natural stopping points in their experiments. The wing also will free up additional lab space in the older portions of the building.

From the outside, it is difficult to tell where the 1987 addition stops and the new X-wing begins because the brickwork is so seamless, with the first four floors of the old JILA building extending directly into the new addition. While the older portions of JILA featured narrow hallways, the new wing offers wide common areas with numerous informal seating areas and nearby whiteboards to encourage greater interaction and collaboration among scientists.

New 1,500-square-foot “clean rooms” will enable materials to be manufactured without dust and other contaminants, a huge improvement from the previous JILA clean room that totaled just 250 square feet. The new rooms also will house an electron microscope.

As a tribute to the JILA instrument shop, renowned for its ability to create precision equipment for a vast array of custom-made JILA experiments, countertops throughout the wing are made from recycled metal shavings. The instrument shop will remain in the older building.

The top floor features a small library and quiet space where all doctoral dissertations done at JILA since the very first was completed in 1965 will be stored. JILA has produced 417 dissertations to date.

All JILA graduate students, just like the 27 JILA Fellows, are also affiliated with a CU-Boulder academic discipline such as physics; astrophysical and planetary sciences; chemistry and biochemistry; molecular, cellular and developmental biology; or engineering.

The new wing is on track to receive a gold rating under the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards. The architect was the Denver office of HDR Architecture Inc. and the general contractor was Saunders Construction of Centennial, Colo.

The X-wing dedication will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 13, and is free and open to the public. The dedication will be followed by self-guided tours of the new wing.

For more information about the new JILA wing visit http://colorado.edu/news/series/jila-joint-institute-cu-and-nist. For more information about JILA visit http://jila.colorado.edu/.

 

JILA X-WING EXPANSION FACTS

--The new six-story wing adds 56,065 of gross square feet of space to JILA’s existing 106,894 gross square feet. The total JILA facility now totals 162,959 gross square feet.

--NIST contributed $22.5 million and CU-Boulder contributed $10.2 million to the $32.7 million expansion project. CU’s portion came from dollars from indirect cost recovery or other sources restricted to research facilities.

--The new wing is on track to receive a gold rating under the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards.

--The new wing features vibration-resistant laboratories with special flooring, better shielding from electromagnetic noise, better electrical power and special corridors behind each lab where noisy, vibrating equipment like pumps won’t interfere with sensitive experiments. It also houses 1,500-square-foot “clean rooms,” where materials can be manufactured without dust and other contaminants.

--The new wing has spacious hallways with informal seating and nearby whiteboards designed to foster collaboration between scientists.

--The top floor features a small library and quiet space where all doctoral dissertations done at JILA since the very first was completed in 1965 will be stored.

--The new addition is about 25 percent more energy efficient and 30 percent more water efficient when compared with similar types of recently built, code-compliant buildings, according to campus sustainability Director Moe Tabrizi.

--Extensive use of local and regional construction materials was made in the addition and large portions of construction waste were diverted from landfills and recycled, Tabrizi said.

--The new wing features low-flow water fixtures, increased insulation, high-performance windows and a highly efficient heating and cooling system.

 

JILA FACTS

--JILA was founded as a joint institute between the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1962 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. It is located on the CU-Boulder campus.

--JILA scientists are a mix of CU faculty and NIST federal employees who work together for the mission of JILA and for education. One example is the highly successful partnership of CU faculty member Carl Wieman and NIST scientist and CU adjoint professor Eric Cornell to create the world’s first Bose Einstein condensate, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2001.

--JILA scientists develop new research and measurement tools that substantially advance science, technology and the economy. For example, development of the laser frequency comb in the late 1990s has led to an ever-expanding array of applications in atomic clocks, medicine, telecommunications, astronomy and many other areas. John “Jan” Hall of JILA and NIST, and an adjoint professor of physics at CU, shared the 2005 Nobel Prize for pioneering this unique new tool.

--JILA research spins off into new companies, technologies and jobs, including 11 companies currently operating along Colorado’s Front Range.

--JILA, along with the CU-Boulder physics department, is tied with MIT as the nation’s No. 1 graduate programs in atomic, molecular, and optical physics according to the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings. JILA trains graduate students each year who go on to work in industry, government labs and universities.

--The new X-wing provides advanced laboratories that will support JILA’s next 50 years of research breakthroughs, and collaboration space to further encourage training and interdisciplinary research. Like JILA overall, the X-wing is a collaboration between CU and NIST, with each organization sharing in the costs of the $32.7 million building.

--The chair of JILA alternates every two years between a NIST scientist and a CU-Boulder scientist. 

Contact:
Peter Caughey, CU media relations, 303-492-4007
caughey@colorado.edu
Laura Ost, NIST media relations, 303-497-4880
lost@nist.gov

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