$3m grant to establish Advanced Nanomanufacturing Cluster for Smart Sensors and Materials

(Nanowerk News) Northeastern University has been awarded a $3 million grant to establish the Advanced Nanomanufacturing Cluster for Smart Sensors and Materials (“ANSSeM”), a consortium of private manufacturing companies and tier-one research universities working on new methods to create smart sensors and other revolutionary materials using ‘nanoscale’ printing processes.
The five-year grant award is made by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program, a program supporting large-scale, long-term research projects that have high potential to spur innovation, cluster development and job growth in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s investment will help fund new infrastructure at Northeastern’s George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, as well as at Tufts and UMass Boston, while helping drive commercialization of new products and driving workforce and economic development activities.
“Our administration has prioritized the growth of the Commonwealth’s nationally-leading innovation economy,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Through collaborative projects like the Advanced Nanomanufacturing Cluster for Smart Sensors and Materials, we are unlocking private investment and job creation in revolutionary technologies, unleashing the unmatched ingenuity of our citizens, and connecting every region in the Commonwealth to the innovation economy.”
“By partnering with academic researchers and private-sector employers, we are ensuring that the next generation of advanced manufacturing technology is developed, and deployed, in Massachusetts,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This consortium will connect Massachusetts employers to unique nanoscale manufacturing technology, helping to ensure the long-term competitiveness of our manufacturing sector.”
The Commonwealth’s investment will be matched by nearly $11 million in outside funds, highlighting the critical partnership between industry, academia, and public partners across Massachusetts. Proposals funded under the Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program are reviewed by an investment advisory committee composed of executives from academia, industry, and the venture capital communities.
The Baker-Polito Administration’s economic development strategy prioritizes research and development in high-potential emerging technology areas. The administration’s economic development legislation, filed in January 2016, proposes an additional $25 million state capital investment into the Scientific and Technology Research and Development Matching Grant Fund, the fund which supports the Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program.
During the event at Northeastern’s Kostas Research Institute in Burlington, Massachusetts, speakers highlighted the impact that smart sensors will have on advancing connected technologies, known as the “Internet of Things,” and the impact that increased R&D in nanomaterials could have on commercial products. Potential commercial applications range from high-precision sensors used to monitor premature babies in hospital neonatal units, to devices that track water quality, to wearable devices that monitor biometric data.
The cluster’s corporate partners include numerous well known manufacturers with operations across the state, including Rogers Corporation, a NASDAQ-traded public corporation that has its research headquarters at the Kostas Research Institute in Burlington; General Electric; Milara, Inc. of Medway and Milford; Raytheon, based in Waltham; HC Starck of Newton; and GloTech/OptoGlo, of Leominster and Devens.
Due to their electrical, mechanical and optical properties, nanomaterials have the potential to revolutionize the sensing industry. The ANSSeM consortium will work with the Nanoscale Offset Printing System (NanoOPS), a manufacturing technology pioneered by Northeastern University’s Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN), which will be the institutional home for the ANSSeM cluster work. NanoOPS can print nanoscale sensors and devices as small as 20 nm (or more than 1,000 times thinner than a human hair) on a variety of surfaces, and can print 100 to 1,000 times faster than current inkjet-based electronic and 3D printing.
The ANSSeM initiative has five major project tasks:
  • Designing, developing and manufacturing commercial prototypes based on smart sensors and advanced materials;
  • Increasing the flexibility of the nanoscale printing technology, to enable printing on a variety of soft and hard substrates;
  • Studying advanced materials and product life cycle sustainability, to ensure compliance with federal and state regulatory agencies;
  • Improving physical infrastructure, including the purchase of instruments and equipment for materials characterization and testing of product prototypes as well as two second-generation NanoOPS; and
  • Creating commercialization programs and workforce development, such as seminars and workforce training programs to introduce and expose highly-educated individuals who are currently out of the job market to the advanced printing technology.
  • The Commonwealth’s award builds on a previous state grant, which awarded $2 million for the launch of Northeastern’s Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing, funds which were provided to match an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Both grants from the Commonwealth are managed by the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
    “The success of the Nano OPS technology results from the extensive partnerships these researchers have built with manufacturing leaders across Massachusetts. Our continuing relationship with Northeastern University and the benefits from our earlier support are now leading breakthroughs into new fields of advanced manufacturing processes,” said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “The state supported research that has contributed to this breakthrough can benefit manufacturing firms from Boston, to Central Massachusetts, and even to the Berkshires, demonstrating the reach of these innovations.”
    Source: Massachusetts Technology Collaborative