(M.C. Roco, R.P. Khosla, D. Crawford)
Summarized by M.C. Roco for the ENG Nanotechnology Group
The Current ENG Base Support
NSF participation in NT is broad-based in all engineering disciplines. The participating Engineering Directorate (ENG) divisions -- Electrical and Communications Systems (ECS); Chemical and Transport Systems (CTS); Design, Manufacture, and Industrial Innovation (DMII); Bioengineering and Environmental Systems (BES); and Civil and Mechanical Systems (CMS) -- have identified NT as an area of future growth with interdisciplinary research opportunities. The annual expenditure in ENG will be approximately $20 million in 1997/1998 (FY '98). ECS and CMS have had a larger interest in the top-down approach (making big things small), including the ECS support for NNUN (see next section). This interest has primarily been driven by the potential advances in microelectronic and photonic components of reduced dimensions, as well generation of materials with higher mechanical and tribological properties. CTS and BES have a larger interest in the "building up" approach (from the molecular level to precursor nanoparticles and then to functional nanostructures). This work includes fundamental contributions on nanoparticles, nanolayers, and nanotubes; characterization and use of precursor nanostructures; and manufacturing processes for miniaturized devices and biosensors. DMII and CMS have a focus on nanofabrication of nanocomponents for MEMS and for coatings.
ENG is interested in promoting interdisciplinary research and education in the science and engineering of nanotechnology, and particularly in functional nanostructures. It is most likely that this will involve engineers, biologists, material scientists, chemists, and physicists. Selected examples of research areas suitable for study are as follows:
- Methods to generate and assemble nanoprecursors with controlled composition, size, and surface properties via aerosols, colloids, plasma, combustion, biomolecular macromolecular chemistry, templates, molecular and cluster assembling, sintering, etc.
- Nanostructure design includes innovative techniques for synthesis and processing of active and smart nanolayers and coatings with special properties; generation and assembly of clusters and nanoparticles into functional nanostructures; bio-assisted assembling techniques; nanostructures on surfaces and catalytic particles; monolayer membranes of single-molecule thickness that possess exquisite size and shape distinction characteristics, and ceramic membranes that are derived from biomimetic principles of hierarchical structures; polymers used as templates to confer specific nucleation patterns and generate novel pore structures for ceramic materials; self-assembling nanostructures that are formed by surfactants and polymers leading to novel separation media; block copolymers and hyperbranched and dendritic polymers assembled to higher order structures; and plasma processes that are used to modify particles and other surfaces in a controlled way.
- Physical, mathematical, chemical, and biological modeling and simulation techniques of structure growth dynamics and assembly processes at mesoscale, at length scales where the current theories in physics and chemistry at molecular level (less than 1 nm) and classical thermodynamic theories at macroscopic level (over 100 nm) do not hold: modeling of transport phenomena that account for various transport mechanisms across a diversity of length and time scales including 1 to 100 nm; simulation of hierarchical processing and prediction of nanostructure properties.
- Instrumentation and sensors based on novel concepts and principles: methods to measure thermophysical properties of submicron scale materials; sensors with nanometer-scale resolution and response time in the microsecond range; infrared detectors that can operate at room temperature; various chemical sensors and biosensors that employ thin film technology; on-line measuring techniques.
- Basic principles of processing techniques: transport (nanofluidics, thermal processing); mixing; separation; nanomechanics; bioseparation; nanosensors to analyze metabolic pathways, morphological, chemical, thermal, and biological stability of nanostructures; the effects of applied electrical and magnetic fields on phenomena at nano scale; and nanofabrication processes.