Oct. 19--ALBANY -- The Obama administration may move by Thanksgiving to establish a $470 million electronics manufacturing institute at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany that could revolutionize the way power flows through everything from planes and cars to computers and the electrical grid.
The NanoCollege is believed to be one of three groups across the country in serious competition for the center, which will receive $70 million in federal start-up funding through the Department of Energy.
The center, which would focus on using semiconductor material similar to that used in computer chips, will be one of several high-tech manufacturing institutes that President Barack Obama envisions across the country to rebuild the U.S. manufacturing sector. The first such institute, which focuses on making devices using 3-D printing, was created last year in Youngstown, Ohio, although on a much smaller scale than what the NanoCollege is planning.
The NanoCollege wants to create what will be known as the U.S. Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium, which would have more than 50 academic, corporate and government participants from Michigan to Massachusetts, although the center of gravity would be in New York state.
Although the application was filed at the end of August, local leaders have been working together for much of the year and met to discuss the project at the at the Albany office of U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko in May.
Tonko has been instrumental in keeping federal officials aware of the progress of the application and its merits as he sits on the powerful House Energy and Commerce committee. He once led NYSERDA, the state's energy development agency, which is expected to be a part of the consortium.
The group, which includes companies like IBM, General Electric and Ford Motor Co., would design and manufacture the next generation of electronics that deliver power in devices such as cars, planes, wind turbines, data centers, and the electric utility grid. The focus will be on using "wide band gap" semiconductor materials that are better at transmitting electricity than today's power equipment. The consortium will focus on using combinations of semiconductor material, gallium nitride and silicon carbide, that have shown promise for breakthroughs for these power electronics.
Making these semiconductor devices is similar to making computer chips, which is why the NanoCollege, perhaps the best-funded computer chip R&D center in the world, is leading the consortium. The PEMC as it will be called would begin early-stage manufacturing testing at clean room fabrication facility at Lincoln Laboratory, a massive federally-funded R&D center that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology runs in Lexington, Mass., outside Boston.
The NanoCollege would also use a facility and clean room fab that it operates in Canandaigua for development manufacturing, although eventually, manufacturing of the devices would move to a former Kodak facility that the NanoCollege acquired earlier this year in Rochester.
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