U of Michigan nano facility gets $40m upgrade

April 14, 2008 — What used to be the Michigan Nanofabrication Facility and Solid State Electronics Laboratory is now the University of Michigan’s Robert H. Lurie Nanofabrication Facility — and it sports a new 37,500 square-foot addition. The $40 million project, funded largely by donors (including a leadership gift honoring the late Robert Lurie, who received degrees from the U-M College of Engineering), was dedicated on April 11. The facility is one of 13 nodes on the National Science Foundation’s National Nanofabrication Infrastructure Network.

The center hopes to bring more research opportunities, more jobs, and more dollars to Michigan. “If you have ever wondered what an economic engine looks like, look no further. We all know that our state is undergoing a difficult and sometimes painful economic transformation, as we evolve from a manufacturing base to one that seizes the power and promise of technology and innovation,” President Mary Sue Coleman said.

The expansion brings a nearly 70 percent increase in cleanroom square footage. An additional 4,500 square feet was built, bringing the clean room to 11,000 square feet. A 2,800-square-foot wet facility was built by renovating existing space. Most wet chemistry couldn’t be performed in the old lab because it could contaminate the nanotechnology work underway there. Approximately $20 million in new state-of-the-art equipment will be purchased and installed during the next few years.

A 2007 study commissioned by the National Science Foundation on the Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS), a heavy user of the lab, estimated that WIMS companies created 94 new jobs for a total value of employment of $26.3 million. WIMS, which accounts for about half of the research conducted in the lab, has generated $256.4 million worth of quantifiable economic impacts for the state since 2000, the report says.

“This expansion represents a very important investment of the University,” said professor Kensall Wise, director of WIMS and the LNF. “We expect it to reap huge dividends in terms of jobs and contribute to the quality of life, not only here in Michigan, but across the globe. This is a world-class center and many of the things that come out of it will change the way people live.”

In 2007, the lab hosted 219 users: researchers from U-M and 13 other universities, as well as companies from southeast Michigan and beyond. A total of 22 local companies utilized the lab and 32 researchers used it remotely, meaning engineers here performed the work and sent the companies the results.

The lab brought in $24 million in research grants in 2007. And more than a dozen companies have spun out of research performed in the lab during the last decade, including Sensicore, Handylab, ISSYS, Discera, Mobius Microsystems, PicoCal, and NeuroNexus Technologies.

In Small Times‘ 2007 survey — done before this renovation — editors ranked the University of Michigan in the top five labs for nanotechnology research, education and facilities.


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