UPTON, N.Y. The new Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) here will help advance the effort to achieve U.S. energy independence, lab officials said at a dedication ceremony on Monday (May 21).
"I have a chance to work on one of the most important problems facing us," said Dr. Charles Black, a scientific leader of the electronic materials discipline on the Brookhaven facility. The center's environment "is fostering an open-door community culture so we will have the opportunity to form partnerships with scientists, small and large industries and even entrepreneurs."
The nanomaterials center is the last of five facilities recently funded by the U.S. Energy Department's Office of Science to develop nanoscale materials to alleviate U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. To that end, the center will incorporate sophisticated devices such as a low-energy electron microscope and a one-of-a-kind scanning transmission electron microscope.
The center will employ about 50 permanent researchers and 35 visiting scientists.
|Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory |
Ultimately, the center's state-of-the-art 94,500-square-foot facility will house nearly $25 million in equipment and provide offices and lab space for as many as 300 users per year.
Research will focus on three primary disciplines: electronic materials such as those with optoelectronic properties; catalysis, or the study of catalyst behavior; and bio-inspired" processes such as photosynthesis.
"One of the most exciting aspects is the opportunity to be plugged in, so when the nation thinks of energy research, they will think of us at BNL," said Black. "Cutting-edge science with a practical edge."
Black comes to BNLwhich also houses the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron, Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and National Synchrotron Light Sourceafter 10 years at IBM's nanomaterials research division. Despite Black's semiconductor background, he said the center's research won't be tailored to the chip industry. "The semiconductor industry is working through their own problems, solving such problems as heat dissipation and energy efficiency issues quite effectively," Black said.
"While we can certainly be a resource for companies such as Intel, IBM and AMD, our focus here will be to understand how these electronic materials can be used for energy conversion, such as fuel cells and higher-efficiency photovoltaic or solar cells. Nanotechnology can provide benefits for energy conversion and simultaneously be much more efficient."
Collaboration will be criticial, added Mark Hybertsen, a theoretical and computational research physicist at the new center. "Nanoscience is a team sport; it takes a lot of talent to make progress," said Hybertsen. "Out of collaboration comes the solutions."
The promise of nanotechnology has been dampened by environmental and health concerns. Steve Hoey, environmental safety and health coordinator for the facility, said labs at the center will be self-contained and use glove boxes, chemical fume hoods and HEPA filters to assure worker and environmental safety." BNL participated in the drafting of a best-practices document, "Approach to Nanoscience Safety," Hoey said.
With an estimated annual budget of $19 million, much of the center's work will be unclassified, meaning research will be available to other scientists. Public companies will also be able to use the facility on a cost-recovery basis.