The latest news from academia, regulators
research labs and other things of interest
Posted: Jan 12, 2015
Penn State Center for Nanoscience awarded $15 million research grant
(Nanowerk News) The Penn State Center for Nanoscale Science, a National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), has been awarded a six-year, $15 million grant to continue its research and education program in the development and application of nanoscale materials.
Image captions from upper left, clockwise: 1) A high-performance ferroelectric material that may find application in future low-loss, high-frequency cellular networks. 2) Time-lapse image of the collective expansion of a swarm of self-propelled nanomotors. 3) Newly discovered roto-distortion symmetry of an oxide lattice. 4) A porous nanostructure of semiconducting germanium (orange) infiltrated into a lattice of nanoscale silica spheres (purple). (Image: Penn State University)
"Penn State hosts an unusually broad and deep materials research community, with a shared dedication to research, education and outreach arising from its land-grant origins," said Vincent Crespi, Distinguished Professor of Physics, Materials Science and Engineering, and Chemistry at Penn State and director of the Center for Nanoscale Science. "The center brings together research teams of experienced and emerging scientists and engineers at all career stages, and challenges them with problems too difficult to solve individually or in small-scale collaborations."
The Center for Nanoscale Science is organized around four main research objectives. Its researchers are developing nanomotors powered by liquid fuel and sound that can gather together, sense their environment and react by moving toward a target or calling for reinforcements. Center members will use computers to design new materials -- which can be built atom-by-atom -- with the ability to change shape in response to electrical signals. They are filling billions of tiny pores with semiconductors to squeeze electrons into new modes of behavior through "quantum confinement" while retaining the ability to conduct current. They also are designing nanoparticles to assemble into complex, reconfigurable patterns that guide light and electrons in new ways to create lasers, tiny antennas and the building blocks of computer vision.
Education and outreach are also a core part of the center’s mission. “Materials research is most effective when it is borderless -- crossing disciplines, career stages and the transition from research to practical application," said Crespi. Center students and postdoctoral researchers engage in educational outreach with science museums, summer science camps and local schools to help inspire the next generation while developing skills in communicating science to diverse audiences. "Working with student researchers is the most gratifying and energizing part of our mission," said Crespi. “The center's faculty guide and mentor students not only in how to make transformative discoveries in materials research, but also in how to communicate their discoveries to public audiences and translate them into new jobs and new industries whose existence couldn’t have been imagined when the students started their educations.”
The Center for Nanoscale Science also supports high-risk, high-reward "seed" projects from faculty members across Penn State. "Seed projects have continuously rejuvenated and redirected the mission of the Penn State Center for Nanoscale Science," Crespi said. "I encourage folks with compelling materials research ideas to keep an eye out for the annual call for seed proposals coming this summer."
Thirty-seven faculty members across seven departments and three colleges at Penn State, plus eight faculty members at partner institutions around the world, are joining their diverse backgrounds in pursuit of these ambitious goals. The Center for Nanoscale Science was founded in 2000 and was renewed previously with funding in a nationwide competition in 2008. The center partners closely with the Materials Research Institute, an interdisciplinary institute that promotes and coordinates research in materials at Penn State.