Notre Dame joins nanoelectronics field

by Tom Coyne (Associated Press)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame and the state of Indiana hope to become major players in the field of nanoelectronics with the announcement Tuesday that the college will be home to one of four research centers nationwide in the field.

The goal of the centers is to find replacements for transistors, which are becoming increasingly more difficult to shrink. Researchers hope to find a breakthrough so that everything from cell phones to computers can continue to be made smaller and cheaper, officials said. John Kelly III, IBM’s senior vice president for research, said there is a worldwide race to find such a device, or switch.

“I think this is a race the United States must win,” Kelly said. “The only way we’re going to win it is to collaborate together between industry, universities and our government agencies. I think collaboration is the only model that’s going to allow us to win.”

The Midwest Academy for Nanoelectronics and Architectures is a consortium that will be led by Notre Dame. Also involved are Purdue University, Penn State University, the University of Michigan and the Argonne National Laboratory, as well as others.

Officials said they couldn’t predict how many jobs the center might create, but said there was potential for many well-paying jobs. Kelly said nanoelectronics will soon be a billion dollar industry.

“Somewhere in America the next generation of switches will be found and eventually built and that will be a lot of wealth and jobs and prosperity created,” said Gov. Mitch Daniels. “We were just determined that be somewhere in Indiana and Notre Dame was absolutely the best single place.”

Consortiums at the University of Texas, UCLA and the University of Albany already have begun work in the area.

“We have hundreds of faculty at dozens of universities doing very advanced research around the United States to find the next switch to lead the world,” Kelly said.

Jeff Welser, director of the Semiconductor Research Corp.’s Nanoelectronics Research Initiative said that in the fall his organization put out a bid for a fourth center and got about 30 applications, although some were for individual projects. He said Notre Dame was picked from those applications.

Notre Dame, which has had a Center for Nano Science and Technology since 1999, will spend $40 million on the project, which includes part of the cost to build Stinson-Remick Hall, where the program will be housed, said Robert Bernhard, Notre Dame’s vice president for research.

The state of Indiana will contribute $12 million over the next three years, including $2 million this year and $5 million each of the next two years. The city of South Bend is putting in $1 million, while the consortium is putting in $3 million and IBM $2 million. Officials expect more money will come from federal grants.

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said the center will be a boon to South Bend.

“This will provide jobs, provide investment, for generations and generations to come,” Donnelly said. “I don’t think it’s too bold to say that in our beloved city’s history, this may be the biggest development industrywide since the arrival of the Studebaker family in our community. This will create, we hope, thousands of jobs.”

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