NSF advances materials research and innovation with new centers
Credit: Jennifer Lewis and L. Mahadevan, Harvard University
Our lives, comfort, and well-being have come to depend on the development of new materials for everything ranging from smart electronics to implantable medical devices. The U.S. National Science Foundation fosters collaboration and innovation among universities, national laboratories, industry, and international scientific organizations through its Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers. These centers work to address critical challenges in material science such as extreme miniaturization, self-folding atomically thin "paper" materials, on-demand assembly of nanoparticles, materials behavior under extreme conditions, and the quantum revolution.
"Materials are enablers of technologies that directly affect people's lives," says Dr. Linda Sapochak, director of the Division of Materials Research. "This week, we announce an investment of $198 million to fund 11 Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers to forge new discoveries and fuel new technologies."
NSF is establishing three new centers and an additional eight successfully recompeted for funding this year in emerging fields such as quantum materials and synthetic biology.
The new centers include:
- University of Delaware Center for Hybrid, Active, and Responsive Materials, which will synthesize nanomaterials capable of self-assembly and other predesigned properties.
- UC Irvine Center for Materials Discovery will investigate synthetic materials in biological environments and under extreme conditions.
- UC San Diego Materials Research Center will develop biosynthetic materials that integrate engineered living matter with artificial polymers.
The existing centers include:
- Brandeis University Center for Bioinspired Soft Materials seeks to mimic the functions of living cells and tissues using simplified materials.
- Columbia University Center for Precision-Assembled Quantum Materials assembles 2D and smaller structures to discover and measure emergent properties.
- Harvard University Materials Research Center studies self-assembly and stimulus-response activity in soft materials.
- Ohio State University Center for Emergent Materials researches novel computer and information storage technologies by studying electron-spin.
- Penn State University Center for Nanoscale Science works on fabrication of nanomaterials with optical and electrical functions.
- Princeton University Center for Complex Materials studies insulators, semiconductors, polymers, and quantum computing.
- University of Chicago Materials Research Center focuses on how the structure and fabrication of a material impacts how it responds to stimuli.
- University of Minnesota Materials Research Center designs and studies electrical properties in novel materials.
These centers create opportunities that extend well beyond the fundamental science they pursue by contributing to the education and development of a future science and engineering workforce. Together, these facilities comprise a diverse network of instrumentation that broadly spans current materials research needs in academic, government, and industrial laboratories around the world.
Results from materials research at the centers are poised to have ripple effects across the scientific community and industry. Future developments in sectors like biotechnology, energy and computing, and even ceramics and everyday plastics and foams will benefit from the practical application of cutting-edge materials research.
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