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Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Division of Materials Research

The Division of Materials Research (DMR) supports a wide range of programs that address fundamental phenomena in condensed matter and functional materials, including synthesis and processing, structure and composition, properties and performance, and materials education. DMR provides support for research and education carried out by individual investigators, groups, and centers; for instrumentation; and for national user facilities. Grants for proposed projects may be for individual investigators or groups in a single discipline, target a specific program or project, be interdisciplinary, or require partnerships that cross the boundaries of traditional programs. DMR has interest in projects that advance the field of materials research and materials education through its core programs and through the NSF-wide priority areas and other activities of importance to the broader goals of NSF. DMR staff facilitate the co-review and co-funding of highly meritorious proposals within a program and across programs, divisions, or directorate boundaries as appropriate.

DMR Programs

Programs in the category DMR Programs support materials research and education ranging from investigations in condensed matter physics and solid state chemistry to basic research on functional materials, including metals, ceramics, polymers, biomaterials, and electronic, photonic, and magnetic materials. DMR supports projects that lead to the discovery and understanding of materials and condensed matter phenomena and the basis for their translation into technological applications. The division especially encourages projects that lead to the discovery of new phenomena, the creation of novel materials, and advances in understanding and control of materials behavior and processing. Discoveries often emerge from a creative interplay among theory, experiment, computer-based modeling and simulation, and the development of new instruments.

1. Metals

Supports research to increase understanding and predictive capabilities for relating synthesis, processing, alloy chemistry, and microstructure of metals to their physical and structural properties and performance in various applications and environments. Metals research encompasses the broad areas of physical and mechanical metallurgy. Topics supported include phase transformations and equilibria; morphology; solidification; surface modification, structure, and properties; interfaces and grain boundary structure; nanostructures; corrosion and oxidation; defects; deformation and fracture; and welding and joining.

2. Ceramics

Supports research investigating the characteristics of ceramic materials as they relate to the complex interplay among processing, development, and manipulation of microstructure, and properties and their ultimate performance in various applications and environments. The materials studied include oxides, carbides, nitrides, and other ceramics, including diamond and carbon-based materials. The microstructures investigated range from crystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous to composite and nanostructured. Potential uses include, but are not limited to, electronic and electrical, electrochemical, structural, optical/photonic, and biological/medical applications.

3. Electronic Materials

Supports research that investigates the fundamental phenomena associated with the synthesis and processing of electronic and photonic materials. The objective is to increase fundamental understanding and develop predictive capabilities for relating synthesis, processing, and microstructure of these materials to their properties and performance in various applications and environments. Topics supported include basic processes and mechanisms associated with nucleation and growth of thin films; nanostructure definition and etching processes; bulk crystal growth; and the interrelationship among experimental conditions, phenomena, and properties.

4. Materials Theory

Supports theoretical and complementary computational research in the topical areas represented in DMR programs, including condensed matter physics, polymers, solid-state chemistry, metals, electronic materials, and ceramics. Materials Theory is the primary source of funding at NSF for condensed matter theory. The program supports fundamental research that advances conceptual, analytical, and computational techniques for materials research. A broad spectrum of research is supported using electronic structure methods, many-body theory, statistical mechanics, and Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulations, along with other techniques, many of which involve advanced scientific computing. Emphasis is on approaches that begin at the smallest appropriate length scale—electronic, atomic, molecular, nano-, micro-, and mesoscale—required to yield fundamental insight into material properties, processes, and behavior and to reveal new materials phenomena. Areas of recent interest include strongly correlated electron systems; low-dimensional systems; quantum magnetism; nonequilibrium phenomena, including pattern formation, microstructural evolution, and fracture; high-temperature superconductivity; nanostructured materials and mesoscale phenomena; quantum coherence and its control; and soft condensed matter, including systems of biological interest.

5. Condensed Matter Physics

Supports fundamental, experimental, and combined experiment and theory projects on the physics of solid, liquid, and amorphous systems. Phenomena of interest include phase transitions; localization; electronic, magnetic, and lattice structure; superconductivity; elementary excitations, including electronic, magnetic, plasma, and lattice; transport, magnetic, and optical properties; and nonlinear dynamics. Low-temperature physics is represented by research on quantum fluids and solids as well as two-dimensional electron systems. Soft condensed matter research includes partially ordered fluids, colloid physics, and hybrid media involving biological molecules. Characterization and analysis of new materials by novel methods and research on condensed matter under extreme conditions—such as low temperatures, high pressures, and high magnetic fields—are of interest. Development of new experimental techniques to carry out proposed projects is encouraged.

