The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received an $8.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and its nanotechnology research through 2014.
UNL's center focuses on quantum and spin phenomena in nanomagnetic structures and is one of 26 such elite Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers in the nation. This grant continues support for the interdisciplinary research by UNL scientists and engineers associated with the center, which was established in 2002 with a $5.4 million NSF grant.
"Grants for these centers are extremely competitive. Our continued success is indicative of the high quality of our faculty's research. They've put UNL on the map in the exciting field of nanomagnetics," said UNL chancellor Harvey Perlman.
The center includes 20 UNL faculty from the departments of physics and astronomy, chemistry, chemical and biomolecular engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering and one physicist from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The researchers collaborate to study new magnetic structures and materials at the nanoscale level -- as small as one-billionth of a meter. The center's research focuses on understanding the properties and performance of nanomaterials, a key step toward their use in a host of advanced technologies, said physics professor Evgeny Tsymbal, the center's director.
The center's research has potential applications in areas such as advanced computing, data storage, energy production, handheld electronic devices, sensors and medical technologies. It also has a strong education and outreach program and has built ongoing collaborations with industry, national laboratories and scientists internationally.
"Our long-term goal is to be the leading interdisciplinary center for integrated research and education in nanomagnetism," Tsymbal said.
Since 2002, research and discoveries by the center's faculty have garnered international attention, expanded understanding of magnetic nanostructures and phenomena and opened new possibilities for developing nanotechnology tools and techniques.
"Thanks to the center's collaborative research environment, we have researchers with diverse expertise studying critical questions that must be answered to harness the potential of nanomagnetic materials," said Prem Paul, UNL vice chancellor for research and economic development. "We expect UNL's growing nanotechnology expertise and the center's ongoing work with industry will lead to additional partnerships that benefit Nebraska's economy."
Educating the public and students about materials science is central to the center's mission. Roger Kirby, the center's associate director, coordinates the education and outreach activities. During several summer research programs, undergraduates and faculty from non-research-intensive four-year institutions as well as high school and middle school teachers tackle research projects alongside the center's faculty and staff.
The center's professor/student program brings undergraduate students and their faculty mentors to UNL where they work together on materials research projects.
"This program exposes the undergraduates to exciting research in materials science, provides faculty at non-research institutions with new skills and knowledge and develops a pipeline for graduate student recruitment," Tsymbal said.
Tsymbal became center director in 2007, succeeding David Sellmyer, the physics professor who was the founding director. Sellmyer now coordinates the Nanoscale Magnetism: Structures, Materials and Phenomena team, one of the center's two interdisciplinary research groups. Christian Binek, assistant professor of physics, heads the other interdisciplinary research group, Magnetoelectric Interfaces and Spin Transport.