Notre Dame lands new nanotechnology research center

Author: Margaret Fosmoe and Jamie Loo

SOUTH BENDState and local leaders Tuesday announced the establishment of a Midwest Academy of Nanoelectronics and Architectures, a new research consortium that will be led by the University of Notre Dame.

The group’s mission is to discover and develop the next nanoscale logic device, the basic building block of smaller, faster computers of the future.

Gov. Mitch Daniels and other state and local leaders hailed the announcement as an economic development coup for the Midwest, saying the consortium will result in additional federal money for Midwestern universities and potentially bring well-paying, high-technology jobs to South Bend and the region.

“This changes everything for our community,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger. This could be the biggest economic development since the Studebaker family arrived in South Bend in the mid-19th century and launched a vehicle-making empire, he said.

Notre Dame will be the lead player in the consortium, which also includes Purdue University, the University of Illinois, Penn State University, the University of Michigan, Argonne National Laboratory, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

Direct financial support for MANA from the public and private sectors and the participating universities will total more than $25 million over three years, according to the planners. Notre Dame also will offer additional support.

“Today is a landmark day,” Daniels said. The governor said he’d be excited to see this venture established anywhere in Indiana. “But there’s no part of our state where I’d rather see it happen than right here,” he said. The research will lead to a resurgence in jobs in this region, he said.

Mayor Stephen Luecke said the city will contribute $1 million to the start of MANA. The city also is committing land in the Studebaker Corridor as a landing area for technology businesses that spin off from research at the planned South Bend technology park and MANA. “The MANA center is really beyond what we envisioned,” Luecke said of Tuesday’s announcement.

Although there are no projections on the number of jobs MANA will create, it will be a catalyst for future investment, the mayor said.

Consortium organizers anticipate more money will come through federal grant applications under the National Nanotechnology Initiative, for which the federal government plans to allocate $1.5 billion a year.

Conventional microelectronic technology has relied on shrinking transistors to produce increasingly smaller, faster and cheaper devices ranging from cell phones and personal music devices to laptop computers. That approach is nearing its physical limits.

MANA’s mission will be to explore and develop advanced devices, circuits and nanosystems with performance capabilities beyond current devices.

John Kelly, IBM senior vice president for research, described the research as part of an international race as nanotechnology becomes a billion-dollar industry.

“We have hundreds of faculty at dozens of universities doing very advanced research to find the next switch to lead the world,” he said. “It (nanotechnology) will lead the world in all sorts of devices, not only cell phones and supercomputers, but every type of medical device you can think of.”

MANA is expected to closely tie Notre Dame to local and state economic development initiatives. When MANA research results in start-up businesses, they are expected to launch in the planned Innovation Park at Notre Dame — a technology park planned along Edison Road south of campus.

Some commercial ventures resulting from the research also may occur in a nanoelectronic development facility the city is developing in the former Studebaker Corridor area near downtown.

“Welcome to the future,” said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, saying the research partnership represents the future for the university, the city and the state.

Notre Dame has a heavy research focus on nanoelectronics. The university’s Center for Nano Science and Technology, established in 1999, explores the fundamental concepts of nanoscience to develop unique engineering applications using nano principles. The center is composed of a multidisciplinary team of researchers from various science and engineering fields.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to discover and shape the development of nanoelectronics and to make it happen here in the Midwest,” said Alan Seabaugh, a Notre Dame professor of electrical engineering, who will serve as principal investigator for the project.

This new venture is part of the Semiconductor Research Corp.’s Nanoelectronics Research Initiative. SRC is a consortium of six major companies in the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing business: IBM, Intel, Micron, Texas Instruments, AMD and Freescale.

Staff writer Margaret Fosmoe:
(574) 235-6329

Staff writer Jamie Loo:
(574) 235-6337


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