UNL wins $6.9 million grant to help fund nanoscience facility

UNL wins $6.9 million grant to help fund nanoscience facility

Calendar Icon Jan 14, 2010      Person Bust Icon By Carole Wilbeck | Engineering     RSS Feed RSS

A drawing of the new Physical Sciences Building (left) with the Nanoscience Metrology Facility on the right.
A drawing of the new Physical Sciences Building (left) with the Nanoscience Metrology Facility on the right.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received $6.9 million of federal stimulus funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to help fund construction of a new nanoscience research facility.

The grant will cover half the $13.8 million cost to construct the Nanoscience Metrology Facility. It will be adjacent to the north end of the new Physical Sciences Building, now under construction north of 16th and Vine streets. Private funds raised by the University of Nebraska Foundation through its Campaign for Nebraska and internal university funds will cover the rest of the construction cost. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a non-regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce; the funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"This grant reflects our faculty's success and our strength in nanotechnology and materials science," said UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman. "We are especially pleased to be able to leverage the state's deferred maintenance investment in the new Physical Sciences Building with this new building."

The 32,000-square-foot Nanoscience Metrology Facility will provide state-of-the-art laboratories, shared research facilities and administrative space in a central location. Core facilities, equipment, labs and faculty currently are located in several buildings across campus.

"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 obsolete departmental buildings and laboratories that are scattered across campus."

The building will feature flexible, multi-use research space designed 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.

UNL has a growing and nationally recognized research program in nanotechnology and materials science. More than 70 physics, chemistry, engineering and other faculty members from the College of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources collaborate through the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience. The university also is home to a National Science Foundation-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center focused on nanomagnetics.

"This facility will provide the much needed research space for an interdisciplinary and highly collaborative program of research excellence at UNL," said Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development. "We're grateful to Sen. Ben Nelson and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry for the support they have provided in helping us build our research capacity in nanoscience that addresses important challenges in Nebraska and nationally."

The Nanoscience Metrology Facility is "shovel ready," meaning its design is complete. Bids are expected to be let in February 2010 construction beginning in April and completion slated for summer 2011. The Physical Sciences Building was designed and is being built to accommodate the facility addition. Physics and astronomy faculty will move into the new 121,000-square-foot Physical Sciences Building this spring.

The new facility "will give a tremendous boost to the research capabilities" of UNL's nanoscientists and materials engineers, Sellmyer said. "Research funding is expected to double from its present $11 million per year, with many new discoveries, measurement methods, applications and economic development."