Carnegie Mellon Creates Nanotechnology Center to Study and Design a New Generation of Technologies


April 14, 2005

A multidisciplinary team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers will work to create and design new technologies at the Center for Nano-enabled Device and Energy Technologies.

Under the direction of Elias Towe, a professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, the new center will harness nanoscale research under way at both the College of Engineering and the Mellon College of Science. The center, which will be initially housed at the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems, will primarily focus on nanoscale research that enables the design of innovative systems for sensing and on future energy generation and storage technologies. The secondary focus of the center will be on advanced information and communication technologies.

The center's formation comes during a time when tiny ideas seem to be coming of age like the recent move by the United States Patent and Trade Office to announce a new category just for nanotechnology inventions.

Nanoscale materials, structures and particles introduce new properties, behaviors or functions that can improve existing products or create new ones. Some products in the marketplace already sport nanoscale technologies. For example, semiconductor lasers used in CD players and in fiber-optic communication systems contain nanoscale structures called quantum wells. These quantum structures have led to low cost and improved product performance. Some sunscreens contain titanium dioxide nanoparticles that have the same ultraviolet protection properties as traditional sunscreens, but without the cosmetically undesirable "whitening" effect of conventional sunscreens. Even some wrinkle-resistant and stain-repellent fabrics use nanoscale molecular structures to behave in a unique way.

Nanotechnology is the realm of the very tiny; its name comes from the nanometer, a unit of measure so small that a human hair is roughly 80,000 nanometers thick. Individual molecules are measured in nanometers; so are viruses, strands of DNA and the microscopic structures that determine the performance of everyday materials like steel and plastic.

"The center is the vanguard of a technology that is expected to touch every part of the economy, the way information technology and computers have," said Cristina Amon, director of the College of Engineering's Institute for Complex Engineered Systems (ICES). "This ICES center, headed by Elias Towe, will impact future technologies for sensing, energy generation and storage, and information and communication."

The Center for Nano-enabled Device and Energy Technologies brings together an initial team of 23 faculty members with diverse expertise. These individuals have pioneered collaborative nanoscale research efforts that have attracted more than $13 million worth of external support from federal sources. Together with the College of Engineering and the Mellon College of Science, ICES will provide seed money for 11 new projects accelerating interdisciplinary nanoscale research at Carnegie Mellon.

"This new center will expand the frontiers of nanotechnology by leveraging Carnegie Mellon's strength in multidisciplinary research," said Pradeep K. Khosla, dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering. "Nanotechnology is about exploiting how the physical world behaves at the nanoscale level to engineer future systems and materials," he said.

The National Science Foundation predicted in 2001 that nanotechnology would contribute $1 trillion by 2015 into the global economy. Since 2000, Pennsylvania has awarded more than $4.1 million in customized job training grants to companies providing nanofabrication work, according to the state Department of Economic Development.

Source: Chriss Swaney, Carnegie Mellon News

Elias Towe will lead the new Center for Nano-enabled Device and Energy Technologies.

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Elias Towe

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