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UMass Amherst Awarded $16M for New Nanotech Center

Photonics.com
Apr 2006
BOSTON, April 24, 2006 -- The University of Massachusetts Amherst has been chosen to host one of only 16 Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers in the nation, and has been awarded $16 million to establish the Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced today at a Statehouse news conference.

“Nanotechnology is truly our next great frontier in science and engineering,” said Michael Reischman, NSF deputy assistant director for engineering. “By tailoring molecules and even manipulating individual atoms, researchers now have the ability to design materials, medicines, electronics and machines at the tiniest, most fundamental level. This new center will address one of our greatest challenges -- moving these innovations more quickly from the laboratory to manufactured components and devices.”

“Nanotechnology is an important part of our state’s economic future, and this center will show graduates and businesses that we are committed to this promising new field,” said Gov. Mitt Romney. He said that the John Adams Innovation Institute is contributing $2 million in state matching funds to connect the center’s research with Massachusetts companies, and that he is filing legislation to secure an additional $5 million in matching funds to help create new manufacturing opportunities and stimulate economic development.

According to UMass Amherst, more than 50 members of its faculty work in nanotechnology, and including the funding announced today, they have secured $54 million in research money from government and industry since 1997.

The Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing (CHM) will concentrate on three areas of research: nanoelectronics, bionanotechnology, and nanomaterials and processing. The center is headed by James Watkins, professor of polymer science and engineering, and Mark Tuominen, professor of physics.

The nanoelectronics group will focus on electronic, magnetic and photonic devices, such as nanoengineered insulating materials for ultrasmall circuit wires used to make faster and smaller computer chips. Ultradense data storage media will be developed using hierarchical nanofabrication methods, as well as smart sensors to "sniff" out airborne toxins. Producing solar cells that are more efficient, less fragile and less expensive than silicon to reduce the cost of clean energy is also the agenda.

The bionanotechnology group will create materials for biomedical applications, including nanoparticles designed to target tumors and cancerous cells. Stiff, self-organizing gels that mimic cartilage will be developed as potential replacements for worn-out knee joints or hips. These same gels may eventually serve as scaffolding for damaged or diseased organs, CHM officials said.

Watkins said that, to create a useful product, researchers must connect materials of many sizes, from tiny scale to human scale. The challenge is how to create nano-based devices that can be manufactured reliably and inexpensively. “Many of our approaches are inherently manufacturable,” Watkins said. “While we are developing fundamentally new approaches to creating devices, we are focused on those techniques that can be inserted directly into the manufacturing processes that industry already uses, so it will be relatively easy to move from basic research to industrial application.”

UMass Amherst said it will also initiate a national nanomanufacturing network with public databases, forums on technology transfer, a digital library clearinghouse and other resources that will connect government, academic and industry nanoscience and manufacturing communities across the country.  

Fundamental to the success of the CHM will be its partners, the university said. Collaborators include Tiax, Lucent Technologies and IBM. Tiax, a technology development firm based in Cambridge, Mass., will help to commercialize products developed at CHM. Other industry partners include Evolved Nanomaterials Sciences, Forge Partners, Molecular Imprints, Novellus Systems, Seagate Technologies and  SCMaterials.

Academic partners include the Interuniversity MicroElectronics Center (Belgium), Mount Holyoke College, STCC, Toyohashi University of Technology (Japan) and University of Puerto Rico. Other partners include Environ International, Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

For more information, visit: www.umass.edu



GLOSSARY
nanotechnology
The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
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