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Posted: April 1, 2010
Retooled Kavli Institute to focus on nanotechnology ideas 'so crazy they might actually work'
(Nanowerk News) Leaders of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science want its members to go for the impossible.
The institute is reinventing itself into a cutting-edge, research-focused organization to support projects at the boundaries of nanoscale imaging and control.
"The unique role of the Kavli Institute at Cornell will be to identify particular areas of nanoscale science research that are at a stage where there is an exceptional opportunity for groundbreaking progress," said Robert Buhrman, senior vice provost for research.
Miyoung Chun, vice president of science programs at the Kavli Foundation, speaks with Paul McEuen, director of the Kavli Institute at Cornell, during a tour of the Physical Sciences Building construction site. Cornell's Kavli Institute will be housed in the new building.
The Kavli Institute will be located in the new physical sciences building, expected to open in the fall, and will be led by Paul McEuen, professor of physics. David A. Muller, associate professor of applied and engineering physics, will serve as co-director. Other core faculty members will be Dan Ralph, professor of physics; and Michal Lipson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; as well as two additional faculty members.
McEuen suggests that a major roadblock for transformative progress in nanoscience is "the tools that serve as 'eyes' and 'hands' for structures that are too small for us to see or touch."
As a result, the institute will focus initially on next-generation electron-beam and optical microscopy; physical and electronic measurement and manipulation; and optoelectronic nanocharacterization. With facilities and funding opportunities open to all members of Cornell's nanoscale and nanofabrication community, the institute will fund small teams for developing cross-cutting approaches at the boundaries of various nanoscale sciences. Two Kavli postdoctoral fellows will be funded per year. In addition, Kavli Instrumentation Projects will support the purchase and development of scientific tools for probing the nanoscale.
The institute's mission will complement Cornell's existing centers that cut across such disciplines as nanofabrication and nanoscale materials.
The institute's leaders emphasize that "high-risk, high-payoff projects" are to be encouraged.
"We are looking for that handful of 'It's so crazy it might actually work' ideas that would change how we see the nanoworld," Muller said.
Since its founding in 2004, the Cornell institute has served mostly as a think tank for nanoscale science, and has brought together scientists to share ideas and visions. It has supported such activities as lectures, symposia, summer schools and workshops. Cornell's Kavli Institute is one of four nanoscience institutes funded by the Kavli Foundation; 15 Kavli institutes worldwide focus on nanoscience, neuroscience, cosmology and theoretical physics.