Gateway to greatness

A guide for students, researchers, inventors and CEOs

By Candace Stuart

Best is a relative word, particularly when it comes to higher education. For an undergraduate, best may be defined as a prestigious institution whose name opens the doors to competitive graduate programs or corporate careers. Post docs and researchers may look at labs, equipment and the school’s success at attracting funding and students. Inventors may give more weight to patenting and tech transfer, while industry may see access to facilities or the quality of an educated workforce as key.

Small Times has compiled a guide to the top universities in micro and nanotechnology, based on responses to a survey sent to more than 100 research institutions in the United States. Fifty universities responded to the survey, which included questions about facilities, funding, courses, degrees, research programs, publishing, patenting, company formation, industrial partnerships and more. Their responses were analyzed to determine their strength in five key categories: research, education, facilities, industrial outreach and commercialization. Respondents also were asked to rank their peers for research and commercialization. The listings that follow are meant to be a guide to help readers identify university resources that best meet their needs.

University at Albany-SUNY

UAlbany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) has embarked on an ambitious program to make itself a leader in micro and nanotechnology education, research and development. With the state’s blessing and strong support from industry, the young college has solidified its reputation as an applications-driven institution, particularly in the field of nanoelectronics. It also earned the top seed in Small Times’ survey for education, facilities and industry outreach.

The college built its program around four themes, a structure that it believes encourages cross-disciplinary education and research: nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience and nanoeconomics. Students choose from more than 60 courses to earn master’s degrees and doctorates with concentrations in areas as varied as nanomaterials and modeling. The college is in the process of launching a bachelor’s program in nanoengineering as well.

Click here to enlarge image

The college introduced its Nano+MBA program in 2005, which allows students to wed their science and engineering education with business school savvy. The program’s goal is to make graduates “industry-ready.”

Chances are good that students already have been exposed to industry’s culture. The college is co-located with Albany NanoTech, a 450,000-square-foot complex that gives its 150 industrial partners access to laboratories, a supercomputer center and user facilities. The university places its assets at $3 billion, including cleanrooms with wafer processing capabilities. Albany NanoTech is expected to expand another 300,000 square feet.

The region also houses numerous micro and nano-specific R&D centers, whose annual budget for fiscal year 2005 totaled almost $500 million. Most centers have ties to industry. IBM pledged $100 million in 2001 to support the Center for Excellence in Nanoelectronics, while the Center for Advanced Interconnect Science and Technology (CAIST) is funded by the Semiconductor Research Corp. CAIST is a consortium of 18 universities. Electronics giants such as IBM, Infineon, Honeywell and Tokyo Electron have partnered with the centers, generating more than $1.5 billion in revenue in 2005.

Students at UAlbany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering have access to facilities at the 450,000-square-foot Albany NanoTech complex, below. Photos courtesy of University at Albany-SUNY
Click here to enlarge image

The state has also been supportive. Most recently, it announced in early 2006 that it committed $80 million to the college for the Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery and Exploration, a $435 million multi-university initiative that will be located on the Albany campus.

While CNSE stands out for its work with industry, it has been less successful with pure research. As a young institution, the college appears to still be ramping up its faculty and research output.

Cornell University

Faculty and students at Cornell University were active in nanotechnology long before it became a buzzword. The university was among the first to customize facilities for the exacting challenges of working at the micron and nanoscale. Cornell’s foresight from more than a decade ago has positioned it to compete with the best in nanotechnology today.

Cornell maintains a diverse stable of research facilities that receive support from federal and state government agencies as well as some private funding. With an annual budget of more than $10 million in 2005, the Cornell Center for Materials Research has pulled together an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers in well-equipped shared facilities. The Nanobiotechnology Center brings in life scientists along with physical scientists and engineers to study biological systems at the subcellular and molecular level. The center has inspired researchers to develop novel micro and nanofabricated devices.

