University of Pittsburgh
March 23, 2005

University of Pittsburgh Announces Construction of New $6.1 Million Nanotechnology Facility, Increase in Nano Faculty

At today's "virtual groundbreaking," Provost James V. Maher reveals Pitt's new commitment to nanoscience research
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PITTSBURGH— The University of Pittsburgh today made a major commitment to boost its already-formidable efforts in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology by announcing its intentions to construct a new $6.1 million nanofabrication facility and to increase nanoscience and engineering faculty by almost 25 percent in the next few years.

At a "virtual groundbreaking" today in Alumni Hall, Pitt Provost James V. Maher announced the construction of the new 4,000-square-foot NanoScale Fabrication and Characterization Facility, to be part of Pitt's Institute of NanoScience and Engineering. The facility is scheduled to open in late 2005 and will be housed in Benedum Hall.

Pitt's Institute of NanoScience and Engineering currently includes approximately 40 faculty researchers, and Maher announced the addition of nine more. The added faculty will comprise basic scientists—chemists, biologists, and physicists—as well as engineers.

"Pitt intends to be a leader in this emerging field that should change the way we think about and live our lives," said Maher. "Our number one asset is that our nanoscience program is based on our core strengths in the basic sciences, where we are focused at the 'essentially nano' level. That's where the greatest breakthroughs are expected to occur, and from there we can spawn potential applications over a broad range through our engineering capabilities.

"Science and technology are very interdependent in this field, and it's an exciting time for Pitt because we do both," Maher added. The new facility will promote multidisciplinary research, scholarship, and education among Pitt's School of Engineering, School of Arts and Sciences, and Schools of the Health Sciences.

Maher also pointed out that in the last three years, three start-up companies and one major corporation have licensed nanotechnology developed by Pitt researchers. He said he hopes the new facility will help attract top-level talent and garner more grants, as well as facilitate partnerships with industry.

The University has long acquired and even constructed state-of-the-art nanoscience equipment. With the opening of this facility, the best available technology will be housed in a single location, and the new equipment will allow researchers to see and change materials and structure on the atomic level. Key technologies available and their capabilities will be:

• Transmission electron microscope: Directs a beam of electrons at a material and "reads" the reflected and scattered electrons to create an atomic-level image of the surface;

• Scanning-probe microscope: A tiny tip hovers above the material and reacts to changes in voltage of electrons jumping between itself and the surface; this allows for mapping at the atomic level;

• Modular X-ray diffraction system: X-rays nanostructures to reveal their density, crystallinity, and the presence of impurities or structural defects;

• Inductively coupled plasma reactive ion etching system: A beam of charged particles cuts nanometer-wide grooves, pits, or holes in materials;

• Electron-beam lithography system: A beam of electrons "writes" nanometer-sized patterns on materials;

• Dual-beam nanopatterning system: Beams of electrons and/or other charged particles cut nanometer-wide patterns in materials; and

• Multisource e-beam deposition system and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition: Deposition system for metals, semiconductors, insulators, and organic materials.

"Combining many different tools of analysis, we can understand better what the entire picture is down to the atomic scale," said Hong Koo Kim, Pitt professor of electrical and computer engineering and codirector of the Institute of NanoScience and Engineering. "The true payoff of this approach will be the resulting science."

"We're quickly approaching the scale at which the laws of classical physics don't apply, and that opens up a completely different realm of opportunity, added Hrvoje Petek, Pitt professor of physics and astronomy and Kim's fellow codirector of the institute.

The University's focus at the "essentially nano" level, where the greatest breakthroughs in nanoscience are expected to occur, offers the potential for a broad range of applications, including environment and energy, materials and computation, biomedical and health care, and devices and systems.