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UMass to Launch Nanotechnology Center

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AMHERST, Mass., Jan. 26 -- The University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst has announced plans to establish a nanotechnology research center, MassNanoTech, that will initially focus on nanoelectronics as a means to reduce the size of microelectronic components.

UMass professors Mark Tuominen of the physics department and Jim Watkins of chemical engineering will be co-directors of MassNanoTech, and Tom Russell, a professor of polymer science and engineering and the director of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, will be associate director. The center will operate under the auspices of the vice provost for research, Paul Kostecki.

"A campus advisory board comprised of deans, department heads and faculty members from various fields has begun the process of charting a path toward a major research and development facility to be built on the Amherst campus," the university said in a press release. "Organizers envision a multimillion dollar nanoscale device fabrication facility to provide the prototyping capabilities for novel devices being designed by UMass scientists. The center will also be active in the educational and societal dimensions of nanotechnology."

Research breakthroughs at UMass Amherst include polymer self-assembly techniques pioneered by Russell. He and Tuominen use these techniques to create arrays with a density of more than a trillion nanowires per square inch, which are leading to commercial innovations in magnetic storage of data and other applications.

"With techniques like this, we have the potential to get the contents of 25 DVD movies on a disk the size of a quarter," said Tuominen.

Another example in process technology uses supercritical CO2 introduced by Watkins that enables the deposition of metals and porous dielectrics (insulators) at the nanoscale. This technology is now being evaluated for industrial use in next-generation electronic devices.

Other nanoscale research accomplishments by UMass Amherst scientists include synthesis and modeling of nanoporous materials for use in catalysis and separations, engineering of nanopatterned surfaces with selectivity for various proteins, controlled fabrication of nanocomposite materials featuring magnetic and photonic properties and 3-D assemblies of nanoparticles for encapsulation.

More than $22 million in nanotechnology research funding has been awarded to 25 UMass faculty members since 1996, according to the university. MassNanoTech will coordinate its efforts with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and other nanotechnology efforts in the state.

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Jan 2004
industrialNews & Features

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