Click here to enlarge image

The Center for Nanoscale Systems in Information Technologies focuses on the electronic, photonic and magnetic properties of nanomaterials. Its goal is to provide a new generation of products for computational, sensing, information storage and communications systems. Cornell is also one of only three universities worldwide selected by the philanthropic Kavli Institute to become a nanoscience research center.

Cornell has been the most successful of the universities in its commercialization efforts, in part because the campus offers facilities for producing as well as studying at the micro and nanoscale. The Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility makes its nanofabrication tools and processes and trained staff available to industry as well as university researchers. Almost half of its funding comes from user fees.

Students and faculty also collaborate with corporations like IBM, Evident Technologies and Hitachi on projects as diverse as nanotransistors, quantum dots and memory devices. They’re active with various national labs and institutes as well.

The university stands out for its micro and nanotech patenting and creation of companies. The Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization was consolidated in 2004 to support startups such as Illuminaria, whose portable biosensing technology was developed in the engineering department.

University of Michigan

Its engineering department is renowned for its work in microsystems. Its medical school cultivates doctors who understand not only patient physiology but the intricacies of nanoparticles. Its faculty members specialize in everything from computer simulations for modeling nanosystems to fabrication techniques for making MEMS devices.

It’s little wonder, then, that the University of Michigan ranked among the top 10 institutions for every key category in the survey.

The university estimates that it has almost 100 faculty and 700 undergraduate and graduate students conducting research in micro and nanotechnology. Students can earn master’s and doctorate level degrees in microsystems, or choose to minor in those subjects. Interdisciplinary class offerings cover the gamut, from biological micro/nanotechnology to nanophotonics to the societal impact of microsystems.

Click here to enlarge image

Now in its sixth year, the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSystems has demonstrated success with devices such as cochlear implants for the deaf and gas sensors for environmental monitoring. The engineering-based center has outreach programs involving eight other schools, and is incorporating more and more of the nanoscience advances under way at the university.

The campus also houses the Michigan Nanofabrication Facility, which for a fee allows industrial, government and university researchers to use its equipment and processes. A $40 million expansion that will include 6-inch wafer capabilities and 4,000 square feet of cleanroom space is expected to be completed in 2007.

The university is among a handful of research institutions that has successfully blended its medical and physical sciences. The Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences (M-NIMBS) focuses on medical uses of dendrimers and nanoemulsions. James Baker, a professor of internal medicine and director of M-NIMBS, has shown that dendrimers can be used for cancer drug delivery while nanoemulsions can serve in antimicrobial and vaccine applications.

Rice University

A lot of universities like to claim “firsts” in nanotechnology, but Rice University’s status as one of the pioneers in nano research is hard to dispute. The university established its Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in 1996, the same year two of its faculty members received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering buckminsterfullerenes. Buckyballs, as they’re nicknamed, and their cousins carbon nanotubes have become popular in the study and commercialization of nanomaterials. And Rice has been leading the charge.

Click here to enlarge image

The center now fits under the umbrella of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. The name honors the late Richard Smalley, whose visions for near and future uses of nanotechnology helped persuade congressional leaders to provide billions of dollars to support nanoscience. Smalley shared the Nobel Prize with Rice’s Robert Curl, and was the driving force behind the creation of CNSE.

The institute’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, one of the six inaugural National Science Foundation-supported nano centers, recently received a five-year renewal of its funding. That will allow the university to continue its work on environmental remediation as well as nanotech’s possible adverse environmental and health effects. The institute also has targeted its research toward energy and health applications, and has rallied support and developed partnerships with industry, government agencies, research organizations and the State of Texas to accelerate nanotech innovation.

Inventor Naomi Halas is listed on at least three of 17 nano-related patents awarded to Rice University in 2005. She recently unveiled a new invention, nanorice, a hematite core coated in gold that can be used as a nanosensor. Image courtesy of Rice University
Click here to enlarge image

The close ties among Rice’s nanotech community, its public policy institute and its business school contributed to the success of its commercialization efforts. Rice offers a master’s degree in nanoscale physics, which is a joint degree between the business school and the physics department. The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship showcases nanotechnology during public events, and has helped several university-based startups find seasoned business leaders to run their companies.

