Nanoscience Facility
in the Works

The more than 70 physicists, chemists and engineers who collaborate on UNL’s nationally recognized materials and nanoscience research soon will share a new, centralized research facility.

The new Nanoscience Metrology Facility will provide much-needed research space for this interdisciplinary program of excellence, whose core facilities, equipment, labs and faculty currently are located in several campus buildings. The new facility will feature centrally located laboratories, research facilities and administrative space. Construction is under way with completion slated for 2011.

Construction was made possible by a $6.9 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to cover nearly half of the $14.8 million cost. Private donations and university funds will finance the rest. NIST is a non-regulatory agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The 32,000-square-foot building is being constructed adjacent to the new Theodore Jorgensen Hall, which houses the physics and astronomy department. It is designed with flexible, multi-use research space to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration. It will provide a low-vibration, temperature-controlled, low-electromagnetic field environment and clean rooms necessary for world-class research and measurements.

"It will provide modern central facilities for nanofabrication, electron microscopy and other synthesis and characterization laboratories," said David Sellmyer, director of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience. "Also, it will permit new collaborative research that cannot be pursued in our present … buildings and laboratories that are scattered across campus."

UNL is home to one of the nation’s top nanomagnetism research groups. Materials scientists, nanoscientists and engineers from across UNL collaborate through the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience, and in UNL’s National Science Foundation-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center focused on nanomagnetics and spintronics.

Powerful Microscope Will Aid Research

Sophisticated equipment in UNL’s Nanoscience Metrology Facility will include a new transmission electron microscope to characterize the structure and properties of nanoscale materials and devices.

Such state-of-the-art equipment is important "so that you can do the best science," said physicist David Sellmyer, director of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience. The center received a $1.3 million Major Research Instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the microscope, which should be installed in early 2011.

The powerful microscope can characterize nanomaterials such as thin films, patterned surfaces, particles and wires. It can map structure, composition and properties and provide 3-D analysis. UNL researchers currently must travel out of state to use such equipment.

"Knowing the structure of nanomaterials is extremely important," Sellmyer said. "When you make particles that small, they can have structures that don’t exist normally. You can’t clearly understand how the particles are functioning without knowing the structure."

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