6. Solid-State Chemistry

Supports basic research that includes understanding the atomic and molecular basis for synthesis, structure-composition-property relationships, and the processing of materials. The program is largely multidisciplinary with strong components of chemistry, physics, biology, and materials science. Special attention is given to the creation of new classes of materials exhibiting new phenomena and discovering specific materials with superior properties. Current research areas include innovative synthetic routes to new materials; characterization of materials displaying new phenomena or superior behavior; the relationships among structure, composition, and properties such as chemisorption, cooperative-assembly, transport, and reactivity; and materials preparation, processing, and optimization by chemical means. The current materials emphasis is on hybrid materials, complex materials, bio-inspired and environmental materials, and advanced materials optimization and processing.

7. Polymers

Supports basic research and education on the materials aspects of polymer science that are largely experimental and multidisciplinary, with strong components of chemistry, physics, and materials science. The program addresses synthesis, structure, morphology, processing, characterization, and structure-property relationships of polymers at the molecular level, with particular focus on new materials or materials with superior properties. The polymers studied are principally synthetic, but there is also an interest in biopolymers.

8. Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs)

Support interdisciplinary materials research and education while addressing fundamental problems in science and engineering that are important to society. MRSECs require outstanding research quality and intellectual breadth, provide support for research infrastructure and flexibility in responding to new opportunities, and strongly emphasize the integration of research and education. These centers foster active collaboration between universities and other sectors, including industry, and they constitute a national network of university-based centers in materials research. MRSECs address problems of a scope or complexity requiring the advantages of scale and interdisciplinary interaction provided by a campus-based research center. DMR expects that there will be an open competition for new MRSECs in fiscal year 2005. For more information about the MRSECs, including links to the research and education activities of each center, visit the MRSEC home page,

9. Instrumentation for Materials Research

Supports the development and acquisition of state-of-the-art tools to carry out advanced materials research. The program supports major shared instruments essential to investigators conducting research that spans two or more disciplinary areas within DMR or more than one NSF division; and instrumentation required by one or more investigators conducting research in a single disciplinary area within DMR that has a total cost of approximately $100,000 or more. The program strongly encourages submission of proposals for the development of new instruments that have the potential to solve important materials problems, proposals that will significantly advance measurement capabilities, and proposals that could lead to new discoveries. The program typically has only one deadline per year. For more information about current program guidelines and deadlines, visit the DMR home page, The program also coordinates the review for the NSF-wide Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program for DMR.

10. Office of Special Programs

Coordinates DMR-related international activities and DMR participation in many of the NSF-wide programs involving education, human resource, and career development. Programs include Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RET), Opportunities for International Cooperation in Materials Research, International Materials Institutes (IMI), Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM), Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER), Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI), and Research Opportunity Awards (ROA).

11. National Facilities

Supports the operation of national user facilities—research facilities with specialized instrumentation available to the scientific research community in general and the materials research community in particular. These facilities provide unique research capabilities that can be located at only a few highly specialized laboratories in the Nation. They include facilities and resources for research using high magnetic fields, ultraviolet and x-ray synchrotron radiation, neutron scattering, and nanofabrication. For more information, please contact the facilities directly at the addresses listed below.

Center for High-Resolution Neutron Scattering
National Institute of Standards and Technology
NIST Center for Neutron Research
100 Bureau Drive, MS 8562
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8562
Telephone: 301-975-6242
Web address:

Building 434D
Advanced Photon Source
Argonne National Laboratory
9700 South Cass Avenue
Argonne, IL 60439
Telephone: 630-252-0464
Web address:
(Click “Beamline Directory,” go to15-ID and click “CARS.”)

Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source
200 L. Wilson Laboratory
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Telephone: 607-255-7163
Web Address:

National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (operated by Florida State University, the University of Florida, and Los Alamos National Laboratory)
Florida State University
1800 E. Paul Dirac Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32310-3706
Telephone: 850-644-0311
Web address:

Synchrotron Radiation Center
University of Wisconsin at Madison
3731 Schneider Drive
Stoughton, WI 53589-3097
Telephone: 608-877-2000
Web address:

National Nanofabrication Users Network
Web address:
(Participating institutions: Cornell University, Howard University, the Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, and University of California at Santa Barbara)
The NNUN will be replaced in January 2004 with a broader National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network with enhanced capabilities.

Other DMR Activities Of Interest

1. Focused Research Groups (FRGs)

These are materials research projects that generally are smaller than centers (e.g., Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers) and address problems that require an interactive approach involving three or more investigators. This is not a new program and there is no specific announcement or call for FRG proposals. FRG proposals are handled by individual investigator program directors in the Division of Materials Research, and are reviewed and co-reviewed by DMR and other NSF program staff as appropriate, recognizing the collaborative interdisciplinary aspects of such proposals. A list of FRGs currently supported by DMR is available on the DMR home page,

2. Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)

DMR supports more than 70 REU Sites, as well as REU supplements for undergraduate participation in research. REU awards are made in conjunction with the NSF-wide REU Program, and REU Sites are coordinated through the Office of Special Programs. To foster participation by precollege science teachers in materials research, DMR also supports awards for RET in conjunction with the MPS Office of Multidisciplinary Activities. For more information on REU, visit the NSF Crosscutting Programs home page, A list of DMR-supported REU Sites is available on the DMR home page,

3. Materials Research and Education Awards

DMR supports innovative approaches to materials education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Awards are made annually through open competition. For more information on this DMR activity see; or contact the Office of Special Programs.

4. Opportunities for International Cooperation in Materials Research

DMR supports a growing number of activities that enhance international cooperation in materials research. Examples include supplementary support for existing grants, international workshops, and awards for cooperative research projects and related activities. In many cases, these activities are coordinated and co-funded with the Office of International Science and Engineering and other NSF offices, including the Directorate for Engineering and the MPS Office for Multidisciplinary Activities. Proposals can usually be submitted to the appropriate disciplinary program. In some cases, they are evaluated through a special competition coordinated through the Office of Special Programs. For example, cooperative activities with Europe—in partnership with the European Community or with funding agencies in European countries—respectively are described in more detail in program announcements NSF 03-565 and NSF 02-135; and cooperative activities with the Americas—in partnership with funding agencies in countries in the Americas—are described in Dear Colleague Letter NSF 02-141. For more information, see

5. International Materials Institutes (IMI)

DMR aims to establish International Materials Institutes that will enhance international collaboration between U.S. researchers and educators and their counterparts in specific regions of the world such as Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, or the Pacific region. These institutes will advance fundamental materials research by coordinating international projects that involve condensed matter and materials physics; solid state and materials chemistry; and the design, synthesis, characterization, and processing of materials to meet global and regional needs. The institutes must be university-based and provide a research environment that will attract leading scientists and engineers. This may be accomplished for example, by supporting research in selected thematic areas by networking with other universities, centers, and national facilities. An important aspect of the IMI's activities will be to integrate materials research with education. For more information, see program solicitation NSF 03-593, or contact the Office of Special Programs. A new competition is expected in fiscal year 2004.

6. Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI)

DMR supports a wide range of GOALI awards in the area of materials. GOALI aims to catalyze university-industry partnerships by making funds available to support an eclectic mix of industry-university linkages. Special interest is focused on affording the opportunity for (1) faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students to conduct research and gain experience with production processes in an industrial setting; (2) industrial scientists and engineers to bring industry's perspective and integrative skills to academe; and (3) interdisciplinary university-industry teams to conduct long-term projects. The initiative targets high-risk/high-gain research with a focus on fundamental topics that would not be undertaken by industry, new approaches to solving generic problems, development of innovative collaborative industry-university educational programs, and direct transfer of new knowledge between academe and industry. For more information, visit the DMR Web site,

7. Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM)

Enhances diversity in materials research and education by stimulating the development of formal, long-term, collaborative research and education partnerships between minority-serving institutions and DMR-supported groups, centers, and facilities. For more information on PREM, see program solicitation NSF 03-564 or contact the Office of Special Programs.

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