Photo by John Weaver and James Cooper,
in Tiny Research
The prefix "nano" means one-billionth. A nanosecond
is one-billionth of a second and a nanometer is one-billionth
of a meter approximately 10 atoms wide. These miniscule
measurements, at almost incomprehensible scales, have
opened a whole new world of scientific research. By enabling
scientists and engineers to build electronic and mechanical
structures literally atom-by-atom, nanotechnology is expected
to revolutionize business, medical treatment, communications
and other fields in everything from tiny computers, spacecraft
and microscopic machines to microscopic life-saving medical
Purdue University's Discovery Park, construction is underway
on a new $58 million research building, the Birck Nanotechnology
Center. At 187,000 square
feet, it is the crown jewel of the 50-acre research park
in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Birck Nanotechnology Center
will include 30,000 square feet of cleanrooms in a mix
of Class 10 (ten particles per billion at .3 micron),
Class 100 and Class 1,000 rooms, and in bay/chase as well
as ballroom configurations. The center will contain about
25,000 square feet of specialized laboratory space, along
with offices, conference rooms and support facilities.
The new facility is a prime
example of a trend in thinking among the scientific
community that diverse disciplines collaborate and work
to Ahmad Soueid, RA, HDR project principal for the new
facility. Nanotechnology is bringing together different
disciplines such as physics, biology, chemistry,
pharmaceuticals, microelectronics, and manufacturing
under one roof or to collaborate on research programs
at the nano scale.
|The exterior is brought to life with
the use of varying materials, such as copper, which
is representative of the microelectronics industry.
The Birck Center will host faculty,
post-doctorates and graduate students from various disciplines
on the Purdue campus and unite them with visiting researchers
from academia and industry across the U.S. and worldwide.
This coming together of scientists at all levels and
from all scientific disciplines, along with the building's
cutting edge technology, is what makes the Birck Center
so unique, Soueid said, adding that no less than 104
users showed up for the project's first planning meeting.
|The building's interior incorporates
skylights and glass partitions to improve day lighting
better space for collaboration.
"A key mission of the Birck
Center was to establish an environment in which people
in many interdisciplinary programs could interact in
unique ways," according to David B. Janes, associate
professor of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
and director of the Institute for Nanoelectronics and
Computing "The variety of technical spaces available
will make this facility nearly singular in today's university
Very early in the project, HDR hosted a Vision
Workshop, attended by laboratory experts in bioscience
and physical science research from across the
country, said Janes, who at the time was research
program coordinator for the Birck Center. This
helped us identify the key issues for our nanotechnology
work and our strengths and opportunities. Some
of the ideas from that meeting were actually incorporated
into the facility's design, he said, adding that the
subsequent building design process actually helped define
more clearly the center's programmatic mission.
of the Birck Nanotechnology Center is to facilitate
and promote interdisciplinary research in nanotechnology.
The strategy by which we accomplish our mission
is to provide infrastructure and to perform administrative
functions to help create an interactive, multi-disciplinary
community of scholars."
James Cooper, co-director of the Birck Center
Collaboration is Key
HDR is providing full architecture and engineering services
for the Birck Center, anticipated for occupancy in fall
2005. During programming and design, HDR met with Purdue
University officials to determine functional goals and
design parameters, and to understand the facility's intended
and desired nanotechnology uses. The HDR team also looked
at similar biotechnology, pharmaceutical research and
Since nanotechnology is inherently interdisciplinary,
researchers will share techniques, strategies and results.
In effect, the Birck Center design promotes social engineering
through the generous use of spaces for interaction and
collaboration. The new facility is
designed for a wide array of research programs, such as:
Molecular beam epitaxy
Photoluminescence and Hall Effect characterization
Silicon and silicon carbide epigrowth
Solid state devices and materials
Ultrafast optics and fiber and communications
VLSI integrated circuit design
The Birck Center will have 88 lab modules for these specific
Electron microscopy/surface analysis
The Integration Challenge
HDR identified functional goals for the Birck Center,
including an interface between cleanroom and research
laboratories, the docking of biological materials on
silicon substrates, protecting user and product, and
building a link between basic and applied sciences.
In addition to the specialized laboratories, the Birck
Center will have two distinct cleanrooms - a microelectronics
cleanroom and a bio-molecular
cleanroom. The bio-cleanroom will serve as a link between
the microelectronics cleanroom and biology laboratories.
However, microelectronics and bio-molecular cleanrooms
are two very different species. Integrating the two
environments under the same roof is "not an easy
mix," Soueid said, and it created numerous design
"You're controlling two different environments
for different reasons," said Tom Gerbo, HDR laboratory
project manager. "In the microelectronics environment,
you want to keep out particulates to protect the product.
In the bio-cleanroom, you want to control microorganisms
and particulates to protect both user and product. In
addition, cleaning protocols are very different. And
pressurization for the two types of areas is the exact
opposite - microelectronics needs a positive pressure
to adjacent spaces, the bio cleanroom negative pressure.
The Purdue biological cleanroom is negative to the microelectronics
cleanroom and positive to the adjacent corridor.
"We've assimilated the key lessons for a complex
project such as this," Soueid said. "Estimate
needs early, thoroughly understand the intent of the
facility, research other solutions to similar requirements,
accommodate evolving research, exhaust all concept options,
and, above all, remain flexible. No one design solution
works for every project, but for the Birck Nanotechnology
Center we've arrived at a solution that will offer optimum
and allow for future growth."