NanoCollege welcomes new gov’t partnership

The University of Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Monday formally entered i

The University of Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Monday formally entered into a new partnership with the federal government, which officials said will lead to more public and private investment in the college, as well as advance the science of nanotechnology.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will now collaborate with the NanoCollege to establish standard measurements for nanotechnology. The NanoCollege will also be home to the New York Center for National Competitiveness in Nanoscale Characterization, paid for by $900,000 from the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke at a ceremony Monday at the NanoCollege on Fuller Road to celebrate the new partnership. Schumer said the initial $900,000 invested by the federal government to create the center has now led to an additional $15 million in public and private investment in research programs at the NanoCollege over the last six months since the initial seed money for the center was appropriated during the fall.

“Some of the leading companies had been eager to invest here [but there was] one missing component, the formal involvement of NIST,” Schumer said. “So, I went to work and we brokered a deal between NIST and the campus so that federal resources could be shared and that collaborative research could be conducted right here.”

NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Dept. of Commerce tasked with promoting innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science standards. Traditionally NIST has created uniform national measurement standards for products like a gallon of milk or lengths of lumber.

Alain Kaloyeros, the vice president and chief administrative officer of the NanoCollege, said the collaboration between NIST and UAlbany will help to promote significant advancements in nanotechnology, which is the manipulation of matter sized in billionths of a meter. A human hair, for example, is roughly 80,000 nanometers thick. He said the extremely tiny measurements involved present unique challenges to the commercialization of nanotechnology.

“One of the biggest challenges is we don’t know what we’re measuring and we can’t really see it because it’s so small. The tools to measure it, assess it, do failure analysis, do standardization, don’t exist today,” Kaloyeros said.

Kaloyeros said one third of the $15 million in research funding poured into the college since the establishment of the Center for National Competitiveness came from the federal government and most of the rest of it came from companies like IBM, AMD, Intel, Freescale Semiconductor, Hewlett-Packard and Micron Technology. He said the funding will support new research done by 60 to 70 faculty and students at the NanoCollege and broaden the college’s influence on the development of nanotechnology.

“[When people estimate the size of the] $260 billion to $270 billion computer chip industry, that talks only about the people who sell the chips. The industry sector that makes the tools to make measurements is another $60 billion to $70 billion industry, that never gets counted within the first figure,” Kaloyeros said.

According to college officials there are approximately 2,300 people working at the NanoCollege now. Kaloyeros said by 2010 that figure should rise to 3,000, in part because of the new partnership with the federal government.

NIST Deputy Director James Turner said NIST and the University at Albany will be working together to establish the measurement science infrastructure needed for greater commercialization of nanotechnology.

“NIST is eager to forge this collaboration, which leverages [UAlbany’s] impressive collection of intellectual and physical resources,” Turner said. “Our successes will help to ensure a bright economic future, not only for this region but for the entire country.”

Alain Diebold, the executive director of the NanoCollege’s measurement unit, the Center for Nanoscale Metrology, said his research will benefit from closer collaboration with NIST.

“More collaboration will accelerate what I’m doing and allow me access to many colleagues,” Diebold said.

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