Berkeley Marvell NanoLab

While the UC Berkeley Microfabrication Lab (MicroLab) operated from 1983 to 2010, its Principal Investigators generated over $320M of external research funds, launched 21 specific start-up companies, and leveraged their academic research infrastructure to support over ninety external companies that worked in the unique facility.

The Berkeley MicroLab was the birthplace for numerous paradigm-shifting technologies, including MEMS, FinFET transistors, and micro-fluidic self assembly. By the 1990s, however, the MicroLab needed to expand in order to hold its place at industry’s cutting edge. Several fundraising efforts were launched and then retired in frustration.

A breakthrough came in 2001 with the foundation of CITRIS, which allowed for the leverage of state funding to attract private donors to the MicroLab’s expansion and modernization. In 2009, Weili Dai, Sehat Sutardja and Pantas Sutardja (three UC Berkeley engineering alumni) along with Dado and Maria Banatao made large enough gifts that a world-class nanotechnology laboratory could be constructed to occupy a two-story, 15,000-square-foot wing of CITRIS’s new $130M headquarters.

The CITRIS mission of information technology research in the interest of society inspired a vision for “more than Moore’s Law.” As a result, for decades to come the new Marvell NanoLab will be available to students, staff, faculty, and industry members to prototype a wide range of new biosensors, photonics devices, and other MEMS/NEMS sensors. The NanoLab is already acting as a regional center for research, drawing use from fledgling entrepreneurs who need the lab to breathe life into their new ideas, as well as industry leaders such as Intel and HP that use the lab to explore new materials for advanced microelectronic devices.

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For example, in 2010 the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the funding of the Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science (E3S). It is dedicated to achieving a radical reduction in the energy consumption of information processing through a redesign of the basic logic switch. The initial grant of $25M for five years is extendable for a further $25M in a second five-year term. Professor Eli Yablonovitch is the center director with co-principal investigators including professors Ming Wu, Jeff Bokor, and Tsu Jae King Liu.

The CITRIS NanoLab acts as a ‘foundational investment’ for NSF and other grants, making such transformative work possible and housing it here at the University of California.