UCSB’s newest big building will be a place where very small things are built.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held last Friday at the site of what will become the $53 million 63,000-sq. ft. California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). The CNSI, a collaborative effort between UCSB and UCLA, will be one of four California Institutes for Science and Innovation funded by the state. The aim of the CNSI will be the development and application of technology that will manipulate structures on a molecular level. Construction on the building will begin in November 2003 and is due to be completed in January 2006.

Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-23rd District), Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang were among the people who made speeches at the ceremony. Attendees included UCSB’s chemistry Nobel laureate and physics/materials Professor Alan Heeger and 1996 chemistry Nobel laureate Sir Harry Kroto. Kroto was visiting from the University of Sussex in England.

In his speech, Yang said that the creation of the center could help the California economy.

“These advancements will help fuel our economy, create high-paying jobs and contribute to the technological leadership of our great state of California,” Yang said.

Funding for research in the CNSI does not come solely from the state. The CNSI will be working closely with different private businesses that will make financial and equipment contributions to the institute. Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Veeco Metrology Group are among CNSI’s industrial affiliates.

Veeco Metrology Group, a company that makes laboratory equipment capable of measuring and creating structures with nanoscale dimensions, will donate instruments to the institute. Veeco’s Director of Technology Craig Prater said the company is making the donations in exchange for being on the cutting edge of research and invention.

Evelyn Hu, the co-director of the CNSI and electrical and computer engineering professor, said the impact of the CNSI’s research will be far-reaching.

“The state did something pretty visionary in 2000 to create the four Institutes of Science and Innovation,” she said. “It created a new infrastructure where UCSB joined with UCLA to form the CNSI and focus on the tremendous potential of taking material at the nanometer scale and putting clusters of molecules together in ways they’ve never been put together before.”

Hu said nanosystems research would revolutionize technology in fields such as information technology, communications, biotechnology, aerospace and national defense, environment sciences, health care and arts and entertainment.

“As nature does, we can optimize the operation and performance of the system by engineering the performance of the nanostructure components, making materials that are more optically efficient, more environmentally friendly or more durable,” she said.

The CNSI will affect the entire campus, Hu said. The addition of the institute will create new opportunities, such as internships, for the humanities as well as the sciences, said David Marshall, dean of humanities and fine arts. The College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Science are collaborating to develop a new master’s program in media arts and technology, Marshall said. Students in the program will be involved with nanotechnology.

Laboratories in the new building will be collaborative and interdisciplinary. They will be used for sophisticated imaging, spectroscopy, biomanufacturing and digital media. Other areas of the building will be delegated to conference and multipurpose facilities, offices and administrative and support facilities.

“The building itself is very modular; there’s no infrastructure per se. This brings different researchers together who normally wouldn’t interact. The hope is that people will start bridging their boundaries a lot faster,” electrical and computer engineering Professor Dan Blumenthal said.

Additionally, there will be a 607-space parking structure adjacent to the main building.

“While we are pleased to celebrate research at the edge of discovery, we also sometimes rejoice when we simply find a campus parking space at 9 in the morning,” Yang said. “Well, a few more of them are coming.”