New nanoscience centre to make Montreal world leader

November 19, 2003

Nanotechnology research, the science of miniaturizing through ultra-sophisticated machinery, has obtained globally competitive headquarters at McGill University. With the addition of the Tools for Nanoscience Facility, based at the Rutherford Physics Building and Wong Engineering Building, McGill has become the most advanced, public or private, nanotechnology research centre in Canada.

Ten researchers from McGill's Faculty of Science and Faculty of Engineering have teamed up to create the University's new nanotechnology hub, which consists of 8,000 square feet of lab space. Built for $9 million, the investment in nanoscience was made possible, thanks to contributions from the following partners (see accompanying document for more details):

• Canada Foundation for Innovation
• DALSA Semiconductor
• EV Group
• Extreme Networks
• Génome Québec
• IDL Inc.
• McGill University
• Ministère du Développement économique et régional
• NanoQuebec
• STMicroelectronics
• Valorisation-Recherche Québec

The Tools for Nanoscience Facility includes three closely linked components. The first is a clean room with a micromachining facility, which boasts the latest technology. "This facility will be the machine shop for the 21st Century," explains Peter Grutter, a McGill Physics Professor and one of 10 researchers who launched the Tools for Nanoscience initiative. "

A second component will be an atomic manipulation facility, unique in the world. This atomic manipulation facility will enable a new generation of experiments to unfold. It will allow McGill researchers to construct new devices atom by atom, thus developing the science and technology required for future electronic and biochemical systems.

The third component, a Beowulf supercomputer dedicated to the modelling of nanomaterials, will usher a new generation of supercomputers. McGill's new Beowulf is currently Canada's most powerful computer, according to The cluster contains 700 processors, runs at 1.3 Tflops, fills an entire room and consumes enough power to electrify 10 family homes. "Our Beowulf also contains more communications bandwidth than the entire McGill and McGill University Health Centre internet network," says Grutter. "It's massive."

Special features
Another unique aspect of the McGill Tools for Nanoscience Facility is how the multidisciplinary space will enable collaboration between researchers in physics, chemistry, engineering and life sciences as never before. "Cross-fertilization is essential to truly capitalize on the promise of nanoscience," says Andrew Kirk, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Our centralized facility will become the watering hole of McGill's scientific community."

Among the research projects enabled by the Tools for Nanoscience Facility will be: the development of new cantilever based chemical sensors for the detection of single molecules (or DNA testing), the investigation of atomic scale conductance (an essential field as silicon integrated circuits continue to shrink in size), as well as the assembly of nanophotonic devices for future optical communications networks, micromachined electronic components for next generation wireless devices and integrated miniaturized biomedical diagnostic systems.

Labs to help recruit scientists of the future
"The grouping of technologies at the Tools for Nanoscience Facility can easily compete with private industry labs and are more cost-effective," stresses Kirk. "These facilities will help us recruit and retain technical staff in a competitive market."

McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum is very excited that the Tools for Nanoscience Facility has become a reality. "McGill is a true pioneer university in nanoscience," she says. "As we compete for the best minds, McGill's Tools for Nanoscience Facility will be a magnet for drawing the best and the brightest scientists, scholars, graduates and postdoctoral students from around the world."

"The Tools for Nanoscience Facility is another wonderful example of public-private partnerships that enable Quebec's and Canada's research universities to compete internationally," Munroe-Blum continues. "Thanks to our partners, to quote our scientists, McGill now possesses a machine shop for the 21st century that we can all be proud of."

Researchers involved in the Tools for Nanoscience Facility include:

• Mark Andrews
• Christopher Barrett
• Martin Grant
• Peter Grutter
• Hong Guo
• Musa Kamal
• Andrew Kirk
• Bruce Lennox
• David Plant
• Mark Sutton
McGill University, located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, has earned an international reputation for scholarly achievement and scientific discovery. Founded in 1821, McGill is one of two Canadian members of the American Association of Universities. The 22 faculties and professional schools offer more than 300 programs, from the undergraduate to the doctoral level, and our professors have received their education from leading academic centres around the world. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries, creating one of the most dynamic and diverse student bodies in North America. There are approximately 18,000 full-time undergraduate students and 5,000 full-time graduate students.

Contacts :
Peter Grutter, Physics Professor, 514-398-2567,
Andrew Kirk, Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor, 514-398-1542,
University Relations Office,
Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins, communications officer, 514-398-6752,
Jennifer Towell, communications officer, 51 4-398-8585,

McGill University

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