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LOWELL - The National Science Foundation today announced a $12.4 million grant, over five years, for a new nanoscale science and engineering center - a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Northeastern University and the University of New Hampshire, along with industry partners.
The Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) will conduct research on tools and techniques for manufacturing at the nanoscale, in which the building blocks are the size of atoms or molecules and materials can behave in unusual ways.
"Nanotechnology will be an enabling technology for the next great cycle of industrial growth, touching every area of the economy," said UMass Lowell Chancellor William T. Hogan. "Fundamental and applied research is necessary to bridge the gap between laboratory invention and the commercial market. We are pleased to be part of a public-private, interstate partnership to develop the manufacturing processes that will benefit industry in the state and the New England region."
The application was supported by U.S. Rep Marty Meehan, D-Mass., a member of the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus and a UMass Lowell alumnus.
"UMass Lowell is way ahead of the curve in this emerging high-tech field," he said. "The University helped launch the field here with Konarka Technologies, one of our state's first ventures into nanotechnology. The school's new center will serve as an incubator for ways nanotechnology can revolutionize our lives for the better."
UMass Lowell's research contribution to the NSF center will focus on integrating templates into high rate processing of polymeric structures. The research will be conducted in the UML Nanomanufacturing Center, co-directed by Dr. Joey Mead, the Freudenberg-NOK professor of elastomers in the Plastics Engineering Department, and Dr. Carol Barry, Associate Professor in Plastics Engineering. A new building is being planned that will centralize all the nanotechnology research on campus.
"New devices and materials with nanoscale properties have tremendous potential for electronic, medical and energy applications," Mead said. "Our challenge is to solve the problems of mass-producing with this technology - that means high-rate, high-volume throughput. You might start with a test tube, but you can't just add more test tubes to get to tanker-loads.
"We've made excellent progress under a previous NSF grant to the UML Nanomanufacturing Center," she added. "With this grant, each institution will contribute its special strengths to the project, making our efforts even more effective."
UMass Lowell's expertise includes 50 years of experience in polymers and composites research and plastics engineering, as well as deep ties to industry. More than 170 Massachusetts companies have products, or are interested in developing products, that use nanotechnology. These companies employ about 30,000 people and generate revenue over $5 billion.
The Commonwealth has made a significant commitment to the UMass Lowell center, with an expected $5 million matching-funds grant and more than $20 million for construction of the new building. State Sen. Steven Panagiotakos said the NSF grant makes it possible for the state to award its matching funds.
"This is a major step in placing our region at the forefront of the research and development of the latest and possibly most comprehensive enabling technology of our lifetime, which means that we are poised to truly become a leader in the new innovation economy," he said.
UMass Lowell, a comprehensive university with special expertise in applied science and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. Lowell offers its 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students more than 80 degree programs in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, and the School of Health and Environment and the Graduate School of Education.