Press Release

NASA-Purdue Six-University Group Begins New Computer Institute

By SpaceRef Editor
January 15, 2003
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In an effort to help create spacecraft that can think, NASA and a group of six colleges led by Purdue University today are meeting in West Lafayette, Ind., to officially launch the NASA Institute for Nanoelectronics and Computing.

Institute scientists and engineers will collaborate to work on methods to make electronics measured in nanometers — much smaller than today’s components. A nanometer is roughly 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Purdue scientists will work with researchers at Northwestern, Cornell and Yale universities, the University of Florida and the University of California at San Diego.

“Innovative technologies developed under the auspices of the institute will benefit the U.S. space program for decades to come,” said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. “The research also will benefit Indiana and society in general through possible technology spin-offs; and it will provide learning opportunities for our best students, who represent the coming generation of scientists and engineers,” he added.

“The team based at Purdue will be looking at several novel, unconventional technologies for NASA mission needs,” said Meyya Meyyappan, director of the Center for Nanotechnology at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The technologies will have applications for commercial systems as well, according to Meyyappan.

Several former astronauts also are slated to attend the luncheon meeting, which is being held to formally announce the new NASA institute from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EST in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom. Researchers will hold a series of meetings to discuss the new institute and another new federally funded nanotechnology effort.

The institute will be based at Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center, one of four centers that will be part of the recently created Discovery Park. The park will be a complex of facilities that use a multidisciplinary approach to develop new technologies.

Future computers will make spacecraft more autonomous so they can better function in remote regions of space without the need for human intervention, said Supriyo Datta, director of the institute and Purdue’s Thomas Duncan Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“The research will focus on improving the electronics for NASA space missions, which require lots of computation, sensing, data collection, storage and communication,” Datta said. “The system has to be able to respond to unexpected circumstances.”

The ‘brains’ of future spacecraft will be miniature supercomputers, according to scientists. “For all decisions to be made right at the spacecraft, instead of at mission control here on Earth, requires enormous computing power, orders of magnitude more than what we have today,” Meyyappan said. “These computers will have to come in small packages, because you can’t haul a bunch of mainframes into space.”

The institute is one of seven new university research, engineering and technology institutes created by NASA. The NASA institute at Purdue will contain four major facilities: the Birck Nanotechnology Center, the Bindley Bioscience Center, the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and an e-Enterprise center.

Technical information about NASA nanotechnology can be found on the World Wide Web at:

SpaceRef staff editor.