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University opens new nanofabrication clean room: Experiments will be free of contamination
[March 25, 2006]

University opens new nanofabrication clean room: Experiments will be free of contamination

(The Dominion Post in Morgantown (WV)(KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Mar. 25--INFO:

Imagine a world where a scan of your iris could tell doctors if you have cancer, or a world where car windshields clean themselves.

At WVU, that world may not be too far in the future.

Officials showcased the university's new nanotechnology clean room Friday at the Engineering Sciences Building.

This room, they said, is the beginning of more advanced research at WVU.

"What this facility is really about is making things," said Dr. Larry Hornak, professor of computer science and engineering, and interim director of WV Nano, a campuswide nanotechnology initiative.

Nanotechnology is the observation and manipulation of material smaller than the wavelength of light. For instance, a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter; a human hair is 100,000 times as wide as a nanometer.

WVU's $2.7-million clean room offers researchers a clean environment, free from dust and other contamination that may affect experiments.

An environment free from contamination is key, Hornak said, because "it gets much, much harder ... to make things on that scale," because materials behave differently. The clean room was built from nonporous materials and uses filtered air and water systems. Researchers wear protective gear to keep the room clean of contaminants. The WV Nano initiative brings together different departments to focus on areas of research WVU is already working on, including cancer-cell biology, forensics and biometrics.

"Academic barriers are being broken down," said Provost Gerald Lang. "Each comes to the microscope with a different perspective.

Nanotechnology will eventually improve everyone's lives, health and safety, Lang said.

The dean of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, Eugene Cilento, said the clean room is a step forward in that direction.

"Over the next couple decades the impact on our lives will be significant," Cilento said.

Engineering graduate student Lee Rodak spoke during the presentation about the clean room's potential for recruitment. She completed her undergraduate degree in December.

"I knew I wanted to pursue this, but I didn't know where," she said. The clean room, she said, "persuaded me to stay here and pursue my studies.

"The stable environment is really important to the quality of your research and repeatability," Rodak said, and allows students to do better research faster. The initiative will help WVU students "emerge as leaders in this field," she said.

"It's already begun to attract students to WVU."

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