NanoComposites Inc., launched in January 2005, joins the list of Rice’s many nano startups. The company has an exclusive license to 17 Rice inventions relating to carbon nanotubes.

University of Pennsylvania

When it comes to research resources, few universities have a leg up on the University of Pennsylvania. Many of Penn’s dozen or so science research centers, institutes and facilities boast multi-million dollar budgets that allow faculty and students to conduct innovative micro and nano research that incorporates the campus’ diverse offerings.

Besides sciences and engineering, the university has schools in medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry and nursing. The university’s micro and nanotechnology research specialties reflect a strong medical undercurrent, with nanobiotechnology, drug delivery, tissue engineering, and micro and nanofluidics topping their list of specialties.

Click here to enlarge image

Penn participates in the collaborative Nanotechnology Institute, which includes Drexel University and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Its goal is to develop marketable nanotechnologies that foster economic growth in the state. The institute stretches beyond the conventional R&D center. It also fosters entrepreneurship, provides seed capital, identifies partnership possibilities and supports educational and workforce development efforts.

Other resources include the Nano/Bio Interface Center, the Penn Regional Nanotechnology Facility and the Penn Microarray Facility. The center pulls scientists, engineers and medical doctors together to study biomolecular functions. The nano facility provides equipment for fabricating and analyzing nanomaterials, while the microarray facility offers tools for genetic research.

University of Virginia

Michael Reed and Robert Hull independently have contributed to the University of Virginia’s prominence in micro and nanotechnology. The two are among the roughly 100 researchers on campus involved in micro and nanotechnology, and can claim some of the honors for the university’s strong placing in micro and nanotech research and commercialization.

Click here to enlarge image

Reed, a professor of electrical and biomedical engineering, develops novel microfabrication technologies and specializes in biomedical and electronic microsystems. An infrared sensing device that he co-invented was issued a patent in 2005, one of a handful of University of Virginia innovations that cleared the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that year.

Hull leads the university’s charge into the nanoworld. He directs the university’s nanoscale and quantum science institute and the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. A professor of materials science and engineering, his research focuses on electronic materials, thin film growth and self-assembly. He also collaborates with industrial partners IBM, Zyvex, Hewlett-Packard and Intel.

University of North Carolina

UNC historically has been a magnet for computer science research and innovation. But it also has developed a reputation for its work in nanofabrication and nanomaterials. The two strengths have intersected on the campus at Chapel Hill, with the formation of centers like the Computer Integrated Systems for Microscopy and Manipulation and the Institute for Advanced Materials, Nanoscience and Technology.

Click here to enlarge image

UNC also collaborates with North Carolina State University to oversee the Triangle National Lithography Center, a facility for academic and industrial researchers who want to make and understand nanostructures. UNC’s combination of resources and collaboration earned the university high marks for micro and nano facilities and industry outreach.

That collaborative culture extends to faculty and students in projects like its agreement with Xintek, a startup launched by UNC physicist Otto Zhou. Xintek is developing applications for carbon nanotubes for electronics and medical imaging systems. A UNC team is helping Xintek make new X-ray sources to increase the accuracy and speed for in vivo imaging of cancers. Their goal is to integrate field emission devices with advanced micro and nanofabrication processes to develop “X-ray-on-a-chip” technologies.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University boasts dozens of research centers, facilities and labs that concentrate on micro and nanotechnology, making OSU one of the standouts for facilities and commercialization. The university credits its broad research capabilities, from materials to biotech, to its historical strengths in polymers and engineering. It also notes that the proximity of university hospitals, Battelle Memorial Institute (manager of several national labs) and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base plus partnerships with Ohio’s industries contribute to its research and commercialization successes.

