Terri-Jane Yuzda

Construction to Begin
On Canada's Quietest Space

The National Institute for Nanotechnology building will be
home to research into the very, very, very small.

Small Stuff

With small equipment at their feet to symbolize the world of nanotechnology, U of A, National Research Council and government representatives break ground for NINT. From left, NRC President Dr. Arthur Caty; Alberta Minister of Innovation and Science Victor Doerksen; federal Health Minister Anne McLellan, representing Industry Minister Allan Rock, the minister responsible for the National Research Council; and U of A President Dr. Roderick Fraser.
-Photo courtesy of NRC

In one sense, it was a tiny and quiet affair, but with huge implications for Alberta and Canada. A ceremonial groundbreaking Oct. 4 at the University of Alberta in Edmonton marked the start of construction of one of the world's most technologically advanced research facilities, the permanent home of the National Research Council's new National Institute for Nanotechnology.

NINT's laboratory space will be the quietest in Canada. Nano-scale research demands "quiet" lab space. In science, "quiet space" is lab space with ultra-low vibration and minimal acoustical noise or electro-magnetic interference.
Nanotechnology is the application of science to developing new materials and processes by manipulating molecular and atomic particles. A nanometre is a billionth of a metre, which is about /80,000 of the diameter of a human hair, or 10 times the diameter of a hydrogen atom.

"The established reputation for excellence in nanotechnology and engineering at Alberta's universities and our demonstrated strengths in these areas made Alberta the logical choice for the National Institute for Nanotechnology," said Alberta Minister of Innovation and Science Victor Doerksen. "Alberta continues to build its world-class research and development environment through partnerships with other governments, universities, businesses and industries. The province's prosperity rests on a strong commitment to continue building our knowledge-based economy."

First announced two years ago (see The PEGG, November 2001), NINT is a partnership between the Government of Canada through the National Research Council, the Government of Alberta and the University of Alberta. It will enable NRC and the university to expand their collaborations in nanotechnology research, such as the synthesis of new materials and the integration of nanotechnology with other microtechnologies to make practical nano-scale systems.
The building will include specialized spaces for laboratories in chemical and biochemical synthesis and analysis of the material structure at the atomic scale, as well as a Class 1000 Clean Room for the production of nanostructured systems. NINT is purchasing the latest generation of scientific equipment, including electron and scanning probe microscopes, and chemical and material analysis instruments.

The $40-million building cost is one third of the $120 million that will be spent on the institute during its first five years. The balance will go to equipment, staffing and operations. The National Research Council will contribute $60 million, and another $60 million will be a joint contribution from the Government of Alberta and the University of Alberta. The Government of Canada has committed an additional $12 million a year for operating costs, beginning in year six.

The NRC National Institute for Nanotechnology will occupy four floors of the six-storey, 20,000-square-metre building to be constructed on the University of Alberta campus. Floors five and six will house the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Faculty of Engineering, and will be dedicated to nanochemical and nanomechanical research activities. The institute will accommodate up to 120 NRC staff, as well as 45 guest workers from industry and universities. It will also provide training opportunities for 275 graduate and post-doctoral researchers.

This complex facility will be designed and built by Alberta companies. Its architects are from Cohos Evamy and the construction manager is PCL-Maxam. Design and construction will create 210 person years of work - including about 30 person years for design alone. The building will be complete in fall 2005.

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