Local News

Nanotechnology Center Advances Triangle as High-Tech Hub

Posted January 20, 2004

— A state-of-the-art tool delivered to North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus will allow faculty and students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State to take a huge step forward in nanofabrication, or the fabrication of very small things.

Leaders from the two universities, the UNC system, industry and government Tuesday witnessed the official opening of the

Triangle National Lithography Center

at N.C. State's Engineering and Graduate Research Center.

Attendees toured the new facility and viewed its high-tech gem -- a 193-nanometer lithography stepper.

The tool will allow nearly 100 students and faculty members from both campuses, as well as industry, government and other academic users, to conduct cutting-edge nanotechnology research.

It is believed that no other institute of higher education has such a state-of-the-art tool for nanofabrication.

University officials said that gaining experience with the stepper will give students a big advantage in the nanotechnology workforce.

"As we open the doors to this new, world-class center, we open a new era in nanotechnology research in North Carolina," N.C. State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. "This center represents an unprecedented partnership between the state's flagship universities and our industry partners, and is an investment in the future of higher education and economic development."

Said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser: "This innovative center shows just how powerful the partnerships between two great research universities can be on behalf of the people of North Carolina. The cutting-edge approach both campuses are taking with the center will help address practical environmental and economic issues facing our state and nation."

The lithography stepper will be used to produce patterns on different substrates for use as electronic devices. Computer chips, molecular electronics devices, and opto-electronics devices are just a few of the items that can be produced with the stepper, researchers say.

Other nanoscale technology that can be produced by the tool includes "lab-on-a-chip" devices that can, for example, screen biologically active reagents like anthrax.

The stepper also will be used to support research in environmentally safe lithography, polymers and polymer processing as part of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center's "Dry Fab of the Future" research program.

That program -- which works to develop sustainable, "dry" manufacturing methods based on the carbon dioxide technology platform -- is headed by Dr. Joseph DeSimone, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, who has joint appointments at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State, and Dr. Ruben Carbonell, KoSa Professor of chemical engineering at N.C. State.

"As a multi-user facility, the TNLC is available to local industrial partners and academic institutions to further the understanding of matter and processes at the nanometer-length scale," DeSimone said. "The facility represents unmatched capabilities to advance nanofabrication equipment and expertise."

Said Dr. Robert McMahan, an event speaker and science advisor to Gov. Mike Easley, and a research professor of physics and astronomy at UNC-Chapel Hill: "The opening of this facility is an important milestone for the nanotechnology research community and the state."

The center will provide local industrial partners the infrastructure necessary to compete on the international stage in advanced applications in microelectronics, officials say.

The TNLC is an affiliate of the

National Nanofabrication Infrastructure Network.

The stepper has a market value of about $12 million. N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill invested about $4 million in purchase and start-up costs.

Other major facilities under construction at UNC-Chapel Hill will complement the new center at N.C. State.

A new Institute for Advanced Materials, Nanoscience and Technology directed by DeSimone will be housed in the Carolina Physical Science Complex, part of a public-private partnership.

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