Click here to enlarge image

The list of OSU’s centers is extensive. It holds the National Science Foundation’s Center for Affordable Nanoengineering of Polymeric Biomedical Devices, the Wright Center for Innovation in Multifunctional Polymer Nanomaterials and Devices, Ohio MicroMD Laboratory, Ohio Nanoscale Patterning Center, an NSF-sponsored Program in Molecular Engineering of Microdevices, the Nanoelectronics and Optoelectronics Laboratory, Nanotribology Laboratory for Information Storage and MEMS/NEMS, the Polymer Device Laboratory and several microscopy laboratories.

Recent startups include Columbus Nanoworks, which develops magnetic nanoparticles for detecting tumors, and Nanomaterials Innovation Ltd., which specializes in polymeric nanotechnology.

Northwestern University

Don’t be deceived by the tally. Northwestern’s ability to make inroads in several categories simultaneously underscores a bustling nanotechnology scene that includes eight centers, educational outreach and innovative efforts to get research into the marketplace.

Click here to enlarge image

The university established the International Institute for Nanotech-nology in 2005 to unite its research, educational programs and supporting infrastructure under one umbrella. The institute includes a partnership with Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Nanoscale Materials. Institute offices are in the Center for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly, a 44,000-square-foot facility that houses research laboratories and support space. Other nano centers focus on detection technologies, cancer research, bioterrorism threats, catalysis and characterization. The university oversees an educational center as well.

In 2001, Northwestern established the Small Business Evaluation and Entrepreneur’s Program to pair nano researchers with second-year MBA students. Startups NanoInk and Nanosphere trace their roots to Northwestern, as do the fledgling companies Nanocore and NanoSense.

University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota has taken a page from the federal government’s play book, and the strategy is paying off. The university’s Nanotechnology Coordinating Office, like the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office on the federal level, serves as the hub for nano activities on campus and statewide.

Its goal is to help the university and business communities find commercial opportunities for nanotechnology, particularly in nanoparticles and nanostructures. It has identified those as its two strongest areas of expertise, with roots to well-established chemical engineering and materials science programs.

Click here to enlarge image

The university estimates that annually more than 700 users, including a sizable segment from industry, take advantage of its Nanofabrication Center, Characterization Facility and Particle Technology Laboratory. The facilities provide tools, processes and expertise in measuring and understanding micro and nanostructures. The university reported more than 500 research partnerships with industry for revenues of almost $20 million.

Harvard University

It helps to have a Charles Lieber on the team.

Harvard’s constellation of micro and nanotechnology stars includes veteran entrepreneurs like George Whitesides, ascending innovators like Lieber and Gen X geniuses like David Liu. All have helped Harvard maintain its stature as a leader in nanotech research. But it was the Liebers of Harvard – who patent as well as publish – who helped turn it into a beacon for commercialization.

Click here to enlarge image

At least two patents awarded in 2005 carry the name of Lieber among the inventors. Lieber, who is on the advisory board of Nanosys, has continued to innovate ways to make and manipulate nanowires that have useful electronic and optical properties. Nanosys intends to build products based on its platform technologies using inorganic nanostructures.

Harvard chemist Charles Lieber and graduate student Chen Yang have developed a method for fabricating nanodevices. Photo courtesy of Harvard University
Click here to enlarge image

Harvard’s total of 10 micro and nanotech patent awards in 2005 set the stage for commercializing its know how. It also produced a variety of startups, including two microfluidics companies, a company that specializes in using soft lithography to address manufacturing problems and a photovoltaics business.

Purdue University

Purdue emphasizes that its $58 million Birck Nanotechnology Center is a shared-use facility and welcomes industry to sample its facilities and scientific equipment. The center opened in October 2005, unveiling the latest in cleanroom and lab design and tools. But its industry initiative had begun long before the doors opened, placing it among the leaders in the industry outreach category.

Click here to enlarge image

The center offers a low-vibration metrology lab with shielding against electromagnetic interferences, plus an integrated semiconductor fab and bio-pharma cleanrooms. It holds more than 250 pieces of scientific equipment, including fresh-off-the-shelf models like the BioScope II atomic force microscope, which Veeco Instruments released in late 2005.

