Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Sandia becoming center for microsystems tech

Almost 20 percent of the United States’ electricity goes toward lighting, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and Daniel Barton at Sandia National Laboratories wants to do something about it.

With two new facilities at the labs, he says he’s better positioned than ever to do his work.

Two buildings – the MicroFab and MicroLab – celebrated their openings Friday. Both are part of the three-facility Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications project, a $461 million initiative to advance the development of microelectronic devices.

“It’s a night and day difference between our old facility,” said Barton, manager of the semiconductor material and device sciences department at the labs, who moved into his new office a month ago. “The new facility will allow us to take what we know so far and increase the efficiency of what we can by an order of magnitude.”

In his case, that means investigating new and better light-emitting diodes. Besides being useful for national defense, such research may lead to a more energy-efficient light bulb to replace incandescent and fluorescent lights.

“A huge percentage of the energy used by the entire planet is for lighting,” he said. “If we can make that lighting more efficient, we can cut down the power needs for the entire planet.”

The three new facilities will take up almost 400,000 square feet and house roughly 650 Sandia employees. The third part of the project – the Weapons Integration Facility – is expected to be operational by fiscal year 2008.

The new facilities will bring together formerly separated employees from the labs’ departments of electronics, photonics and computer visualization. The workers will collaborate on microelectronic projects for national defense that might be spun into businesses outside of the labs.

“MESA is the foundation for a lot of technologies that go in directions for national security and for things that can be commercialized,” said Tom Hunter, president of the labs. “When you add together the CINT (Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies) facility . . . and this facility, we’re becoming recognized as the national hub for integrated microsystems.”

The nanotechnologies center, outside Kirtland Air Force Base, is planned to be fully operational May 2007, and will host research into ultrasmall materials. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

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