Today, I received my invitation to the official opening of the Marcus Nanotechnology Center at Georgia Tech, which reminds me that I never posted the photographs from my tour a while back.
The front lobby, facing Ferst Drive, is bound to be a hit for campus receptions. (Note for non-GT alums: Yes, that’s how you spell “Ferst” at Georgia Tech. It’s the continuation of Fifth Street. Obviously!)
I wish the top picture above did the room justice… without a fisheye lens and a video camera, you can’t get the full effect. Weird polygonal fascias bulge out, looming over the space like Neanderthal eyebrows. The red light that I’ve circled slides back and forth endlessly, like the old-fashioned Cylons from Battlestar Galactica. And you’re looking through coated glass at one of the clean rooms (see below) with all manner of mysterious expensive-looking boxes.
Basically, all you need is a bald guy in a wheelchair with a white cat, and you have the perfect lair for a Bond villain.
But looking through that glass, you can begin to see why the $80 million Marcus Nanotech Center is going to be such an asset for the state of Georgia.
Here’s the semiconductor side of the building; 20,000 square feet of clean room space dedicated to the sort of equipment that you see in Intel commercials. That’s wonderful in and of itself, since Georgia Tech’s existing microelectronics center is jammed full and can’t expand. But the magic comes on the other side of that square hatch in the back wall. (I didn’t get a clear shot of it—follow the red arrow.)
Walk around the building, and here’s that hatch from the other side. Now you’re looking at it through 10,000 square feet of biochemical “wet labs.” Yes, the Marcus Nanotech Center has both physical-science clean rooms and biochemical wet labs in the same building. And researchers can pass samples and work-in-progress back and forth between them.
Such a simple concept. But most of the dozens of nanotechnology centers around the world are either dominated by solid-state physicists moving down in scale from silicon MEMS, or by biologists moving up in scale from enzymes. At Georgia Tech, the intention is to strike a balance between the two worlds. That balance isn’t just on a PowerPoint chart… it’s cast into millions of dollars of concrete.
Speaking of concrete, this isn’t the sort of tilt-up building you can construct in a few weeks. The amount of air-handling alone—for both the clean room and the wet labs—would give most commercial architects a heart attack. This picture shows the expansion space, which isn’t yet built out. The bones of the building can accommodate a doubling in lab space when demand justifies it (and when we can find funding).
(And let me take the opportunity to tip my hat to Bernie Marcus, whose philanthropic contribution picked up where the state appropriations left off. As so many people in Atlanta have learned to say: “Thank you, Bernie!”)
The Marcus Nanotech Center has been a long time coming, but it’ll open this month… equipment installation and shakedown will probably take most of this year. I can’t wait to see the innovations that start pouring out of this building!