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  • IBM, ETH Zurich Open Nanotech Center
Jun 2011
ZURICH, Switzerland, June 6, 2011 — IBM and ETH Zurich, a science and engineering university, recently hosted more than 600 guests from industry, academia and government during the opening of the Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center on the campus of IBM Research in Zurich.

The facility is the centerpiece of a 10-year strategic partnership in nanoscience between IBM and ETH Zurich to advance energy and information technologies. The center is named for Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, the two IBM scientists and Nobel laureates who invented the scanning tunneling microscope at the Zurich Research Lab in 1981, enabling researchers to see atoms on a surface for the first time.

IBM and ETH Zurich have partnered to open the Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center, located on the campus of IBM Research in Zurich. (Image: IBM)

EMPA, a Swiss national research institution under the umbrella of ETH, is also a partner.

“This new center represents a milestone in IBM’s centennial year and opens a new chapter in our long-standing tradition of scientific collaboration,” said Dr. John E. Kelly III, senior vice president and director of IBM Research. “IBM scientists will work side by side with our partners, pursuing research to drive the future of information technology and nanoscience.”

Basic and applied projects

Scientists and engineers from IBM and ETH Zurich will pursue joint and independent projects ranging from exploratory research to applied and near-term projects. Nanoscale devices and device concepts, as well as atomic-level studies, will be explored.

The center will focus on the “next switch” – the future building blocks for better, faster and more energy-efficient chips and computer systems. For example, IBM scientists are currently exploring semiconducting nanowires — tiny hairlike structures — to potentially increase the energy efficiency of computing devices by 10-fold.

Additional research areas include micro- and nanoelectromechanical systems, spintronics, organic electronics, carbon-based devices, functional materials, cooling, 3-D integration of computer chips, optoelectronics and optical data communication in computers as well as silicon nanophotonics.

Researchers will also explore new approaches for fabricating structures and devices with dimensions down to a few nanometers, such as scanning-probe nanolithography or directed self-assembly, addressing the upcoming challenges for manufacturing at the nanoscale.

A cutting-edge and sustainable environment

The Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center offers a collaborative infrastructure designed specifically for advancing nanoscience. The noise-free labs open up a level of precision to potentially extend the scale on which scientists can measure and experiment. It features: 

    • A large cleanroom for micro- and nanofabrication provides a flexible environment and tools for lithography, wet processing, dry etching, thermal processes, thin-film deposition, or metrology and characterization. The cleanroom also features a special area for processing carbon-based materials and structures. 

    • Six uniquely designed noise-free labs shield extremely sensitive experiments from external disturbances, such as vibrations and electromagnetic fields. Sources of these include nearby trains and cell phone towers, temperature fluctuations and acoustic noise.

The new center will continue IBM’s tradition of environmental awareness and has been granted the Minergie quality label, a Swiss standard for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings. More specifically, the center improves its energy footprint with the use of photovoltaics, geothermal probes and heat recovery windows.

The building represents an investment of $60 million in infrastructure costs and an additional $30 million for tooling and equipment. These and operating costs are shared by the partners.

Under a five-year agreement signed with the Lithuanian Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Education and Science in September 2010, IBM will collaborate with scientists from several Lithuanian universities. The focus will be on integrated photonics and novel photonic materials to create faster computers, improved solar technologies and nanopatterning security tags for advanced anti-forgery technology.

For more information, visit:  

A sub-field of photonics that pertains to an electronic device that responds to optical power, emits or modifies optical radiation, or utilizes optical radiation for its internal operation. Any device that functions as an electrical-to-optical or optical-to-electrical transducer. Electro-optic often is used erroneously as a synonym.
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