Shuiqing Hu, a mechanical engineering doctoral student at Purdue University, uses an atomic force microscope at the Birck Nanotechnology Center to image nanostructures. Photo courtesy of Purdue University
Click here to enlarge image

The center’s design is meant to foster interdisciplinary research by bringing scientists and engineers from various fields in proximity to one another. The center also houses Purdue’s Network for Compu-tational Nanotechnology, which allows researchers to perform computer simulations of nanomaterials and processes.

Rutgers University

The Institute for Advanced Materials and Devices isn’t the only nano-related center on Rutgers’ Piscataway campus. The university offers facilities and research expertise in ceramic and composite materials, polymers, surface modification and microelectronics.

Click here to enlarge image

But the institute has taken the lead in coordinating micro and nano research, tech transfer, incubation, funding and education. Part of its mission is to make it easier for internal and external users to access processing and characterization facilities. That has made it one of the notable campuses for industry outreach.

Researchers like Chen Lin, at right, a graduate student in Rutger’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, often team up with industrial partners. Chin measures the viscosity of NEI Corp.’s nanofluids as NEI engineer Kenneth Eberts, center, and NEI CEO Ganesh Skandan look on. NEI, Rutgers and an Indian R&D center established a cooperative research agreement in 2005. Photo courtesy of NEI Corp.
Click here to enlarge image

At least nine departments offer micro and nano-related classes, with eight courses that focus almost exclusively on nanoscience and nanotechnology. The university allows students to take a concentration in nanomaterials and nanotechnology, and electrical engineering students also have the option to specialize in micro and nanoelectronics.

University of Pittsburgh

The list of micro and nanotech research areas at Pitt covers the gamut: nanostructured materials synthesis and characterization; colloids and biochemical sensors; nano-optics and plasmonics; molecular electronics; spintronics and quantum information processing; metrology and nano-instrumentation; nanomechanics; nanobiomaterials for diagnostic and therapeutic applications; molecular-level modeling and simulation of materials; nanosystems-on-a-chip; MEMS; packaging; and RFIDs.

Click here to enlarge image

Pitt has the resources to back up its claims of expertise, with the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering, the Swanson Center for Micro and Nano Systems and the NanoScale Fabrication and Characterization Facility.

About 40 of its engineering and science faculty engage in micro or nanotech research, assisted by 120 graduate students and 60 undergrads. Judging by their colleagues’ publishing rates, the micro and nano specialists are prolific as well. Its breadth of expertise, resources and publishing activities put Pitt near the top for micro and nanotech research.

Case Western Reserve University

Case is well-known in the MEMS community for pioneering work with microsystems that dates back several decades. It also has a long-standing interest in materials. The two areas of expertise have intersected in vibrant research programs that cover nanosystems, nanoparticles and – thanks to the presence of its School of Medicine – nano-based therapeutics and devices.

Click here to enlarge image

More than a third of Case’s 168 science and engineering faculty are involved in micro and nanotech research. Research themes like the Targeted Nanoparticles for Imaging and Therapeutics Program foster cross-disciplinary research in the sciences, engineering and medicine. Teams are developing nanoparticles for medical purposes, including imaging and tumor detection.

The program received a budget of more than $1 million in 2005 and has caught the attention of two local biotech companies. The university also hopes to create a nanomedicine center to support interdisciplinary research, education, and commercialization.

Louisiana Tech University

Engineers who want to work in the tiniest scales have lots of choices at Louisiana Tech. Course selections include about a score of micro and nano-specific topics that can lead to a bachelor’s degree in nanosystems engineering, a master’s degree in microsystems engineering or a master’s degree in molecular science and nanotechnology.

Click here to enlarge image

Students who pursue doctorates in engineering are expected to conduct research at either the university’s Institute for Micromanufacturing or another center. Candidates who select the institute for their dissertation projects earn a degree with an emphasis in micro/nanotechnology and micro/nanoelectronics.

A third of Louisiana Tech’s science and engineering faculty regularly conduct micro and nano research, and 143 graduate students participated in micro and nanotech research projects in 2005.

