Tomorrow's Labs Today

Pressure to improve laboratory efficiencies, reduce environmental impact and accommodate a myriad of advanced technologies is driving remarkable achievements in research facility design.


Extraordinary Design, Environmental Sensitivity, and Cutting-Edge Technology are but a Few of the Latest Features

Pressure to improve laboratory efficiencies, reduce environmental impact and accommodate a myriad of advanced technologies is driving current research facility design. The latest and most noteworthy examples from Japan, Canada, and Switzerland are presented here.

A self-sufficient laboratory village

A government-funded scientific research campus and graduate university, The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), in Onna, Japan, will include several state-of-the-art laboratories. Phase 1, begun in September 2004 and scheduled to be completed in March 2012, will accommodate 500 researchers and contain 700,000 square feet of research buildings, a central energy plant, and the first portion of a new village that will house half the campus staff. The 2.5-million-square-foot campus will include Japan’s first and only English language graduate university campus, generic biomedical research laboratories, and a central research core facility

“The campus was organized with a centralized master plan to grow to 3,000 researchers, including biologists, chemists, computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists, and engineers, working in an integrative approach to understanding the mysteries of biological and ecological systems,” says Ken Kornberg, AIA, president, founder, and architect, Kornberg Associates Architects, San Diego and Menlo Park, CA, and Tokyo, who collaborated with Nikken Sekkei, Japan’s largest architectural/engineering company, and Kuniken, Okinawa’s largest architecture firm, on the campus design.

The campus begins at a beachfront area facing the East China Sea coast and rises 300 feet into the tropical rain forest. The three laboratory buildings are perched on forested ridges in a cluster formation and are connected by glass bridges that span ecologically sensitive 100-foot-deep canyons that will remain undisturbed.

The three laboratory buildings of The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology look out toward the East China Sea.

Facilities will be accessed from the village by a covered bridge suspended above a man-made lake. The bridge connects to a 100-yard underground tunnelshaped gallery that terminates at an in ground elevator core that emerges 100 feet above in a glass atrium overlooking the ocean. Lower level laboratories look directly into the forest and upper level laboratories have 180-degree views of the beachfront and sea.

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology facilities will be accessed from the village by a covered bridge suspended above a man-made lake.

The library, auditorium, and cafeteria will be centrally located in the research campus grounds. The centralized campus layout and underground entry were designed to minimize environmental impact.

The campus’ entrance is through the central core, which has radiating bridges to access each research building. “The centralizing concept brings researchers together in the hopes of producing a dialogue among varied disciplines focused on nature and biologic systems,” Kornberg says.

The campus entrance of The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology is through the central core, with radiating bridges to access each research building.

OIST is unique because of the large number of state-of-theart research support facilities at one site. “This was necessary because the research institute is in a remote location and must be self-sufficient,” Kornberg explains. “Additionally, each facility is designed to be versatile and flexible to accommodate the development of technologies over many years.”

Ample space for further development exists. “As the university grows, it plans to acquire additional property for affiliated industrial spin-offs and start-ups,” Kornberg says.

Cutting-edge technology

OIST’s core facilities were designed to accommodate functional imaging disciplines and equipment that will be ordered in the future. “The facilities were specifically sized not for each piece of equipment but for an array of different products that are likely to be needed,” Kornberg says. “The research core must provide for experimental work for scientists who will be coming to the new institute over the next 10 years.”

Core research facilities at the campus center will include a synchrotron, electron microscopes, nuclear magnetic resonance devices, mass spectrometers, sequencing center, zebrafish, eight patch clamp laboratories, and 10 flexible generic laboratories.

Bio-safety level 3 (BSL3) laboratories, the third level in a system of standards/protocols to maintain safety and contain biohazards, will also be included. These technologies are either the latest generation of support equipment or are still under development.

