Nanoscale Research Center Receives $12.25 Million from NSF

08/25/2009
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UMass Lowell, Northeastern, UNH Partnership to Continue Industry-Leading Research

The Nanoscale Science and Engineering Research Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) has received a $12.25 million renewal grant from the National Science Foundation to continue its industry-leading research: translating nanoscale scientific processes into commercially viable technologies.

The center’s three academic partners ߝ Northeastern University, the University of
Massachusetts Lowell and the University of New Hampshire ߝ are conducting cutting-edge research that has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing of smaller, more energy efficient electronic devices.

The five-year renewal grant will cover the Center’s funding through 2014. The NSF has provided $24.85 million to the Center to date. In partnership with industry and foundations, the Center is creating products such as nanobiosensors that can detect cancer at early stages; flexible, lightweight solar cells; nano-sized devices for therapeutic drug delivery; small, high-powered batteries; and flexible electronics, such as cell phones, that are lightweight and energy efficient.

With applications that promise to deliver everything from small, powerful computers to highly sensitive biosensors, nanotech products could command a $1 trillion market by 2015, according to the National Science Foundation. Researchers already know how to make nanoscale structures that can be used to make products, but mass-producing these structures is a tremendous challenge. Traditional manufacturing approaches for nanomaterials are expensive, very slow, and unsuitable for commercialization.

“We are excited about this award and look forward to working closely with industry to ensure that we are developing nanomanufacturing processes that are easily adopted,” said Prof. Joey Mead, director of UMass Lowell’s Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing team. “New products we might see in our lifetimes include tiny sensors to detect cancer cells and deliver medicine directly to the site and solar cells that can be painted onto cars or soldiers’ uniforms.”

The Center's goal is to develop the technology necessary for industry to mass-produce high-quality nanoscale products that will become commercially viable much faster than the usual two-decade timeframe.

“The collaborative research partnership between the Center and industry is accelerating the development of nanotechnology-based products that can impact a number of industries, including healthcare and energy,” said Ahmed Busnaina, director of the Center and William Lincoln Smith Professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern. “Our research is developing more cost-effective, safe and highly reliable processes that can be scaled up for large-scale manufacturing.”

Established in 2004, the Center now has more than 160 researchers and staff members working on developing nanoscale processes and applications.

“UMass Lowell’s center for nanomanufacturing encompasses a strong interdisciplinary team of science and engineering faculty. A new state-of-the-art facility is in the design phase to provide for further growth of this hallmark program,” said UMass Lowell Provost Ahmed Abdelal.

One nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter, and the different physical, chemical and biological properties of matter at such a small scale can be used to create improved materials, devices, and systems. CHN researchers aim to create high-rate, high-volume manufacturing processes for nanotechnology.

“One key to CHN’s success is its multidisciplinary approach toward solving nanoscale science and engineering problems,” says CHN Associate Director Glen Miller, professor of chemistry and director of the materials science program at UNH.

The Center is also investigating the environmental, economic, regulatory, social and ethical impacts of nanomanufacturing. The students, faculty and staff involved with the Center come from various areas of expertise, including mechanical, electrical and plastics engineering; physics; chemistry; environmental health and safety; philosophy; and political science.

In addition to Director Ahmed Busnaina of Northeastern, the Center’s leadership team includes Deputy Director Joey Mead, professor of plastics engineering at UMass Lowell; Associate Director Glen Miller, professor of chemistry and director of the materials science program at the University of New Hampshire; Associate Director Carol Barry, professor of plastics engineering at UMass Lowell; Associate Director Jackie Isaacs, professor of mechanical engineering at Northeastern; and Associate Director Nick McGruer, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern.

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 12,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.

For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224