In Pittsburgh

The first pictures I took myself in the lab. It is the end of my first work week at Pitt, some things have been set in motion. We have a conference table, chairs, microwave, minifridge (for food), a vintage whiteboard and a bicycle.


And we have a microscope which will be used for micropositioning of nanowires and as an electrical probe station.


Construction Update

The lab construction is ahead of schedule and very far along. Great job Mascaro, Wilson Architects and the Pitt management team!

Fridge room. The trench is covered by wood, eventually will be aluminum grids. At the ceiling you can see two rails for a crane.

Pump room. Acoustically isolated doors and pump lines coming out at the top.

Control corridor. This is where the data acquisition computers will be.

Impressive pipework!

They are now working on installing the floors. Anti-static flooring will be used around the fridges to protect devices from blowing up.

Pump room

The construction has moved on to the acoustic room that will house pumps and compressors. This equipment creates a lot of noise and for that reason it should be isolated from the rest of the lab. You can see the walls made of special sound-proof material on the right. Fridges will be on the left and the pipes up by the ceiling will connect pumps to the fridges. The room has multiple doors, and each door will be sealed carefully along the perimeter.

visiting my architects

It is hard to imagine a luckier coincidence: the office of Wilson architects, a company that designed my lab, is just two blocks away from the Boston convention center, the site of the APS March meeting 2012. I got to meet the team of designers and see how they work. Thank you for taking me out to lunch and I will look forward to adding a Zen garden to the lab exterior!

I was especially impressed with how extensive the final lab drawings were. They amount to several hefty binders. A vast amount of work! Especially compared to a simple sketch that I have provided them with.

Concrete poured

Last week the excavated floor was filled with massive amounts of concrete. The boards in the center cover the trench intended for dilution fridges.

This week I visited my lab and met great engineers from Mascaro Construction who are running the construction. In the same week I visited the office of Wilson Architects in Boston. Pictures to follow.

Trench update

Lab construction is proceeding rapidly and smoothly. The inner core of the reactor has been completed. The graphite rods will be loaded as a next step. And then the space will be filled with cooling water.

Or, more likely, this is the basement the dilution fridge trench. It is much more sophisticated than what I have sketched. You can see a deeper pit and sinks. This structure will be covered by concrete and the trench that I requested for the fridges will sit above. I think this is a flood security system.

Many thanks to Wilson Architects for keeping me updated.


The construction in Pittsburgh is progressing rapidly! They are now digging out the trench for the dilution fridges, after drilling out the foundation. The trench will be 4 feet wide, but they are excavating a much larger area. The reason for that is the high field magnets that will be situated in the trench. The magnets can ‘quench’ if there are ferrous materials nearby, so the workers are removing steel posts from the foundation.

The next phase will be to form the trench by pouring concrete. Here is another snapshot of a mini-excavator.

Thanks for Wilson Architects for keeping me up to date with photos.

Demolition complete!

All the old walls inside the new lab space were cleared, now it is one big empty tidy room. The next step is to excavate a long trench down the middle. It is needed to give extra vertical space for dilution refrigeratoros.

The door at the end of the room opens to the street. It will become a glass door, and a long window will be cut out to the right of it. So we will have daylight! Below is a shot looking back from the door. Thanks to Wilson Architects for these images.

“Before” pics

The basement space of the OEH building that is becoming my lab was not in use for a while. It was originally divided into several rooms that were slowly filling with unused furniture, old equipment etc. This is how the lab looked until December, when construction began. I am receiving regular photo-updates on the state of the lab, and I plan to share them here.

Thanks to Mat Romick and Wilson Architects for these images.

Lab layout

We worked on it over the summer. I was only present virtually, giving my feedback from Delft.  I am very happy with the design, and frankly cannot wait to walk into this lab! Wilson Architects already had experience in low temperature lab design from working with researchers in my field at several universities. I want to thank their design team, as well as Pitt project managers and all the experts they invited. The technical drawings are highly detailed, since we nailed down the position of each power outlet and each pumping line. Here is a conceptual layout (you can click on the image to see it better):

I especially like that this big lab will remain one open space, with glass walls inside. This could become a new word in cryogenic lab design. Dilution fridges are unpleasant to be around all day because they buzz and humm. In addition to separating the pumps into an isolated room, I decided to put workstations for taking data behind a glass wall. This way students can see the fridges, but not hear them. It works for us because we do not need to touch fridges for hours when things are running smoothly. I will not start with four dilution fridges though, the lab is planned for future expansion. I am shopping for two fridges now, this should let us hit the ground running.