Other technologies that OIST plans to purchase include:

    • Illumina Genome Analyzer II, Roche 454 GS FLX, and ABI Solid 2.0, providing a full-service sequencing core to cover a versatile range of polynucleotides.
    • The JEOL 300 kV electron microscope under development offers extremely high resolution imaging.
    • Thermo Scientific’s LTQ Orbitrap will provide both high resolution and accurate mass spectrometry, enabling definitive protein characterization.
    • MIRRORCLE tabletop synchrotron provides high-intensity Xray technology for large molecule structure research.

New materials take shape

4D LABS, a $40 million facility that opened in January 2007, is an applications-and science-driven research center at Simon Fraser University (SFU), in British Columbia, Canada. The facility “focuses on accelerating the design, development, demonstration, and delivery of advanced materials and nanoscale devices that can lead to major advances in information and health technologies,” says Byron Gates, PhD, director of the Nanofabrication Facility in 4D LABS and professor of nanostructured systems.

“Rather than creating departments or networks of researchers with similar interests, like other university research centers, 4D LABS identifies technologies that require significant advances in fundamental science to become commercially viable,” Dr. Gates explains. “Then, it defines multidisciplinary projects and recruits chemists, physicists, and engineers with expertise in nanomaterials engineering and devices. It’s one-stop shopping. If you want to make a material and then analyze it, you can do it here from start to finish.”

The 2,000-square-meter concrete building complements the modern style of Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, who designed the SFU campus. The high-tech, energy-efficient center is completely wireless, has a closed-loop cooling system that minimizes water usage, has pneumatically driven vacuum lines for chemistry laboratories, and contains sensors that automatically turn off lights when unoccupied. The facility can accommodate more than 100 students, professors, and researchers.

4D LABS at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, is situated atop scenic Burnaby Mountain.

A closer look

The first floor was custom built to house state-of-the-art instrumentation for fabrication and materials analysis. An integrated clean room will be completed in the early spring of 2009. The second floor houses offices and research laboratories where researchers interact across disciplines, combining their skills to address specific materials-related challenges.

The clean room will be the primary site for constructing new molecular electronic, photonic, and magnonic devices. The Class 100 facility with local Class 1 environments will permit handling of sensitive samples. It will house essential fabrication equipment, including an electron beam writing facility, mask aligners, dry etch facilities, process furnaces, and physical vapor deposition systems, as well as wet processing equipment, including a unique Class 1 robotic cluster tool for multilayer construction. “Unlike the majority of clean rooms, we are open to almost any type of material. Our clean room will permit development of novel processing chemistry and incorporation of new materials into functioning devices,” says Dr. Gates.

This Class 100 facility at 4D LABS contains controlled settings (Class 1 environments and filtered lighting) for the fabrication of devices incorporating materials that are sensitive to volatile impurities and/or exposure to ultraviolet light.

The nano-imaging laboratory provides high magnification tools to look at structures and materials. Some of its imaging technology can also be used to create and modify nanoscale features within devices. Equipment includes scanning electron microscopes, scanning transmission electron microscopes, a dual beam scanning electron microscope/focused ion beam system, and a full array of scanning probe microscopy.>

The growth and characterization laboratory houses facilities aimed at atomic-scale control of the growth and characterization of materials. It also contains high-vacuum characterization spectroscopies for analysis of a broad range of materials, including an integrated PEEM/LEEM system for characterizing the influence of surfaces on the growth of materials. Additional characterization equipment includes the photoelectron and Auger electron spectroscopies useful in the characterization of a wide range of materials.

The visiting scientists’ laboratory facilitates international research collaboration by providing space for external teams and 4D LABS researchers to work together.

The Laboratory for Advanced Spectroscopy and Imaging Research (LASIR) is a joint initiative between SFU and the University of British Columbia that brings advanced spectroscopy tools to the Pacific West Coast. The SFU hub provides materials characterization facilities that offer researchers the tools to investigate the properties of electrons in superconductors and a variety of properties related to magnetooptic and nonlinear optical behavior.