University of California at Berkeley

UC Berkeley doesn’t award any science or engineering degrees that specifically say micro or nano in their names, but micro and nanotechnology permeate the campus. Its research and education efforts have expanded so quickly that the university created an umbrella organization, the Berkeley Nanosciences and Nanoengineering Institute, to coordinate programs. More than 80 faculty members in biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science, engineering, materials science and physics are members of the institute.

Click here to enlarge image

Berkeley also has one of the most venerable microsystems programs in the nation. Its Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center is a 20-year-old industry/university cooperative research center that focuses on micro and nanoscale sensors, microfluidics, materials and processes that are relevant to industry.

This illustration shows how a beam of radiation, at left, can be used to image impurities in a solar cell. The technique was developed at UC Berkeley. Image courtesy of UC Berkeley
Click here to enlarge image


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

UIUC’s micro and nanotech efforts are gaining momentum, in part because of its Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. The center coordinates the university’s numerous research, education and outreach initiatives that involve more than 150 faculty members.

Click here to enlarge image

The university estimates it has more than $200 million in resources through well-established research centers like the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory as well as newer initiatives like the Center for Nanoscale Chemical-Electrical-Mechanical Manufacturing Systems.

UIUC has made 10 licensing deals with nano or microtechnology startups since 1999, including one in 2005 with NanoInk. It says it has four licenses in negotiation as well.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M is, by its own admission, an upstart. The university is about midway into a five-year, $20 million campaign designed to add 447 new faculty members to its ranks. It reports that a large portion of its new recruits are working in micro and nanoscale research.

Click here to enlarge image

The university is enticing them with new equipment, and characterization and fabrication resources like the Microscopy and Imaging Center, the Materials Characterization Facility and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. Groundbreaking for a $35 million physics building that will include a cleanroom for the nano center is scheduled for this year.

University of Maryland

At the University of Maryland, students are learning by the book – and by example. The university lists dozens of courses with micro and nanotechnology content. Undergraduates in engineering, physics or chemistry also can get a minor in nanoscale science and technology.

Click here to enlarge image

The university and its faculty teach by example. The university, with its umbrella organization, the Maryland Center for Integrated Nano Science and Engineering, has encouraged what it terms borderless collaboration across the campus. That effort is supported by several permanent cross-disciplinary institutes whose members have joint appointments. And that culture is setting the stage for cutting-edge research in the university’s many facilities.

The university’s close relationship with federal labs, where most faculty members have joint appointments, is making a difference too. The National Institute for Standards and Technology has committed more than $3.5 million to create a nanomanufacturing and metrology center on campus.

Arizona State University

A glance through the dozen or so names of micro and nano-related centers at Arizona State shows where the university’s strengths lie: electronics and biology. More and more, those two fields are intersecting within the Biodesign Institute.

Click here to enlarge image

On the electronics side, ASU runs the Flexible Display Center, the Center for Solid State Electronics Research and the Wireless Integrated Nanotechnologies initiative. In the bio realm, the university offers the Center for Applied NanoBioscience and the Center for Single Molecule Biophysics. The two meld together in true cross-disciplinary fashion, with the Center for BioOptical Nanotechnology and the Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors.

ASU also won a National Science Foundation award in 2005 to establish the Center for Nanotechnology in Society. The center will explore issues like privacy and security, and launch a “real-time technology assessment” program to help scientists and the public evaluate social issues related to nanotechnology.

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida identifies its nanotech strengths as optics and photonics, materials and in vivo testing and imaging. Industry appears to agree, judging by a sampling of collaborations.

Click here to enlarge image

University researchers have collaborated with Lockheed Martin on projects dealing with nanofilms, Siemens AG on nanocoatings, Ocean Optics on optical sensors for detecting biochemicals, and Vax Design on synthetic in vitro systems. Those are just a handful of joint projects with industry.

The university promises more in the future. It says its Nanoscience Technology Center is recruiting young scientists to expand its capabilities.

