Sandia LabNews

National nanotechnology Core Facility formally opens


Several stories about Caltech professor Richard Feynman surfaced at a ceremony dedicating the 96,000-square-foot Sandia-Los Alamos Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) Core Facility on Aug. 23.

DOE Deputy Secretary Clay Sell mentioned the talk by Feynman in which he made famous the phrase “plenty of room at the bottom” (referring to technological opportunities in nanometer spaces).

Then the usually straight-faced Sen. Jeff Bingaman described Feynman’s presence at a LANL security meeting in which Edward Teller opined that too much was being made out of security issues. Teller felt that he kept his keys satisfactorily locked in his desk. Feynman, one of whose hobbies was picking locks, walked casually out of the meeting as Teller spoke, entered Teller’s office, picked his lock, took his keys, and re-locked the drawer. Returning to the meeting, he mentioned to Teller that he’d be honored to view Teller’s security apparatus. When Teller obliged, only to find his keys missing, he immediately understood what had happened and chastised Feynman.

“I don’t know what that story has to do with nanotechnology,” said Jeff, “but it’s too good a story to pass up.”

After praising the openness of the new facility — “you don’t have to drive through a checkpoint to reach it” — he went on to say that the $75.8 million spent on the project (including a Los Alamos Gateway facility) constituted “a statement of the nation’s priorities and the importance we attach to remaining preeminent in science and technology.”

The building, on the west side of Eubank Boulevard just north of the Eubank Gate, is funded by DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

Sandia Labs President and Director Tom Hunter spoke in visionary terms about the future of nanotechnology, saying that he saw the new building as “a symbol that science can be transformed.” Historically, he said, “science has gone from the top down to get to the bottom of things, an unraveling process. Nano is raveling, putting it together, teaching us a new way to think, learn, and create.”

Sen. Pete Domenici held both a carrot and stick, describing his wonder at the building but warning that output from the facility was expected and would be closely monitored by funders.

“What a fantastic thing,” he said, gesturing at the CINT building. “Notice that the government did not go out and establish these [five DOE Office of Science nano centers] in hundreds of universities — they are in labs the government has confidence to give big tasks. Maybe we don’t deserve it — I personally think they couldn’t have chosen better — but remember, you’re going to be watched.”

Later he said, “I’m so pleased we can fund this [work] for a few years at maximum to see what you can do.”

Senior VP and Deputy Laboratories Director for Integrated Technologies and Systems Al Romig, who worked with Terry Michalske and others to launch the idea of a Sandia/LANL nanotechnology center in the first place, pointed out that “almost any organization can build a building, but the possibilities of CINT are embodied in the people who work here.”

About the building itself, Patty Wagner from DOE’s Sandia Site Office praised construction of the building for being on-time and on-budget. “We were going to build a DOE building [on the 20 acres] here, but I think this is a better building to have here,” she said.

“Dr. Hunter,” she said, turning from the podium to face Tom, “this is another example of a line-item project well-managed by Sandia.”

Terry Wallace, LANL acting principal associate director, spoke about the appropriateness of “integrating Los Alamos and Sandia around a new type of science.” He said that “We cannot underestimate the danger to the country today. These have solutions in science and technology.”

The speakers were each introduced by CINT director Julia Phillips, who praised those involved with the project.

CINT is the only research center run jointly by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. The CINT Core Facility is the only permanent Sandia research facility in Albuquerque located off the airbase.

Design evokes Southwest heritage

The building’s curved front wall of stacked stone, hundreds of feet long, symbolically links New Mexico’s history of innovation by Native Americans at Chaco Canyon, nearly a thousand years ago, with that emerging from today’s labs.

The center is expected to help keep the US in a leading position in the expanding field of nano- technology. Countries around the world are vying to be first in a research area that may have considerable economic, scientific, and military consequences.

Researchers from the University of New Mexico Cancer Research Institute, the University of New Mexico, and New Mexico Tech will participate in nanotechnology projects, as will researchers from around the world.

The CINT Core Facility houses low-vibration laboratories with sensitive microscopes for materials characterization, chemical/biological synthesis labs, and a clean room for device integration. The Scanning Probes Laboratory houses unique and state-of-the-art instruments crucial to the advancement of nanoscience. The work will focus on nanomaterials and nanofabrication.

The Core Facility will be a distribution point for researchers best served at “gateways” at LANL and Sandia.

The 36,500-square-foot CINT Gateway to Los Alamos Facility at LANL features roughly 11,000 square feet of laboratory space dedicated to chemical and biological synthesis and characterization, biomaterials fabrication and characterization, optical microcopy and spectroscopy, physical synthesis, thin film fabrication, spatially resolved scanned probe characterization, and advanced computation.

Both facilities will house lab scientists, post-doctoral researchers, technical support staff, and visiting researchers.

A ceremony marking the opening of the LANL Gateway Facility was held in Los Alamos Aug. 21.

The Sandia Gateway is already in place in Bldg. 897.

A new agreement and laboratories milestone, called a pre-competitive users agreement (PUA) and designed specifically for outside researchers, is in place. The agreement with DOE enables relatively quick access for industrial, university, and non-profit researchers because DOE BES agreed to delegate its right to review and approve each agreement to local authorities at Sandia and LANL prior to allowing users access to the CINT Gateway facilities.

The CINT External Agreements Management Plan was prepared by Sandia CINT User Program Manager Neal Shinn (1131), Sandia Strategic Relationship Center (9112; Deborah Payne, and Vic Weiss), and the Small Science Cluster Business Office (1051; Alan Nichelason and Jennifer Lange), in collaboration with counterparts at LANL.