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Nanoscale Research Receives $12M from NSF

Industry-Leading Research for Commercial Technologies to Continue

Profs. Joey Mead, middle, and Carol Barry, right, with Chancellor Marty Meehan.

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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 UMass Lowell, Northeastern University, 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,” says Joey Mead, deputy director of the Center and professor of plastics engineering at UMass Lowell. “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.”

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,” says Provost Ahmed Abdelal. “A new state-of-the-art facility is in the design phase to provide for further growth of this hallmark program.”

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. The Center is also investigating the environmental, economic, regulatory, social and ethical impacts of nanomanufacturing.

In addition to Mead, the Center’s leadership team includes Director Ahmed Busnaina, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University; 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.

-Edwin Aguirre