North­eastern University’s Nanoscale Sci­ence and Engi­neering Research Center for High-​​rate Nanoman­u­fac­turing (CHN) has received a $12.25 mil­lion renewal grant from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion to con­tinue its industry-​​leading research: trans­lating nanoscale sci­en­tific processes into com­mer­cially viable technologies.

The center’s three aca­d­emic part­ners – North­eastern, the Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts Lowell and the Uni­ver­sity of New Hamp­shire – are con­ducting cutting-​​edge research that has the poten­tial to rev­o­lu­tionize the man­u­fac­turing of smaller, more energy effi­cient elec­tronic devices.

The five-​​year renewal grant will cover the Center’s funding through 2014. The NSF has pro­vided $24.85 mil­lion to the Center to date.

We are grat­i­fied for the con­tinued endorse­ment of the Center’s trans­la­tional, inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research focus by the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and our cor­po­rate part­ners,” said David E. Luzzi, Dean of Northeastern’s Col­lege of Engi­neering. “The great promise of nan­otech­nology will be more quickly real­ized through these key invest­ments in man­u­fac­turing research.”

In part­ner­ship with industry and foun­da­tions, the Center is cre­ating prod­ucts such as nanobiosen­sors that can detect cancer at early stages; flex­ible, light­weight solar cells; nano-​​sized devices for ther­a­peutic drug delivery; small, high-​​powered bat­teries; and flex­ible elec­tronics, such as cell phones, that are light­weight and energy efficient.

With appli­ca­tions that promise to deliver every­thing from small, pow­erful com­puters to highly sen­si­tive biosen­sors, nan­otech prod­ucts could com­mand a $1 tril­lion market by 2015, according to the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion. Researchers already know how to make nanoscale struc­tures that can be used to make prod­ucts, but mass-​​producing these struc­tures is a huge chal­lenge. Tra­di­tional man­u­fac­turing approaches for nano­ma­te­rials are expen­sive, very slow, and unsuit­able for commercialization.

The Center’s goal is to develop the tech­nology nec­es­sary for industry to mass-​​produce high-​​quality nanoscale prod­ucts that will become com­mer­cially viable much faster than the usual two-​​decade time frame.

The col­lab­o­ra­tive research part­ner­ship between the Center and industry is accel­er­ating the devel­op­ment of nanotechnology-​​based prod­ucts that can impact a number of indus­tries, including health­care and energy,” said Ahmed Bus­naina, director of the Center and William Lin­coln Smith Pro­fessor of mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering at North­eastern. “Our research is devel­oping more cost-​​effective, safe and highly reli­able processes that can be scaled up for large-​​scale manufacturing.”

Estab­lished in 2004, the Center now has more than 160 researchers and staff mem­bers working on devel­oping nanoscale processes and applications.

One nanometer equals 1 bil­lionth of a meter, and the dif­ferent phys­ical, chem­ical and bio­log­ical prop­er­ties of matter at such a small scale can be used to create improved mate­rials, devices, and sys­tems. CHN researchers aim to create high-​​rate, high-​​volume man­u­fac­turing processes for nanotechnology.

The Center’s mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary approach has been piv­otal in devel­oping solu­tions to nanoscale sci­ence and engi­neering issues, and in inves­ti­gating the envi­ron­mental, eco­nomic, reg­u­la­tory, social and eth­ical impacts of nanoman­u­fac­turing. The stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff involved with the Center come from var­ious areas of exper­tise, including mechan­ical, elec­trical and plas­tics engi­neering; physics; chem­istry; envi­ron­mental health and safety; phi­los­ophy; and polit­ical science.

Northeastern’s nanoscale research iscon­ducted at the George Kostas Nanoscale Man­u­fac­turing Center.

The Center’s lead­er­ship team includes deputy director Joey Mead, pro­fessor of plas­tics engi­neering at UMass Lowell; asso­ciate director Glen Miller, pro­fessor of chem­istry and director of the mate­rials sci­ence pro­gram at the Uni­ver­sity of New Hamp­shire; asso­ciate director Carol Barry, pro­fessor of plas­tics engi­neering at UMass Lowell; asso­ciate director Jackie Isaacs, pro­fessor of mechan­ical engi­neering at North­eastern; and asso­ciate director Nick McGruer, pro­fessor of elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering at Northeastern.