An award from NSF's Academic Research Infrastructure Program to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, supported RPI's acquisition of a parallel supercomputer system as a centralized campus resource. Modern research is increasingly dependent on computer systems that can assist in the visualization, modeling, simulation, and analysis of complex technical phenomena. RPI's Scientific Computation Research Center now provides campus-wide access to an IBM parallel computer and servers, several very high performance visualization systems, and 20 advanced desktop graphics workstations. These instruments are being used by scientists, engineers, and their students in a number of university departments for research in manufacturing, materials and design, the environment, and other areas of strategic importance.
The University of Alaska-Fairbanks has received support from NSF's Academic Research Infrastructure Program for the purchase of a bench-top mass spectrometer. This instrument measures stable isotopes which provide important information for a variety of environmental research problems. Isotopes are useful in studying the mechanisms used by plants to take up nutrients, particularly carbon and nitrogen. Tracing the movement of these nutrients through nature yields important information on plant productivity, the biological and geological cycling of these nutrients, and the impact of these cycles on the environment. These impacts include the effects of variations in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, on other aspects of the environment. The new spectrometer is portable and has been used for shipboard aquatic studies by undergraduate student interns drawn from Alaska's diverse population.
NSF's Academic Research Infrastructure Program has provided instrumentation support to the Microelectronics Facility of Brown University's Center for Advanced Materials Research. Researchers at the facility need access to sophisticated instruments that provide extremely fine control over the deposition of layers for the growth of compounds in microelectronic and optical devices. Investigators rely on these instruments to develop and test new approaches to fabricating ever-smaller semiconductors, as well as optoelectronic devices (such as solar cells) with greater capabilities. The research performed on these new instruments has potential industrial applications and could increase the nation's competitiveness in the manufacturing domain.
An award from the Academic Research Infrastructure Program to Purdue University will create a unique and specialized research facility that advances global change research. The Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement Laboratory (PRIME Lab), using accelerator mass spectrometry, will be able to analyze radioisotopes in very small samples of earth materials with unprecedented accuracy. Researchers from a variety of disciplines in the earth sciences will use the NSF- funded instruments in the PRIME Lab to increase our understanding of important processes involving the biosphere, geosphere, and climate.
The Academic Research Infrastructure Program has provided support to the Mellon-Pitt-Carnegie Corporation, a nonprofit organization facilitating joint research activity between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, for the acquisition of a massively parallel computer for research in biotechnology. Using sophisticated and computation-intensive hardware and software resources, researchers at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon are developing and testing highly complex computer simulations of neuron activity in the human brain. These models help test and refine our understanding of human cognition, which includes such processes as reading and learning.
NSF's Academic Research Infrastructure Program has provided support to the University of California-Berkeley for expansion of the molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) chamber located in the university's Microfabrication Facility. MBE chambers are used to fabricate material structures on the scale of hundreds of nanometers (less than 1/1,000th of a millimeter) that improve control over the flow of electrons in semiconductors. Three new vacuum chambers will enable research on fabrication and processing of small-scale materials structures and research training of students using a wider variety of microelectronic structures. Many industries depend on ever-smaller electronic devices to remain competitive, and the expansion of this research instrument will help create and test new materials and processes with potential commercial application.
The Academic Research Infrastructure Program has provided support for testing instruments used for civil infrastructure research to the Constructed Facilities Center at the University of West Virginia. These instruments will increase our understanding of how construction materials behave in roads and bridges and will test the utility of new materials -- especially composite materials -- for infrastructure projects. For example, a new thermal chamber will allow research on materials during freeze-thaw cycles and at high temperatures. New instruments will allow materials to be monitored and tested in the field under normal use conditions. Research using these instruments has the potential for increasing the safety and decreasing the cost of our nation's infrastructure.