NSF awards $402,000 to Oregon nanofab center

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Sept. 1, 2004 – The National Science Foundation has awarded University of Oregon $402,000 for a new electron beam lithography and nanoimprint lithography systems. UO is contributing $172,000 of the $574,000 price tag for the new equipment.

UO Professors Mark Lonergan and Jim Hutchison were among the co-principal investigators listed on the grant application, giving an indication of the heavy use the systems will experience. Others listed on the application represent Portland State University and Oregon State University.

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The systems will be housed in CAMCOR, the university’s Center for Advanced Materials Characterization of Oregon. There are four different facilities, which are physically located in sites across the UO science complex and that operate under the umbrella of the Center.

CAMCOR has acquired a comprehensive array of instruments used for characterizing new materials. The facility is available to people on and off campus, and to several large and small Oregon companies that routinely use these instruments.

One of NSF’s many funding objectives is to finance state-of-the-art instrumentation for cutting-edge research, Hutchison said in a phone interview.

“What you have to do is make sure the funding agency believes it will be a good return on their investment. The NSF mission is to support basic research,” he said. This grant also fits in with University of Oregon’s strength in molecular nanotechnology — bottom-up assembly of materials.

The grant will affect many different scientific programs and technologies that will move toward commercialization, although this particular grant isn’t expected to have an immediate impact.

“This kind of lithography capability provides us with the finest features of top down patterning,” Hutchison said. “It will allow us to bridge through between the outside macro world and our nanoworld. This is a really key component of the nanofab facility that we’re putting on campus here.”

The Center is part of Oregon’s recently inaugurated Oregon Nanoscience & Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), whose associated researchers at UO, Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., are working on a number of nanotech and microtech projects.

UO is planning to build new facilities for nanofabrication research at an UO branch of ONAMI that is expected to begin construction in Spring 2005.

“This is the cornerstone of ONAMI’s nanofab facility,” Christine Gramer, OU technical outreach officer, said in a telephone interview. “It will follow the CAMCOR model we have used [for several years].”

The equipment “will be considered ONAMI and part of the nanofabrication facility. It will be a big part of our contribution to ONAMI,” Gramer said.

The money is on hand and researchers are in the process of talking to a number of manufacturers, which include any company that makes a scanning electron microscope, Hutchison said.

Administrators of ONAMI learned in July this year that they are in the running for $10 million in federal defense grants for 2005. They expect the additional funding for two current federal defense projects that link nanotechnology with microscale systems.

UO is taking responsibility for the process of nailing down the $5 million awarded for a US Air Force project. The project is for the development of nanomaterials and manufacturing methods to meet the military’s need to protect human health and minimize harm to the environment.

The second of ONAMI’s defense grants is $5 million from the U.S. Army to continue development of miniaturized tactical energy systems, including portable power systems for military use in the field, and power systems for remote, autonomous sensors. OSU is taking responsibility for that grant.

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