U of M set to open new state-of-the-art Physics and Nanotech Building


People can get a first look at The University of Minnesota's new Physics and Nanotechnology Building on Thursday, April 24.

The 144,000-square-foot, $84.5 million building includes 43,000 square feet of physics laboratories and laboratory support space. The building also includes a unique "high bay lab" facility for large-scale physics experiments, the U says. 

The building will house both the University College of Science and Engineering's School of Physics and Astronomy and the Minnesota Nano Center, devoted to nanotechnology research.

What is nanotechnology?

Nanoparticles are tiny bits of material shaped at the molecular level that can change the properties of common materials. The antibacterial properties of silver, for example, make it a useful material to add to the fibers of some bandages and socks, MPR News reports.

How tiny is tiny?

A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter – so small that it's a million times smaller than the length of an ant.

Materials used in nanotechnology have been around for more than a millennium, according to the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

For example, nanoscale gold was used in stained glass in Medieval Europe and nanotubes were found in blades of swords made in Damascus. However, ten centuries passed before high-powered microscopes were invented, allowing us to see things at the nanoscale and begin working with materials at the nanoscale.

The current field of nanotechnology began around 30 years ago, when our tools to image and measure extended into the nanoscale. And in 2000, the federal government launched the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative to help coordinate research and accelerate the technology’s development.

Over the last approximately 14 years, the U.S. has spent around $21 billion on the project.

study funded by the National Science Foundation projects that around 6 million nanotechnology workers will be needed worldwide by 2020, with 2 million of those jobs located in the United States.

Minnesota isn't the only state to capitalize on this growth in nanotechnology research. The City of New York, for example, is launching the Advanced Science Research Center this fall.

This map shows the locations by zipcode of companies, universities, government laboratories, and organizations working in nanotechnology around the United States.

The U is offering tours and an open house of the new Physics and Nanotechnology Building from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 - 7 p.m., Thursday, April 24. Enjoy self-guided tours with faculty, staff and students at various stations throughout the building to answer questions.

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