Funding, Grants & Awards

Universities Draw Big Bucks for Nanoscale Research

Sixteen universities have been named to lead research centers to study nanoscale science, engineering and technology. The National Science Foundation (NSF) will be granting a total of $81 million over five years to support a new National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI).

The new initiative replaces the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), whose funding ended in 2014. Eight former NNIN sites will be part of the new network, and the job will be similar: to give academic, government and company researchers access to university facilities outfitted with cutting-edge fabrication and characterization tools, instrumentation and expertise.

The awards range from $500,000 to $1.6 million for each institution per year. The majority are collaborating with other schools in their regions.

Among the sites chosen is Arizona State University, which will work with partners Maricopa Community Colleges and Science Foundation Arizona. The ASU site will be funded at $800,000 per year. The university's established nanotechnology infrastructure, which was part of NNIN, gave the school an edge in being chosen for the award, noted Trevor Thornton, principal researcher at Arizona State and a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering in a prepared statement.

Penn State, working with the Community College of Philadelphia, will receive $5 million over the term of the grant. Those two institutions expect to host outside researchers who want to use its nanotechnology center's equipment to image or manipulate atomic and molecular-scale samples. The Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization will run education programs to introduce high school students, college undergraduates and others to nanotechnology.

The University of Washington with partner Oregon State University won $4.5 million to operate a Pacific Northwest site with a focus on clean energy and biotechnology. The funding will also support the Washington Nanofabrication Facility, a fab lab that makes chips with nanoscale-sized features and devices for researchers working on nanoscale applications.

In 2016 one of the main sites will be chosen to coordinate the facilities. The job of that office will be to establish a Web portal to link the individual facilities' Web sites in order to provide a unified entry point to the user community and to help coordinate and disseminate best practices for national-level education and outreach programs across sites.

A full list of recipients is listed on the NSF site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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