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Enlighten Me: UD's new facility helps scientists develop small devices to solve big problems


Scientists around the world are making great strides in the field of nanotechnology, building highly capable devices that are smaller than a speck of dust.

These tiny contraptions have the potential to transform the way doctors diagnose patients to the way smartphones are designed, streamlining the way we communicate.


At University of Delaware, scientists from diverse disciplines are developing these devices in their brand new, $30 million dollar nanofabrication facility.

Co-director Matthew Doty calls this laboratory the “machine shop of the 21st century,” that will enable them to make much-needed advances in medical technologies that deal with, for example, drug screening and cancer detection.  


“Those are areas where we have not been able to do research, up until now because we didn’t have these tools on campus," said Doty. "So by putting this facility into place, we’re providing the resources for the rapid acceleration of research in this area.”


Because these contraptions are so small, scientists have to make sure to limit the number of particles that enter the lab. So they cover themselves up from head to toe in gowns in order to keep out particles they might drag inside.

“If you’re trying to make something that is 500 times smaller than a particle of dust, you can’t do it in an environment where those particles are bouncing all around," said Doty. "It would be essentially like trying to paint while someone threw basketballs at you or sculpt while someone threw bowling balls at you, something huge, much larger than what you’re trying to make, constantly hitting you.”


The 8,500 square foot facility was built at the Harker Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory.

University officials hope that the new facility will also draw more talent to work at the Science, Technology and Advanced Research, or STAR campus.


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