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Press Release 12-164
Engineering Research Centers Awarded $55.5M to Innovate in Nanoscale Science and Engineering

Three new centers to address significant national needs: health and environmental monitoring, mobile computing and energy technologies, and electromagnetic components

Photo of Veena Misra and John Muth in the NCSU Nanostructures Laboratory.

Veena Misra and John Muth discuss research of the ASSIST Center, an NSF Nanosystems ERC.
Credit and Larger Version

September 10, 2012

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded $55.5 million to university consortia to establish three new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) that will advance interdisciplinary nanosystems research and education in partnership with industry.

Over the next five years, these Nanosystems ERCs, or NERCS, will advance knowledge and create innovations that address significant societal issues, such as the human health and environmental implications of nanotechnology. At the same time, they will advance the competitiveness of U.S. industry. The centers will support research and innovation in electromagnetic systems, mobile computing and energy technologies, nanomanufacturing, and health and environmental sensing.

"The Nanosystems ERCs will build on more than a decade of investment and discoveries in fundamental nanoscale science and engineering," said Thomas Peterson, NSF's assistant director for engineering. "Our understanding of nanoscale phenomena, materials and devices has progressed to a point where we can make significant strides in nanoscale components, systems and manufacturing."

Since 1985, NSF's ERC program has fostered extensive collaborations to create technological breakthroughs for new products and services and to prepare U.S. engineering graduates for successful participation in the global economy.

The three centers launched this year, as part of the third generation of NSF ERCs, place increased emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, partnerships with small research firms in translational research, education of an innovative engineering workforce, and international collaboration and cultural exchange.

The NERCs are expected to create transformational science and engineering platforms for the respective fields of nanoscale research, education, and innovation. As appropriate to its particular areas of research, each NERC will include the societal and environmental implications of the nano-enabled scientific and technological breakthroughs.

"The Nanosystems ERCs will help bring the technological advantages that nanotechnology offers to a broad array of U.S. industries," said Lynn Preston, the leader of the ERC program, "and they will provide young engineers with valuable experience in research and entrepreneurship, positioning them to be leaders in emerging areas of the global economy."

Including the new awards, NSF supports 20 ERCs in the areas of biotechnology and health care; energy, sustainability and infrastructure; manufacturing; and microelectronics, sensing and information technology. Brief descriptions of the new centers follow.

The NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technology (ASSIST), led by North Carolina State University, will create self-powered wearable systems that simultaneously monitor a person's environment and health, in search of connections between exposure to pollutants and chronic diseases.

The NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies (NASCENT), led by the University of Texas at Austin, will pursue high-throughput, reliable, and versatile nanomanufacturing process systems, and will demonstrate them through the manufacture of mobile nanodevices.

The NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Translational Applications of Nanoscale Multiferroic Systems (TANMS), led by the University of California Los Angeles, will seek to reduce the size and increase the efficiency of components and systems whose functions rely on the manipulation of either magnetic or electromagnetic fields.

The NERCs will link with the resources of NSF's Network for Computational Nanotechnology as the main cyber-platform for dissemination of computational and simulation tools and educational materials. Additionally, the centers will leverage the experimental resources of the NSF National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network.

The NERCs will be a part of NSF's contributions to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which is a government-wide activity designed to ensure that investments in this area are made in a coordinated and timely manner and to accelerate the pace of revolutionary nanotechnology discoveries. A long-term view for nanotechnology research and education needs is documented in the 2010 NSF/WTEC report, "Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020."

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-7730, jchamot@nsf.gov
Maria Arrellaga, University of Texas at Austin, (512) 232-8060, arrellaga@utexas.edu
Matthew Chin, University of California Los Angeles, (310) 206-0680, mchin@support.ucla.edu
Nate DeGraff, North Carolina State University, (919) 515-3848, njdegraf@ncsu.edu

Program Contacts
Lynn Preston, Leader of the NSF ERC Program, (703) 292-5358, lpreston@nsf.gov
Deborah J. Jackson, Program Officer for the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Translational Applications of Nanoscale Multiferroic Systems, (703) 292-7499, djackson@nsf.gov
Barbara H. Kenny, Program Officer for the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technology, (703) 292-4667, bkenny@nsf.gov
Mary Toney, Program Officer for the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Energy Technologies, (703) 292-7008, mtoney@nsf.gov

Principal Investigators
Roger Bonnecaze, University of Texas at Austin, (512) 471-1497, rtb@che.utexas.edu
Greg Carman, University of California Los Angeles, (310) 825-6030, carman@seas.ucla.edu
Veena Misra, North Carolina State University, (919) 515-7356, vmisra@ncsu.edu

Related Websites
ERC Program Website: http://www.erc-assoc.org
National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI): http://nano.gov
NNI at NSF: http://www.nsf.gov/nano

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Illustration of a self-powered monitoring system that could be worn on the wrist.
Self-powered monitoring systems could be worn on the wrist.
Credit and Larger Version

Photo of photonic crystal structures for LEDs created with wafer-scale nanopatterning.
Wafer-scale nanopatterning may be used in the fabrication of LED structures.
Credit and Larger Version

Photo of a researcher loading a template for nano-sculpting on plastic films in a roll-to-roll tool.
A researcher loads a template for nano-sculpting on plastic films in a roll-to-roll tool.
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Images of a magnetic field turned on, left, and off, right.
TANMS researchers have used an electric field to turn a magnetic field on (left) and off (right).
Credit and Larger Version

Scanning electron micrograph of a nickel ring on a piezoelectric substrate.
A nickel ring on a piezoelectric substrate may be used in the fabrication of nanoscale motors.
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