Nanoscience Facility Takes Shape on MIT's Campus in Cambridge, Mass.

A state-of-the-art nano facility is being built at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.

📅   Thu May 25, 2017 - Northeast Edition #11
Brenda Ruggiero


The enabling phase of construction began in June 2014, and the target occupancy date is June 2018. Lillie Paquette/MIT School of Engineering photo
The enabling phase of construction began in June 2014, and the target occupancy date is June 2018. Lillie Paquette/MIT School of Engineering photo

A state-of-the-art nano facility is being built at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.

The project website noted that recent discoveries have caused a revolution in the understanding of how materials behave at the nanoscale (one billionth of a meter), and MIT researchers are exploring the ways nanoscience and nanotechnology will have an impact.

“Even big problems have answers if you have your hands on the right tools,” said L. Rafael Reif, MIT president. “Because nanoscience and nanotechnology are omnipresent in innovation today, a state-of-the-art nano facility is the highest priority for MIT, the School of Science, and the School of Engineering.”

The contract, for an undisclosed amount, was awarded to Turner Construction Company, Boston, Mass. The enabling phase of construction began in June 2014, and the target occupancy date is June 2018.

MIT.nano will be a 200,000-sq.-ft. building that houses state-of-the-art cleanroom, imaging and prototyping facilities that can support fabrication and characterization processes on the nanoscale. It will be located in the heart of the MIT campus, surrounded on all four sides by existing buildings. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as building a “ship in a bottle.”

Plans are for MIT.nano to support the activities of 2,000 MIT researchers.

According to the website, it will “streamline delicate experimentation and prototyping by bringing together complex research activities that are currently distributed around campus. A world-class facility, it will modernize MIT's research capacity and deepen the collaboration between disciplines, nurturing game-changing ingenuity and advancing the frontiers of innovation without boundaries, for the betterment of humankind.”

Working on the project along with Turner are Architect: Wilson Architects, Boston, Mass., and the MIT team, which includes Arne Abramson, Travis Wanat, Andrew Corson, Robert Cunkelman, Frank Higson and Jack Mannion.

The facility will more than double MIT's shared fabrication and imaging capabilities. It will include two floors of high-performance cleanrooms optimized for energy efficiency, safety, and future flexibility. There will be spaces for prototyping and packaging synthesis, imaging and microscopy, materials and thin film growth, and numerical design. The basement level will be optimized to meet the most stringent nanoscale imaging requirements for low-vibration and low electromagnetic interference (EMI).

In addition, there will be meeting spaces, offices for research staff, new undergraduate chemistry teaching laboratories, and a new outdoor courtyard.

According to Travis Wanat of the MIT Department of Facilities, the main challenges with the project involve demolition and building a new facility at the heart of a busy campus.

Other difficulties that he noted are “high performance program requirements for nanoscale research (cleanroom/imaging) and designing the MEP infrastructure to meet current and future program performance requirements which are energy intensive while pushing the envelope to operate the building efficiently.”

Air filtering systems will feature heat recovery on building exhaust, variable frequency drives on motors that save energy by powering devices up or down based on needs in the space, lowest pressure drop ductwork and filters, and sized exhaust devices that minimize the amount of exhaust needed to maintain the cleanroom air purity and filtration.

The project will include 800,000 lbs. of sheet metal ductwork. There will be 35.6 mi. of piping, including 20,000 ft. of fire protection piping, 62,000 ft. of process piping, 60,000 ft. of plumbing piping, 40,000 ft. of HVAC piping, and 6,000 ft. of site utility linear piping.

A total of 1.4 million cu. ft. of soil was removed. The project will use 190 mi. of electrical wiring and 3,385 pieces of structural steel, with the average weight per piece at 2,101 lbs.

The project averages 350 workers per day on site, and will use 12,000 total cu. yds. of concrete in the entire project, 530,000 linear ft. of rebar, 40,000 sq. ft. of slurry wall, and 550,000 lbs. of steel bracing to temporarily support the slurry wall during excavation.

There will be 300,000 sq. ft. of interior walls, 27,000 sq. ft. of interior stone cladding, 25,000 sq. ft. of metal wall and soffit exterior wall cladding, 22,000 total sq. ft. of stone exterior wall cladding, and 100,00 total sq. ft. of exterior wall cladding.

Major subcontractors include A.A. Will Corporation; American Plumbing & Heating; Bond Brothers; Canatal Industries Inc.; City Point Fire Protection; Costa Brothers Masonry; East Coast Slurry; FH. Chase Inc.; Hallam-ICS; Island International Industries; JM Electric; J.C. Cannistraro LLC; J.F Shea Roofing; J.F. Stearns; JDC Demolition; K&K Acoustical Ceilings Inc.; Karas & Karas; Kinetics Systems Inc.; LAN-Tel Communications Inc.; Manganaro NorthEast; New England Laboratory Casework Co. Inc.; Phoenix Bay State Construction Company; Plascore Inc.; S&F Concrete; Siemens Industry Inc.; Simplex Grinnell; Sullivan McLaughlin; Superior Rail & Iron Works Inc.; T.J. McCartney Inc.; and The Waterproofing Company.

Major equipment used on the job includes Trane Custom MAHU's and EAHU's; Trane PAHU's; a Caterpillar emergency generator; Huntair RAHU's; an Evoqua RODI skid; and Cemline clean steam generators. CEG