NSF announces investment in future of manufacturing
Credit: Ella Maru Studio and Yoon Seok Kim/Jia Liu, Deisseroth/Bao laboratories, Stanford University
Continued U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing requires new technologies, processes, and skills, especially in the emerging fields of biomanufacturing, cyber-manufacturing and eco-manufacturing. To address that need, the U.S. National Science Foundation is announcing investments in 24 new projects to drive future manufacturing.
The award of more than $40 million in the form of seed grants, research grants and network grants will support research and education at 44 unique institutions in 18 states and the District of Columbia, including four jurisdictions eligible for the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
"Our investment provides industry with manufacturing tools that currently live only in the laboratory, or the imagination," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "Through the convergence of such fields as robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and materials research, future manufacturing will create revolutionary products with unprecedented capabilities, produced sustainably in facilities across the country by a diverse, newly trained workforce."
Future biomanufacturing will harness biology to make new products more efficiently and sustainably through large-scale production of therapeutic cells and molecules, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and fuels, as well as bio-based technologies for computing and communication. Some biomanufactured products will integrate with biological systems, interacting seamlessly with cells, living tissues and synthetic substrates.
NSF is investing in new methods for manufacturing cell-based therapies, drug-delivery molecules, polymers from plastic-eating microbes, and DNA-based electronics, as well as systems where cells will build electronics and microbes that will help assemble and reuse modular building materials.
Future cyber-manufacturing will transform the predictability, reliability and efficiency of all manufacturing by applying advances in such fields as AI, robotics and predictive modeling. This research will create new ways to increase the flexibility of assembly lines, opportunities for modular construction, and the speed and reliability of producing quantum and semiconductor technologies. Grantees will also investigate human interactions with robots and AI systems and interactions with complex technologies in manufacturing settings.
Future eco-manufacturing will impact the entire manufacturing life cycle to reduce energy consumption, lessen health and environmental impacts, and improve cost effectiveness. Breakthroughs will keep existing resources in use for as long as possible and as efficiently as possible and then provide new ways to recover materials at the end of their service lives.
NSF-funded projects will create safer, more sustainable ways to manufacture cement; new lithium-ion battery structures; a new approach to turn nitrate waste into nitrogen-based chemicals; and novel design approaches that incorporate origami, kirigami and self-actuation to re-imagine building life cycles.
"This investment advances the frontiers of manufacturing research and helps develop the workforce of the future, in order to assure U.S. leadership in global manufacturing in the decades to come," said Dawn Tilbury, NSF assistant director for Engineering.
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