OLR Research Report

February 9, 2005




By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

You asked for background information on the nanotechnology program at the University of Albany.


Nanotechnology is a hybrid science that combines engineering and chemistry to manipulate atoms individually and place them in a pattern to produce a desired structure. The University of Albany nanotechnology program comprises several components that are connected by common staff, shared facilities, and partnership relationships. The connections have evolved over the past decade in response to state initiatives and industry trends.

The program's components include:

1. an advanced technology center that acts as a research, development, education, and economic outreach resource for industries that make, use, or supply various nanotechnology, electronic, and telecommunication devices and components;

2. a center of excellence whose goal is to provide “pre-competitive” and competitive nanotechnology deployment, quick turn-around prototyping, and workforce training for scientists, engineers, and technicians;

3. a college that trains masters and doctoral level students in nanoscience, nanoengineering, and nanoeconomics (and plans to add nanobiotechnology);

4. and a public-private partnership that provides nanotechnology research, development, and incubation and deployment services to its business partners and education and training services in nanotechnology to students and workers.

The program receives financial support from several New York state technology initiatives and investments from area corporations, particularly IBM.


Nanotechnology is a hybrid science combining engineering and chemistry. Nanotechnologists operate on matter no larger than 100 nanometers. A nanometer (nm) is a billionth of a meter, or a millionth of a millimeter. By way of comparison, DNA is in the 2.5 nanometer range, while at approximately 2.5 micrometers red blood cells are too large for nanotechnology.

The goal of nanotechnology is to manipulate atoms individually and place them in a pattern to produce a desired structure. Large-scale nanotechnology production is anywhere from five to 15 years in the future. Within the next century, industry observers believe nanotechnology will be used to create stronger fibers and a new generation of computers, perform delicate surgery, and clean up oil spills, among other possibilities (see how nanotechnolgy works for more details).


The University of Albany's nanotechnolgy program has evolved over the past 10 years. Today, it comprises a center of advanced technology in nanomaterials and nanoelectronics; a center of excellence in nanotechnology; College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the first of its kind in the U.S.; and a public-private partnership, Albany NanoTech. It has benefited from the proximity of IBM, whose scientists were the first, in 1990, to show that manipulating single atoms was possible, and from significant state and private financial support.

Advanced Technology Center in Nanomaterials and Nanoelectronics

The program began with the work of physics professor Alain Kaloyeros in the University of Albany Institute of Materials. In 1993, the state designated the university as a center for advanced technology for thin film technology (a process for computer chip manufacture). Kaloyeros became the center's director. The designation brought $1 million in annual state funding for 10 years and drew an equal amount in private support.

The center later expanded its purview to encompass nanomaterials and nanoelectronics and changed its name to reflect this change. Today, it serves as a research, development, education, and economic outreach resource for industries that make, use, or supply micro-, opto-, and bio-electronic; nanotechnology; and telecommunication devices and components. The state still provides about $1 million a year for its operation.

Center of Excellence in Nanoelectrics

In 2001, Governor Pataki designated the university as a center of excellence in nanoelectrics (one of five centers designated under a state program created in 1995 to foster high-tech and biotech industries). The designation was accompanied by $50 million in state funding and a $100 million gift from IBM. The center included the university's new School of Nanosciences and Materials, the first such school in the country, and a business incubator. Its goal is to provide “pre-competitive and competitive technology deployment; quick turn-around prototyping; and workforce training for scientists, engineers, and technicians.

This funding enabled the university to build a 300-millimeter computer wafer prototyping and workforce training facility, the first such university-based facility in the world. The facility complemented the 300-millimeter wafer manufacturing facility IBM was then constructing nearby. In 2002, International Sematech, a consortium of 12 major chip manufacturers, decided to site its new 300-millimeter computer chip research and development facility at the center. Sematech agreed to invest $193 million in the project, with the state providing $210 million (including the $50 million it had already announced for the center.)

College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CSNE)

In September 2004, the university created the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. It is located in the same complex as the center of excellence in nanoelectrics. Its location gives it access to a 450,000 square foot “NanoFab megacomplex,” the only 200mm/300mm wafer facility in the academic world, and over 65,000 square feet of state-of-the art classroom space. Dr. Kaloyeros is the college's vice president and chief administrative officer.

CSNE offers masters and doctoral degrees. It offers coursework in nanoscience, nanoengineering, and nanoeconomics and plans to expand its offerings to nanobiotechnology. It currently has about 75 students and 30 faculty.

The college has also established relationships with regional community colleges, high schools, and industries to support training and retraining programs for technicians, operators, and construction trades. It provides access to its equipment and facilities for community college students learning semiconductor manufacturing technologies, provides a three-day exploratory program in electronics and chip fabrication for high school students, and participates in New York's Center for Construction Trades Training.

Albany Nanotech

Albany Nanotech is a public-private research, development, technology deployment, and education resource co-located with CSNE. Dr. Kaloyeros is the organization's president, and its executive staff include several CSNE faculty and administrators. Its financial support comes largely from the state's investment in the university's advanced technology center, center of excellence, and nanotech college and from its nearly 100 industrial partners, which include IBM, General Electric, Corning, and Intel.

Albany Nanotech provides its industry partners access to state-of-the-art laboratories, supercomputer center, shared-user facilities, and an array of scientific centers serving their long- and short-term technology development needs. It attempts to provide “one-stop shopping” for its partners by helping them overcome technical, market, and business development barriers through technology incubation, pilot prototyping, and test-bed integration support.

The Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International Association is one of Albany Nanotech's partners. The two are developing a new training curriculum for semiconductor equipment technician training. High school students participate in experiments and team building and learn about resistors, capacitors, diodes and transistors, gates, digital logic, statistics, measurement, and Boolean addition. They also prepare for the real world through behavioral interviewing, industry jobs, employee presentations, and practice interviews. Graduation can lead to scholarships, certificates and stipends.