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Boise State starts work on materials research structure

The new Micron Center for Materials Research aims to elevate Boise State's efforts in materials research. Image courtesy of Boise State University.

The new Micron Center for Materials Research aims to elevate Boise State’s efforts in materials research. Image courtesy of Boise State University.

Boise-based Micron Technology Inc. is banking on Boise State University to supply its next generation of materials scientists and viable new materials for the future.

Micron Technology Foundation supplied $25 million to the construction of the $50 million Micron Center for Materials Research, which Boise State officials believe will put the university among the nation’s elite materials science programs.

The $25 million gift is the largest Boise State has received from anyone, as well as the largest Micron has ever awarded anywhere, officials from both entities said.

The remaining construction cost are covered by $10 million from the state of Idaho’s permanent building fund, $15 million in university bonds and $500,000 from other donors, Boise State reported.

Site work started April 4 next to the Charles P. Ruch Engineering Building on University Drive, including demolition of the Facility Operations and Maintenance Administration Offices. The anticipated opening is fall 2020 opening.

The Micron School of Materials and Engineering has operated since its 2002 creation within the engineering building, which was not specifically designed for materials research. Materials research requires a vibration-free structure, said Janet Callahan, chair of the materials science school.

Janet Callahan

Janet Callahan

“What it gives us is a stable platform to put our world-class equipment to do world-class materials research,” Callahan said. “You can’t do that with vibrations.”

The lab side of the building will have a 25-inch concrete foundation to minimize vibration as much as possible, she said.

Along with housing materials science faculty, the four-story, 85,000-square-foot structure will enable chemistry, physics and ”possibly more” faculty who specialize in materials science to move their labs into the Micron Center for Materials Research.

“It positions us to be a ranked materials science and engineering program,” Callahan said.

U.S. News & World Report ranks Boise State at No. 69 among U.S. universities in materials science.

Boise State has 46 doctoral students enrolled in materials science and engineering. Typically, one-third on materials science graduates go to Micron.

Boise State also has a next-generation materials sciences faculty.

JoAnn Lightly

JoAnn Lightly

“We have a large percentage of young faculty that are making a difference,” said JoAnn Lighty, dean of Boise State’s College of Engineering: “Simply put, we’re really here making materials that matter.”

Materials sciences involve products made with metals, ceramics and rubber and are used in polymeres, composites, graphite materials, integrated-circuit chips, fuel cells and many other things, according to the American Chemical Society.

Next-generation materials will be used in vast areas including self-driving cars and artificial intelligence, including nanotechnology,  Mictron Executive Vice President Scott DeBoer noted.

“The usage of new materials is staggering,” DeBoer said. “The chip industry is heavily reliant on materials research.”

Micron is the second largest semiconductor company in the U.S. with 34,000 employees worldwide and 6,500 at its Boise corporate and research headquarters. Micron is the second-largest private employers in the Treasure Valley after St. Luke’s Health System.

Boise State is a large supplier of materials sciences employers for Micron, and also serves as a de-facto research arm in materials sciences.

“Long before we use a particular material, professors sort through a lot of materials to determine what materials make sense for us in the future,” DeBoer said.

The Micron Center for Materials Research will have more than 40 research laboratories, a 250-seat lecture hall, two 80-seat classrooms, and office and work space for faculty, staff and graduate materials research students.

The architects are Hummel Architects of Boise and Anderson Mason Dale Architects of Denver. Hoffman Construction is the general contractor.

About Teya Vitu

Teya Vitu is an Idaho Business Review reporter, covering commercial real estate, construction, transportation and whatever else may intrigue him in the moment. Join me on Twitter at @IBR_TeyaVitu.