Equipment consists of ultraviolet and X-ray lithography sources including a femtosecond laser system. It also houses a tunable nanosecond laser system, which forms the heart of the nonlinear optical characterization beam line, which is used in conjunction with the SQUID for magneto-optic experiments. The LASIR clean room will be integrated with a central clean room, allowing use of the lithography facilities in a continuous, clean environment.

4Researchers in 4D LABS are given hands-on training and access to state-of-the-art equipment, including the Class 1 robotic cluster tool.

A nanoscience partnership

In Switzerland, IBM and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, a premier European science and engineering university, have partnered to construct a new nanotechnology laboratory—Nanoscale Exploratory Technology Laboratory. Constructed on the campus of the IBM Zurich Research Laboratory in Rüschlikon, the center will focus on exploratory and basic nanotechnology research to applied and long-term projects.

Model of Nanoscale Exploratory Technology Laboratory in Rüschlikon.

The center will be built over the next two years, with completion expected in spring 2011. The 6,000-square-meter building will have four floors. The first floor will house a 1,000-square-meter clean room for micro technology and nanotechnology. Special laboratories for the characterization of small and sensitive nanostructures, i.e., noise-free laboratories, will be located in the basement. The remaining two floors will contain offices and other characterization laboratories.

The center’s modern design will complement the existing campus’ architecture. Focusing on both practical and modern design, the glass façade of the clean room will feature a lightshielding metal cover with a unique pattern of inclusions (little holes), mirroring molecular and atomic scale structures. The cover will reduce the amount of light entering the clean room, creating optimal conditions for conducting experiments.

Making the building energy efficient is a high priority. Highly efficient thermal insulation, geothermal energy, and photovoltaic elements will minimize energy consumption.

Key components: Clean room and noise-free laboratories

“The clean room is a prerequisite for the fabrication of any micro- and nanostructures on semiconductors and other materials,” says Roland Germann, PhD, manager, Nanocenter Operations, IBM Zurich Research Laboratory. The clean room will accommodate approximately 50 processing tools used for such procedures as lithography, deposition, and etching.

Space will be dedicated to research projects, such as carbon-based materials, nano-photonics, spintronics, nanowires, and tribology. It will allow for research on new device concepts based on carbon materials using quantum mechanical effects for computing and sensing, and it will contribute to resolving upcoming challenges in nano-manufacturing via research aimed at directed self-assembly of nanostructures and molecular functional materials, as well as 3-D integration.

The building provides 40–100 workplaces for world-class researchers

“The center is unique because the clean room is custom designed for our specific research application and is combined with noise-free laboratories,” Dr. Germann says.

“The noise-free laboratories will be indispensable for the electrical and structural characterization of tiny and sensitive nanostructures,” says Germann. Special and complex measures will be taken to shield these laboratories against mechanical vibrations, acoustic disturbances, and magnetic fields.

Looking forward

Under the $90 million multiyear program, researchers and engineers from IBM and ETH Zurich will join forces to conduct research into new atomic and molecular-scale structures and devices that can be used for information technologies, for example, as well as research into discovering and understanding their scientific foundations—all in dimensions below 100 nanometers (approximately 400 times thinner than a human hair).

“By creating this common research center, IBM is expanding a collaborative and cooperative research program aimed at accelerating our understanding and implementation of nanotechnology and its broad range of applications,” says Dr. John Kelly III, senior vice president and director, IBM Research. “This is an emerging model for future industry/academic partnerships.”

A cutting-edge insulation concept will be implemented to shield the noise-free labs of the center, including minimization of vibration-acoustic disturbances; limitation of low-frequency magnetic fields by passive and active screening; HVAC climate control system.

Preparations for more of these laboratories of the future are under way worldwide.

Published In

Next-Generation Laboratories Magazine Issue Cover
Next-Generation Laboratories

Published: February 1, 2009

Cover Story

Next-Generation Laboratories

New open-plan labs are meeting the need for more customized lab settings, including the ability to modify bench setup and support areas as needs change and increase interaction among researchers–now seen as preconditions for scientific breakthroughs.