North Carolina State University

NCSU researchers embarked on 73 partnerships with industry in 2005. Many of those partnerships linked NCSU with giants of the semiconductor world such as Semiconductor Research Corp., SEMATECH and computing and electronics innovator IBM.

Click here to enlarge image

NCSU makes many of its resources accessible to industry, including its Nanofabrication Facility, the Triangle National Lithography Center, the Advanced Electronics Material Processing Center, the Analytical Instrumentation Facility and more.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The MIT School of Engineering’s Tiny Tech initiative has allowed the university to consolidate its enormous research and education efforts under one name. The university-wide initiative is designed to keep MIT at the forefront in innovation. Target technology areas include computation and communication, photonics, nanomaterials, MEMS and NEMS.

Click here to enlarge image

MIT’s three major micro and nano centers are: the Microsystems Technology Laboratories, which is used annually by approximately 425 students and staff; the U.S. Army-funded Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, which supports bottom-up nanotechnology research and also advanced research in nanotechnology-enabled soldier systems; and the Center for Material Science and Engineering, which offers advanced materials characterization tools as well as research in materials.

University of New Mexico

Would-be engineers and scientists aren’t the only students learning about micro and nanotechnology at the University of New Mexico. The campus has had a long tradition of incorporating the challenges of micro and nanotechnology commercialization into its business curriculum.

Click here to enlarge image

UNM offers a cross-disciplinary program designed to bridge the nano and micro worlds. Doctoral students can pursue an Integrative Nanoscience and Microsystems degree, with a focus on informational nanotechnolgy, the nano-bio interface and complex functional systems. The university has created 16 micro and nano-specific courses.

The business school also takes an interest in micro and nanotechnology. In 2001 it received an endowment for a chair in microsystems, commercialization and technology. Faculty in the Management of Technology Center also have been teaching, consulting and involved in associations that focus on commercializing emerging technologies.

Editor’s note: Below are synopses of universities that were chosen by their peers as outstanding institutions for micro and nanotech research and commercialization. Some of the universities did not participate in Small Times’ university survey, and therefore did not qualify for the non-peer rankings.

Stanford University

In March, Stanford received a five-year, $20 million award from the National Cancer Institute to develop nano-based approaches for understanding, detecting and treating cancer. The center is the latest acknowledgement of Stanford’s leadership in micro and nanotechnology.

Click here to enlarge image

Stanford unveiled a nanocharacterization lab in October, a sister facility to the Stanford Nanofabrication Facility. The shared-use facility has helped Stanford develop sophisticated MEMS devices, and has contributed to its success as a hotbed for tech commercialization.

California Institute of Technology

Caltech’s ties to nano date back to 1959, when visionary physicist Richard Feynman gave a speech that came to be a foundation for nanotechnology. A Caltech audience witnessed President Bill Clinton’s unveiling of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2001.

Click here to enlarge image

More recently, Caltech received $7.5 million from the Kavli Foundation to set up the Kavli Nanoscience Institute and $25.4 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to create a Nanoscale Systems Initiative. The university also is associated with the nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a NASA-funded research center that develops small and lightweight technologies for space applications.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech says that at least 100 of its faculty members participate in nanotech research and design. The number is likely to be much higher if scientists and engineers who work at the microscale are considered.

Georgia Tech’s Zhong Lin Wang displays a zinc oxide nanowire array that can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy. Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech
Click here to enlarge image

Georgia Tech’s Microelectronics Research Center makes its cleanroom and equipment available to faculty and external users. The center offers nanolithography and nanoimprint lithography capabilities. Construction on an $80 million Nanotechnology Research Center building was expected to begin this year, with completion set for 2008.

Click here to enlarge image


University of Texas at Austin

Two centers have helped UT-Austin build up its micro and nanotech research efforts. The Microelectronics Research Center is an open-use facility that allows researchers to develop novel materials, devices and packaging for ICs, photonics and microelectronics. The university says it has assembled one of the largest and most diverse university semiconductor research programs in the world.

