CORVALLIS - Oregon State University and the University of Oregon have retained former Hewlett-Packard Company executive Robert D. "Skip" Rung to spearhead the start-up of the state's first signature research center, focused on developing nano- and microtechnologies for the semiconductor, energy and microfluidics fields.

Rung, who is a technology and innovation consultant, will advise the new center on development of a permanent structure and governing body. Academic leadership will also be provided by the center's co-directors, OSU mechanical engineering professor Kevin Drost and UO chemistry professor David Johnson.

Oregon's first signature research center will initially be headquartered in donated space on Hewlett-Packard's Corvallis campus but have facilities located at OSU, UO and Portland State University.

This follows the recent passage of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, sponsored by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, and signed last week by President Bush. The act authorizes $3.7 billion over four years for nanotechnology research and development beginning in 2005.

Research at the new center will specialize in development of the emerging technology called multi-scale materials and devices (MMD), which combines nanotechnology and microtechnology to enable development of a wide range of very small, super-efficient devices - from fist-sized heat pumps and microcombustors the size of cigarette lighters to higher capacity chips for the semiconductor industry.

The MMD Signature Research Center will quickly become a provider and licenser of MMD-based products and devices that can be commercialized by corporate partners and enhance business prospects for Oregon, officials say. Breakthroughs that MMD technology will enable may include:

  • future-generation semiconductors made of advanced nanomaterials
  • lightweight portable cooling systems used by soldiers, firefighters, and hazardous materials workers
  • microcombustor/thermoelectric generator pairs to power remote wireless sensors
  • lightweight power sources capable of running laptops for days instead of hours
  • transparent electronic devices that improve display performance
  • microreactors capable of producing high value nanomaterials at reasonable costs
  • small in-room heat pumps that will eliminate wasteful ductwork in homes and office buildings

"We're thrilled to have Skip Rung on board to help Oregon chart a bold course for this new technology that will ultimately create jobs for Oregonians and have a positive impact on our regional Northwest economy," said Ron Adams, dean of the college of engineering at OSU. "The center puts nanotechnology to work in micro devices, a combination that is unique intellectual property to Oregon because very few other states possess our capabilities. This is an unprecedented collaboration between Oregon's universities, the business community of this state, and the people of Oregon."

Before retiring in 2001, Rung spent 25 years working in microtechnology research and development for the Hewlett-Packard Company, where he was instrumental in the development of the company's world-leading thermal inkjet printing technology.

"MMD is the right project at the right time for Oregon," Rung said. "The center's focus over the next few months will be setting the stage to get new products to market so people will have this valuable technology available at their fingertips. I sense some of the same excitement of the early days of HP's inkjet technology - which was in fact Oregon's first major MMD breakthrough."

Rung's work is being funded from the Oregon University System operating budget earmarked for the MMD Signature Research Center. Pending determination of a permanent governance structure, the center will be administered by the Oregon University System.

"The MMD Signature Research Center is an ideal interaction between our powerful Silicon Forest industry cluster and several unique research assets at our public universities and at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory," said Rich Linton, vice president for research and graduate studies and dean of the graduate school at the University of Oregon. "A strong and growing spirit of collaboration among Oregon's universities is becoming both a source of innovation and a competitive advantage for all Oregonians."

With OSU, UO and PSU working together, Oregon can be in a prime position to attract some of the federal funding in Sen. Wyden's nanotech bill, Adams said.

"Our unique industry-academia-public partnership will then transform that investment into new jobs and new devices that improve life," he said.

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Skip Rung, 541-745-7384