Nanotech Center Continues to Grow

Construction on the $91.5 million Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology on the 3200 block of Walnut Street is proceeding on time and on budget.

The sleek 78,000-square-foot glass and aluminum building, a joint venture between the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Arts and Sciences, is scheduled to mark its official opening in November. But most of the construction is expected to be complete by the late summer.

The Singh Center will provide Penn with a leading research site focused on one of today’s most innovative fields of science and engineering.

One of the main features of the Center is a 10,000-square-foot clean room that will be used for nanofabrication. It sits behind a wall of amber-colored glass stretching across the entire first level of the building, about half a city block.

At night, the amber curtain will create a soft, golden glow visible from the street. Because some of the experimentation that will occur inside the clean room is ultraviolet (UV)-sensitive, some research bays are outfitted with amber non-UV lighting. New York architects Weiss/Manfredi made the decision to incorporate the color into the building’s overall design.

Lower level labs will house high-powered, high-intensity, low-vibration microscopes that require an environment of closely controlled temperature, humidity, and air flow. The equipment also requires as little ground vibration as possible.

To achieve this, architects installed air flow systems that control the temperature inside the labs to vary less than one degree year-around. The labs are also enclosed in “boxes” made of aluminum plate shielding with Teflon coating to protect the equipment from electromagnetic interference. And the entire space will sit upon concrete floors that reach down to bedrock to minimize vibration.

Another highlight of the building is the third-floor cantilevered meeting room that hovers 65 feet over the Center’s courtyard. Dubbed the “Forum,” the multi-purpose room is wrapped in a floor-to-ceiling skin of glass, providing a west-aimed view of campus. The Forum area opens onto a roof garden that also serves as one of two natural water retention systems. It is one of many green features that has the Singh Center targeted to meet LEED Silver certification standards.

Text by Tanya Barrientos
Photos by Scott Spitzer