Naval Research Laboratory Establishes Institute for Nanoscience

4/30/2001 - 11-01r
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The Naval Research Laboratory has established an Institute for Nanoscience to conduct multidisciplinary research at the intersections of the fields of materials, electronics and biology. As part of this effort, this summer NRL will begin construction of a major facility at NRL-DC called the Nanosciences Building.

Dr. Gary Prinz, currently a Senior Scientist in NRL's Materials Science and Technology Division, has been appointed as the first Director for the Institute for Nanoscience. Dr. Prinz is, "... excited about the opportunity to foster interdisciplinary research and the Institute's prospects for revolutionary scientific discovery." In his capacity as the Director for the Institute, Dr. Prinz will report to the Director of Research. Dr. Prinz will begin by providing technical oversight of the design of the new Nanoscience Building and identifying the research equipment needed for the new facility. Other appointments to the Institute will begin in October 2001.

"Some of the richest research opportunities will lie in the hybridization of different disciplines... It is clear that NRL is currently well positioned to take a leadership role in the emerging field of nanoscience," says Dr. Timothy Coffey, NRL's Director of Research. "In FY01, NRL has a broad collection of individual efforts in the various divisions directed at specific nanoscience issues. While nanoscience is an interdisciplinary topic, we should proceed in such a way that we do not destroy our centers of scientific and technical discipline that reside in our research divisions. The Institute is not the appropriate venue for the continuing development of in-depth expertise in a particular discipline," says Dr. Coffey.

The Institute is seen as the venue to bring together expertise from different disciplines in order to identify and exploit those cross-disciplinary opportunities which had not been previously accessible. As such, it will host scientists from other institutions for both short-term visits and long-term visits; collaborative interest has already been expressed by leading academic institutions both here and abroad. The Institute will maintain a strong postdoctoral program and provide an active colloquium series.

Since the Institute will begin by combining existing efforts under a new technical management structure, much of the physical facilities will initially reside in the existing Division buildings. However, the new Nanoscience Building, currently scheduled for occupancy in December 2002, will provide a common venuefor the collaborations envisioned in these cross-disciplinary efforts and a critical mass of fabrication, (e-beam writer, dual beam FIB, fine pattern aligner, deposition/etch), manipulation (Omicron nanomanipulator) and characterization (TEM, SEM, AFM, STM) equipment in a clean, low-noise environment.

The building will have approximately 5000 square feet of Class 100 clean room spaces configured in ballroom style (for easy adaptation to changing needs), approximately 4000 square feet of quiet (low vibration, acoustic, EMI, ±0.25°C) laboratory space and approximately 1000 square feet of ultraquiet (lower vibration, acoustic, EMI, ±0.1°C) laboratory space. So far as possible, sources of "noise" will be relegated into ample utility corridors sharing a wall with the lab space. Lower quality ("higher noise") laboratory space, offices, and conference rooms will be available through a corridor connecting into the Chemistry Division Building. The facilities will be treated as a Laboratory asset and not operated as a cost-center.

NRL is undertaking an experiment in organizing this major program around the Nanoscience Institute and Building. The structure of this program will itself be an experiment, explains Dr. Coffey. Scientists who are assigned to the Institute for Nanoscience will simultaneously hold permanent positions in their parent division. The title "Fellow of the Institute for Nanoscience" will be conferred as appropriate on select members of the Institute for Nanoscience. In this regard, the Director of the Institute will recommend to the Director of Research individuals who might hold the title "Fellow of the Institute for Nanoscience."

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