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University announces tech park

Katie Peralta | Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Notre Dame is taking big steps in the development of small things – very small.

Local, national and University officials as well as executives from IBM and the Semiconductor Research Corporation met Tuesday afternoon on the 14th floor of the Hesburgh Library to announce the opening of a nanotechnology consortium on Notre Dame’s campus.

The research center, called the Midwest Academy for Nanoelectronics and Architecture (MANA), is a part of a nationwide effort to develop nanotechnology that aims to optimize performance capabilities of computer devices.

Officials chose Notre Dame for MANA because it is a prime Midwest capital for research initiatives.

“Notre Dame has a [long] history in work with nanotechnology,” Dennis Brown, assistant vice president for news and information, said.

Brown was joined at the conference by Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, Indiana speaker of the House Pat Bauer, Congressman Joe Donnelly, D-South Bend, South Bend mayor Steve Lueke, Purdue University interim provost Vic Lechtenberg, University vice president for research Robert Bernhard, and University President Fr. John Jenkins.

The research consortium at Notre Dame will work in partnership with Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., according to Daniels. Roughly a third of the research will take place at Purdue.

The entire budget for the project is approximately $61 million, but funding will come from a variety of sources. The University plans to invest $40 million, Indiana $15 million, IBM and the Nanoelectrics Research Initiative $5 million each, and South Bend about $1 million according to the University press release.

According to Lueke, South Bend also plans to invest money in coming years for a facility for nanoelectric commercialization in the city where the old Studebaker car manufacturing buildings once stood.

“This is a great opportunity for new companies to come set up shop in South Bend,” Lueke said. He added the initiative could add jobs in the South Bend area.

Brown said South Bend had long pondered the future of the site of what was once South Bend’s most lucrative industry.

“The big question has been, ‘What can we do with these old buildings?'” Brown said.

Bernhard described nanotechnology as an up and coming field necessary for the updating of computer systems.

“Inside a computer, a lot of things are being stored in memory,” Bernhard said. “Calculations are being done with bits and they use lots of devices called transistors.”

Bernhard said six million transistors would fit onto the head of a pin

Nanotechnology, Bernhard said, is necessary in the revision of outdated computer systems.

“We need a new way to make [computers] smaller, faster and cooler,” said Bernhard, referring to the need for fans to cool off computer engines.

The nanotechnology consortium at the University joins other major universities such as the University of Texas, UCLA and the University of Albany, according to a news release from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Brown also said that since Notre Dame has a long history with nanotechnology, the establishment of MANA will further the University in its trajectory as a major research University.

Bernhard said that MANA will bring a lot of international focus to both Notre Dame and South Bend.

“There will be a lot of international publicity about the initiative,” he said. “The sponsors [on the project] are very significant.”

The announcement in the area of scientific research comes as construction continues of Notre Dame’s new engineering building, Stinson-Remick, located at the site of the former University Club along Notre Dame Avenue is expected to be completed in late 2009 or early 2010.

According to a University News and Information release, construction of Stinson-Remick will foster more nanotechnology research opportunities like MANA.