University or Oregon Dedicates Nanoscience Research Center

The University of Oregon has joined the fast-growing nanotechnology industry with the dedication last week of a new science and technology research complex. The new underground Lorry I. Lokey Laboratories building is a signature research center associated with the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, a consortium that includes the University of Oregon, Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, Portland State University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and the region's high-technology companies.

The facility's capabilities will advance work related to curing human diseases such as cancer, developing cheaper solar devices, and cleaning up water and the environment. "Nanoscience is opening up whole new research worlds that until now have been invisible," said donor Lorry I. Lokey. "I can't wait to see all the new discoveries that will be coming out of Oregon."

Lokey, 81, is a journalist-turned-philanthropist who sold his global Business Wire news service to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in 2006.

The Lokey labs will contain 20 ultra-high-precision metrology, probe, lithography, and bio-optics instruments not generally available except at major scientific facilities. Their value, taken together, will easily be double the cost of constructing the building.

Construction was funded by private gifts and $9.5 million in bonds and lottery funds approved by the 2003 Oregon Legislature and issued in 2005.

Rich Linton, UO vice president for research and graduate studies, said the building's exceptional site and innovative mechanical engineering make it one of the world's "quietest" nanoscience research centers according to recent tests.

"We were gifted by Mother Nature with an extraordinary contribution in the form of the bedrock only 17 feet below ground surface," Linton said. "This means that for very reasonable construction costs and through innovative design, we have a world-class facility that minimizes noise and vibrations to serve as the literal foundation for science and technology breakthroughs at the nanometer scale."

In this case, "quietness" means ultra-sensitive research tools are so well shielded from sources of vibration, such as dump trucks rumbling down nearby streets, that scientists can achieve new levels of control over bits of matter as small as atoms. One instrument, an atom-resolving microscope named "Titan" by its manufacturer, FEI Co., weighs as much as two cars yet is as fragile as the most delicate camera ever made.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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