UNH in nanotechnology consortium receiving $12.4 million NSF grant

09/22/04

Researchers aim to 'nanomanufacture' biosensors and memory chips

DURHAM, N.H. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) and two other universities will share a $12.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for nanotechnology research.

The Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing will unite the talents of researchers at UNH, Northeastern University (NU) and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (UML) to bring nanotechnology from the lab to the factory. Each institution will receive approximately $4 million over the next five years.

"We are very excited about this opportunity to partner with Northeastern and UMass-Lowell," said UNH President Ann Weaver Hart. "The National Science Foundation estimates that new nanotechnology-based products will contribute 2 million jobs and $1 trillion dollars in revenue to the world's economy by 2015. The fact that UNH is involved in the research to make these applications possible to the global economy is yet another example of the quality of work that is conducted here."

The center's goal is to develop general tools for manufacturing at the nano scale and apply them to two specific products in the next five years: biosensors that can be implanted in the body for early detection of diseases and nanotube memory chips that can store vastly more information than conventional silicon chips.

"We envision that the nanomanufacturing tools developed in our center will benefit the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and semi-conductor industries," said proposal Co-principal Investigator and UNH point-person Glen Miller. "The faculty and student members of the center anticipate a lot of synergistic interactions with each other and with our industrial partners. We're excited for the opportunity."

Because the building blocks of nanodevices are so small one thousandth the width of a human hair they can't be physically manipulated. The center's nanomanufacturing tools, however, will allow researchers to coax these nanoelements into place using a process called "directed self-assembly." To do this, the center is developing a series of nanotemplates that will align nanoelements into a desired pattern before transferring them to another surface.

UNH's main role is to provide knowledge in the basic sciences behind nanotemplate fabrication. Chemistry, materials science, and physics faculty and students will be key players. UML will bring manufacturing know-how to the center and NU will contribute expertise in reliability and defect control.

"Alone, perhaps none of the consortium partners have all the strengths sufficient to win such a competitive grant," said UNH College of Engineering and Physical Sciences Dean Arthur Greenberg. "But by combining our strengths, we have become a major player in the field."

The new center will capitalize on growing ties between the consortium partners and industry. Its industrial advisory board includes New Hampshire companies BAE Systems and Bentley Pharmaceuticals and 13 companies, including Nantero, Triton Systems and Motorola, have committed more than $9 million to the center to help transition the promise of nanotechnology to realistic commercial products. The first step will be to make prototype testbeds to prove that the center's nanomanufacturing concepts work.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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