MATERIALS RESEARCH $219,320,000
The FY 2002 Budget Request for the Materials Research (DMR)
Subactivity is $219.32 million, a decrease of $190,000, or 0.1 percent,
from the FY 2002 Current Plan of $219.51 million.
(Millions of Dollars)
DMR supports research and education to advance the fundamental
understanding of materials, to enable the development of materials with
superior properties, and to enhance the understanding of the interconnections
among synthesis, processing, composition, structure and properties of
materials and how these factors affect their performance. Materials research
integrates a wide range of activities spanning both science and engineering.
It extends from investigations of fundamental phenomena in condensed matter
physics and solid-state chemistry to research on functional materials
including metals, ceramics, polymers, biomaterials, and electronic, photonic
and magnetic materials. Its practitioners include physicists, chemists,
materials scientists, and engineers, and, increasingly, it benefits from
the participation of researchers from an even wider range of disciplines
such as biochemistry, biology, earth sciences, mathematics, computer science,
The technological and societal significance of the field
is far-reaching. DMR supports education, fundamental research and facilities
that are critically important to the future advancement of industries
and technologies ranging from electronics and communications to information
technology, transportation and aerospace, energy, environmental protection,
manufacturing, medicine and health care, packaging, and civil infrastructure.
NSF provides about half the total federal support for university-based
research in materials. More than half of DMR's portfolio consists of support
for individual investigators and focused research groups. The balance
supports 29 Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs),
and experimental facilities for shared use, including the National High
Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) and user facilities for x-ray synchrotron
radiation and neutron scattering. In FY 2002 an additional $1.47 million
is being provided to the NHMFL by Congressional directive to pay for increased
energy costs for the remainder of the current award period through FY
Researchers and educators supported by DMR made exciting
progress this year:
- James Economy's research group at the University of Illinois has developed
a family of activated carbon fibers with exceptional adsorption, selectivity,
and versatility. As a result the group has collaborated with scientists
from 3M Co., Schuller International, and Culligan Industrial Systems
to design and optimize an advanced-separations platform to adsorb and
filter environmental contaminants. The novel polymeric materials developed
by this group are already being explored for their applications in water
purification, air-quality systems, and homeland security including the
mitigation of toxic chemicals.
- Conventional wisdom would suggest that it is impossible to propagate
light through a structure smaller than its own wavelength. Researchers
at the Cal Tech MRSEC have demonstrated that light can propagate along
waveguides with lateral dimensions of a few nanometers - only a few
percent of the wavelength of visible light. The key is to exploit the
tendency for electromagnetic excitations to `hop' between electric dipoles
such as fluorescent dye molecules or metal nanoparticles. The light
can even travel around sharp corners and through nanoscale networks
- all of which is impossible with conventional waveguides.
- Research at the frontier of classical and quantum mechanics continues
to produce fascinating results. James Lukens at the State University
of New York, Stony Brook, has created a superconducting device in which
two electronic circuits with currents circulating in opposite directions
are maintained coherently in the same quantum state. This is the largest
system in which these strange effects predicted by quantum mechanics
have ever been seen. The experiments have ramifications for fundamental
measurement theory of quantum mechanics and for the creation of `qubit'
elements for quantum computing.
- With DMR support, Viola Acoff at the University of Alabama organizes
an annual summer workshop for faculty in the mathematical and physical
sciences from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Participants
receive a thorough introduction to the materials science and engineering
discipline through lectures, hands-on laboratory work, and visits to
industrial facilities. They become familiar with the instruments and
processes needed to develop instructional examples and experiments,
and can then convey to their students the significance of materials
in the realm of the physical sciences while introducing them to new
The FY 2003 Budget Request includes several enhancements
and new activities:
- Support for materials research areas related to homeland
security, such as sensor materials and nanoscale instrumentation, will
be enhanced through competitive review in core programs.
- DMR will increase support for NSF priority areas in Nanoscale
Science and Engineering (by $5.61 million to $70.93 million) and Information
Technology Research (by $690,000 to $9.93 million). Support for international
collaboration in materials research and education through centers and
disciplinary research programs will be enhanced by up to $2.0 million.
Up to $2.0 million will be used to establish at least two Collaboratives
for Materials Research and Education, enabling minority-serving institutions
to strengthen their research and education activities in materials by
developing links with existing materials groups, centers and facilities.
Grant size and duration will be maintained at current levels or higher.
- The planned level of DMR support for the NHMFL is $24.0
million in FY 2003, a decrease of $970,000, subject to the satisfactory
outcome of a progress review in FY 2002. As planned in the five-year
award beginning in FY 2001, DMR will shift resources within the NHMFL
to provide an additional $500,000 in FY 2003 to strengthen user support
and enhance instrumentation at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
In order to support these new and enhanced activities in
FY 2003, DMR funding for lower priority areas will be reduced.