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News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University / 3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-2692
Phone: (410) 516-7160 / Fax (410) 516-5251

January 31, 1997
For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Phil Sneiderman

New 'Nanostructures Center' Takes Giant Leap into Small World

Story: With funds from a $3.5 million, 5-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Johns Hopkins University will establish a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center to create and study nanostructures--microscopic materials measured in nanometers. One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, about 5 to 10 atoms wide or about 1 millionth the size of a typical grain of sand.

Who's Doing It: The new Materials Research Science and Engineering Center is a multidisciplinary project between the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Whiting School of Engineering. It will link the university with private-industry scientists who will seek practical applications for novel materials developed in campus labs. At the same time, Hopkins will involve high school and middle school students in this work in an effort to stir interest in science and engineering careers. These Baltimore area students and their teachers will get a front-row glimpse of nanostructure research through internships in campus labs. University undergraduates will also participate in these studies.

About the Research: Technological advances over the past decade have allowed scientists to create tiny new materials that do not naturally occur. Nanotechnology is a cutting-edge field of study in which several Hopkins faculty members have already achieved breakthroughs.

Applications: Some of these structures possess ideal properties for use in fields ranging from fundamental physics to new electronic devices. In the near future, discoveries in nanotechnology may produce new recording heads for media that can store far more data than existing forms; ultrathin coatings that can add strength and corrosion protection; and highly sensitive new types of electronic sensors.

Quotes/Contacts: "I think this is a great thing to have at Hopkins. It gives Hopkins national visibility in the field of materials research. It's very difficult to do work that cuts across different disciplines, but this center is strictly for that purpose. It's for work that involves more than one, very often several investigators, with very different backgrounds."
-- Chia-Ling Chien, center director and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Research Tool: One of the challenges the researchers will face is getting a direct look at the tiny structures they create through various techniques. To do that, they need powerful microscopes. Kevin Hemker, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and David Veblen, professor of earth and planetary sciences, recently obtained National Science Foundation and Keck Foundation grants that will allow Hopkins to purchase a $1.5 million high-resolution transmission electron microscope. The microscope will allow them to do chemical analyses and observations down to the nanometer scale to see what they are making.

The Grant Process: To obtain the funds for this plunge into nanostructures research, Hopkins had to survive a rigorous competition that began with 139 proposals from universities throughout the nation. From this pool, the National Science Foundation last September chose Hopkins to be one of 13 new Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers. These new centers joined 11 other MRSECs chosen in 1994. The NSF grant will be allocated over five years. In four years, Hopkins can seek further funding. Each competing institution could propose a speciality area.

Other Participants: Along with Chien and Hemker, the founding research group includes: Robert Cammarata, associate professor of materials science and engineering; Joseph L. Katz, professor of chemical engineering; Andrew Millis, associate professor of physics and astronomy; Daniel Reich, associate professor of physics and astronomy; and Peter Searson, professor of materials science and engineering.

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