Eugene Weekly : News : 1.31.08

Subterranean Science
Nanotech lab to open soon on campus

Lorry I. Lokey Laboratories, the UO’s underground building for nanotechnology research, is on track to open in mid-February.

The building is located on East 13th Avenue, between Huestis Hall and Deschutes Hall, but its only feature above ground is a skylight, which emits blue light at night. Inside the facility, the area under the skylight is a lounge surrounded by lab rooms. The research planned to take place inside has applications ranging from computer chips to new power sources. Much of it is related to the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), a research alliance involving many Oregon universities, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and various regional industry partners.

Currently, equipment is being moved from other campus locations into the new facility using a special cart with balloon tires that the UO Machine Shop built. These pieces of equipment can weigh up to two tons, but their components are so delicate that they cannot handle excessive vibration, which is why the underground location was chosen.

John Donovan is the director of the UO’s Center for Advanced Materials Characterization in Oregon (CAMCOR) Microanalytical Facility, which is moving its scanning electron microscopes and other machinery and equipment to Lokey. He said the plan is to have at least one machine in each lab by the Feb. 19 grand opening, but that it would likely be a year before Lokey is fully operational.

The building is named after Business Wire founder and Portland native Lorry Lokey, who donated $25 million specifically for the construction of this building and one other new UO science building. Lokey has given a total of $131.9 million to the UO since 2005, including a $74.5 million donation in October 2007 that is the largest academic gift in school history, according to the UO.

Because the building was constructed with private donations and taxable bonds, it can be used for for-profit work, Donovan said. He described it as similar to OSU’s Agricultural Extension Service, which he said makes money for the state by providing scientific and research services to farmers.

“We’re trying to create a high-tech extension service,” Donovan said, describing the facility’s capacity to help small companies solve technological problems. “You don’t have to be Intel in order to do research.”

Two of the building’s lab rooms are being rented out to private companies. One of these companies, Beaverton-based Voxtel, makes infrared scanners. Donovan wouldn’t name the second company because the contract with it is not yet finalized, but he said it’s “someone you’ve heard of.”

Students, both graduate and undergraduate, will have the opportunity to work in these labs. Donovan expressed hopes that they will benefit from contact with industry and an atmosphere where different scientific disciplines freely cross-pollinate.

“All the new science is going to come out of interdisciplinary research,” Donovan said.

The grand opening is scheduled for 11 am Tuesday, Feb. 19; Lokey, Gov. Ted Kulongoski and industry representatives are expected to attend. Jim Barlow, UO director of science and research communication, said the event is open to the public but that space in the building will be limited.