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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer Creates Center for Nanotechnology Research

March 28, 2001

Rensselaer Creates Center for Nanotechnology Research

The research will speed advances in important new products

Troy, N.Y. — Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, today announced the creation of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center that will integrate research, education, and technology commercialization through partnerships with government and industry.

Headed by Richard W. Siegel, the Robert W. Hunt Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, the Center will focus on creating novel materials and devices that could, for example, create more effective drug delivery systems in the human body, stronger and more durable plastics, enable high capacity energy and information storage devices, and produce flame-retardant plastics for planes and automobiles, as well as other important applications.

Nanotechnology uses clusters of molecules and atoms to make nanometer (billionth of a meter) size building blocks for new materials. These blocks have different properties than larger sizes of the same materials, such as electrical conductivity, optical properties, and mechanical strength. These materials can therefore be used for many new applications. The ability to control the pattern of the building blocks of materials has resulted in advances like mirrors that do not fog, more effective sunscreens, and wear-resistant coatings for eyeglass lenses.

Research areas of the Center include advanced materials and coatings, biosciences and biotechnology, nanoelectronics, microelectronics, and nanosystems. In addition, a new research effort on potential socioeconomic impacts will be initiated to understand the impact of nanotechnology on industry and society. Some of the Center’s activities in nanobiotechnology may be housed in the planned biotechnology building slated for construction on the Troy campus.

“The Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center will provide a major resource to advance the enormous scientific promise represented by nanotechnology,” said President Jackson. “The Center will also educate those who will advance corporate research and development in nanotechnology here in New York state and across the nation.”

The creation of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center advances the Rensselaer Plan, the Institute’s detailed strategic plan that is aimed at doubling the research and doctoral programs at the Institute. In support of the Rensselaer Plan the Institute recently received a gift of $360 million, the largest gift ever received by a college or university in the United States.

The Center already has federal funding in excess of $1 million per year and will be seeking additional support from a variety of government agencies with a strong interest in both basic and applied research topics. Rensselaer is committed to providing matching funds in support of these programs. In addition, Rensselaer expects to partner with other universities on a national scale to develop critical research teams and facilitate the dissemination of results.

Industry support of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center has already been established through the RPI-Industry Partnership in Nanotechnology, which supports Rensselaer’s research and educational efforts in nanotechnology. The partnerships include ABB U.S. in Norwalk, Conn.; Albany International in Menands, N.Y.; Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y.; Philip Morris in Richmond, Va.; and IBM in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; who together contribute $1 million each year to the Center. Additional companies are expected to join as partners.

Hal Stillman, senior vice president of technology and innovation at ABB, is enthusiastic about the partnership. “ABB’s partnership with the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center evolved from previous dealings with Rensselaer and our appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature that this partnership will provide. ABB will be able to explore the properties of new blends and compositions of polymers and nanomaterials in a pre-competitive university atmosphere,” said Stillman.

John Mendel, senior unit director at Eastman Kodak, said, “Rensselaer’s focus on the important areas of nanotechnology and filled composites will be critical for moving into new business for the future. We are greatly impressed with the group of excellent scientific investigators that staff the center at Rensselaer. Moreover, we plan to interact with research and educational opportunities with Rensselaer for the future. Kodak has a strong interest in nanoscale science and engineering and plans to pursue a number of projects with Rensselaer in the future.”

Ken Pulver, vice president, corporate communications, at Albany International, emphasized his company’s involvement with Rensselaer over the years. “Albany International has a long history with Rensselaer. Many of our notable leaders have been graduates of RPI, and our company has always believed RPI to be a world-class learning institution. Further, we are community neighbors, and have always worked hard to promote our areas of mutual interest. RPI continues to be the primary management-training source for our key managers globally. Our association with a world-class educator can only further our interests,” said Pulver.

“The Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center will have a tremendous economic effect on the Capital Region and New York state. With additional funding from federal programs and industry, the benefits to the state are far-reaching. The Center will provide New York state companies with new materials and products and new and expanded markets, and will create a skilled workforce in nanotechnology as well as spin-off companies in nanotechnology,” said Siegel, who chaired a worldwide study of research, developments, and trends in nanostructure science and technology that was the cornerstone of the 2000 National Nanotechnology Initiative.

An important part of Rensselaer’s program will be the development of educational partnerships with premier undergraduate institutions, including Morehouse, Spelman, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Williams colleges. These partnerships will enable Rensselaer to place a special emphasis on educating groups of students that have been long under-represented in science and engineering. The Center at Rensselaer will also integrate pre-college outreach efforts through the offices of admissions, minority affairs, and Women in Science and Engineering.

In addition, an interactive collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory will provide the Center at Rensselaer with access to leaders in the area of modeling and simulation of nanoscale materials, backed by the largest high-performance computational resources in the world.

Contact: Richard W. Siegel, 518-276-8846

Contact: Patricia Azriel
Phone: (518) 276-6531
E-mail: N/A