Arizona State University officially inaugurated its newest high-tech research center Thursday in a bid to become an important center of nanotechnology.
The Center for Applied NanoBioscience, a major element of the new Arizona BioDesign Institute, opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.
The center will conduct cutting-edge research on extremely small biological tools that have the potential to improve human health such as “lab-on-a-chip” devices that can quickly analyze blood samples and diagnose and treat diseases.
Merging biology and technology, the center will operate in the world of nanoscience, which involves objects that are less than 1 micron in size. In comparison, a human hair is 50 to 75 microns in thickness. Director Frederic Zenhausern said the center's researchers will use newly developed technologies such as nanoimprintors and scanning-tunneling microscopes to work at the far-smaller scale of molecules and even individual atoms.
Researchers will attempt to control single molecules to understand their behaviors as well as use molecules to help fabricate devices such as tiny optical switches, he said. “You can do many things such as assembling molecules to have different optical properties and switch light on or off,” he said. The center also will apply the latest advances in genomics to produce microchips that can determine a patient's genetic makeup by analyzing blood and other fluid samples and customize drug treatments that would be most effective for that particular patient.
The $1.5 million center, which is partially supported by Motorola and General Dynamics, starts with 10 faculty members. Two other positions remain to be filled. Several of the faculty researchers are coming to ASU from Motorola Labs in Tempe, where they formed the company's nanotechnology research group.
Motorola also is donating equipment to the center. The center is located in temporary quarters in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In late 2004, it will move to the new Arizona BioDesign Institute building, which is scheduled to be under construction by April on the main ASU campus in Tempe.