Click here to enlarge image

The multi-disciplinary Center for Nano- and Molecular Science and Technology was founded in 2000 to foster research, education, and outreach in nanotechnology. The center includes $10 million in microscopy, fabrication and testing equipment. The university broke ground on a $35 million building for the center last year with the goal of completion in September 2006.

University of California at Los Angeles

UCLA combines its MEMS and microsystems expertise with numerous nano centers to meet its diverse missions. UCLA researchers, along with colleagues in the Santa Barbara and Riverside campuses, are developing military-related technologies at the Center for Nanoscience Innovation for Defense. The Institute for Cell Mimetic Space Exploration was formed to develop and commercialize nanotechnologies for complex systems.

Click here to enlarge image

The California NanoSystems Institute is expected to unite researchers from the sciences, engineering and medicine faculty. Its new building contains research labs designed to block out vibrations and acoustical and electromagnetic noise.

University of California at Santa Barbara

UCSB is a partner with UCLA in the California NanoSystems Institute and in the Center for Nanoscience Innovation for Defense. In 2005, the National Science Foundation awarded the university a $5 million grant to establish the Center for Nanotechnology in Society to study the near-term societal implications of nanotechnology. UCSB also has support from NASA to explore the use of biologically inspired nanocomposites for use in space.

Click here to enlarge image


Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon’s MEMS lab, part of its Institute for Complex Engineered Systems, is finding ways to integrate sensors, actuators and other microtechnologies into intelligent systems. Such systems could be used for environmental monitoring, for instance. Last year the university announced that it would create the Center for Nano-enabled Device and Energy Technologies. The center intends to develop nanosensors and other nano-based technologies that improve energy efficiencies or provide alternative energy sources.

Click here to enlarge image

An insider’s look at the survey and its analysis process

Small Times introduced its university rankings last year, based on a survey sent to research institutions in the United States. In late 2005, we assembled an advisory panel of directors at university-based micro and nanotech centers to refine the survey. With their assistance, we changed it to include opportunities for respondents to describe their centers and programs. The descriptive segments allowed us to assemble the index that begins on page 25. All in all, the survey included 26 questions.

That survey was e-mailed to more than 100 universities in early January, and elicited responses from 50 universities. It was divided into four sections, with responses based on fiscal year 2005. The first section focused on university infrastructure, asking universities to list their research facilities, annual facility budgets, access to industry, etc.

The second section targeted tech transfer efforts. Respondents provided measurable proof of success, such as the number of micro and nanotech patents awarded in FY 2005, the number of companies formed, partnerships with industry and related topics.

The third section was designed to assess the university’s science and engineering educational and research programs, with an emphasis on micro and nanotechnology. Questions ranged from the number of science and engineering faculty, undergraduates and graduate students to the numbers of micro and nano-specific courses and degrees.

Universities also were asked to provide figures on grant expenditures and papers published in refereed journals and proceedings. Small Times and its advisory panelists agreed that questions dealing with micro and nano-specific grants and papers would be difficult if not impossible to track and report. Consequently, those answers covered all sciences (excluding the social sciences) and engineering.

Respondents also were asked to give their opinion on which universities they considered tops in micro and nanotech research and commercialization. Their replies were tabulated to create the peer rankings.

Responses from the four sections provided the data for a quantitative analysis of each university’s strengths in micro and nanotech research, education, facilities, industry outreach and commercialization. If a university responded that data was not available, or left a question blank, it was recorded as 0. Responses were also vetted for misinterpretations. For instance, some tech transfer offices mistakenly based their number of companies formed on a period that was longer than FY 2005.

Some universities did not respond to the survey but appear in the magazine because they were named among the top schools in the peer rankings section. Several other universities expressed an interest in participating but did not meet the deadline for submission. – Candace Stuart

The following summaries of micro and nanotech programs are primarily based on responses to the Small Times’ survey. The list highlights some key centers but is not comprehensive. Please visit university Web sites for more information.

Click here to download a summary of micro and nanotech programs in PDF format.


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.