Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Big hopes for science of the tiny at new Quantum-Nano Centre




The science of the very small got a big boost yesterday. The first heap of earth for the $160-million Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre was dug by Premier Dalton McGuinty at the University of Waterloo.

"The centre will help bring the best minds to study small things and produce big results," said McGuinty, who also announced $18 million for research equipment for the Institute of Quantum Computing.

UW president and vice-chancellor David Johnston was on hand, along with Research In Motion founder and co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis and his wife Ophelia, who donated $50 million.

The Quantum-Nano Centre will be home to the Institute of Quantum Computing and Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.

It's the first of its kind in the world, bringing research into quantum computing and nano-technology under one roof. The former deals with super-fast computers, the latter with molecule-sized machines in every possible field. Quantum computing research will be aimed at developing faster, more efficient computers with components so tiny that they can't be seen by the human eye.

Research will make it possible to build "computers which are so much powerful than we can imagine," said Raymond Laflamme, director of the Institute for Quantum Computing.

Combine this with nanotechnology and the research could lead to revolutionary new optics, computer encryption and treatments for diseases, among other things.

McGuinty said he was confident that the "discoveries made here will be products that Ontario can sell to the entire world."

About 200 researchers each in the fields of quantum computing and nano-technology, as well as graduate and undergraduate students will work at the centre.

"It's having quantum computing and nano-technology under one roof that makes this centre truly unique," Laflamme said.

While the centre has created a buzz in scientific circles, the building itself is also creating waves. At 250,000 square feet -- almost as big at UW's Davis Centre -- it will be five storeys high, with two atriums and a green roof. It's designed to reduce vibration and electromagnetic interference.

Billed as the most sophisticated building on campus, it was designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) of Toronto with laboratory specialists HDR Architecture Inc.

In addition to a $50 million donation from Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis, the province has contributed $50 million. The building is expected to be ready by 2011, Johnston said.



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