For researchers who dream of controlling materials properties down to the atomic level, 2005 marks a milestone for a revolutionary new science. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is opening the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS), the first of five new Department of Energy Nanoscale Science Research Centers. Located adjacent to the Spallation Neutron Source, the $65 million facility houses state-of-the art instruments and is open to users from universities, national laboratories, and commercial firms, as well as the University of Tennessee and ORNL.
The six-year journey from conception to completion of the CNMS began in 1999 when ORNL researchers joined DOE in planning for the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Meanwhile, ORNL invested internal funds to strengthen the Laboratory's nanoscience research capabilities and prepared a successful proposal to build DOE's first nanoscience center in Oak Ridge. With construction of its building completed at the beginning of May 2005, the CNMS announced a Call for Proposals and hosted an Inaugural User Meeting with more than 270 participants. During FY2004-2005 ORNL also operated a limited "jump start" nanoscience research program that resulted in support for 75 user projects. The revolution was truly taking flight.
This issue of the ORNL Review highlights the role of the CNMS in creating a highly collaborative environment that will accelerate nanoscience discovery and drive technological advances. Because nanoscale science is highly integrative, we are striving to bring together the best ideas, instruments, and individuals to form a highly interactive and multidisciplinary CNMS user research community. We are guided by the Department of Energy's challenge to design a nanoscience center that would "enable research of a scope and depth beyond current national capabilities."
The CNMS will meet this challenge by providing new capabilities for nanomaterials synthesis and characterization, nanofabrication, theory and modeling of nanoscale phenomena, and, ultimately, the design of functional nanomaterials. Equally important, the CNMS also will create scientific synergies by exploiting ORNL strengths in neutron science, leadership computing, materials synthesis, and instrument development, each of which provides opportunities for international leadership in nanoscience. The facility will be aided by a new generation of unique, state-of-the-art instruments that combine nanoscale imaging with simultaneous nanomaterials' manipulation and properties' measurements, and, on occasion, special sample environments.
Using the Spallation Neutron Source, which opens in 2006, and the recently upgraded High Flux Isotope Reactor, the CNMS will exploit neutron scattering's unique capabilities-complementary to other techniques-to probe polymeric and bio-inspired materials, as well as magnetic materials and phenomena.
The CNMS' Nanomaterials Theory Institute will make use of the expertise and supercomputers at DOE's new National Leadership Computing Facility at ORNL to address several grand challenges of computational nanoscience. The Institute already is pursuing these challenges by establishing "NanoFocULs" laboratories that bring together users with world leaders in computational nanoscience, to develop community-based codes.
Pursuing yet another scientific synergy, CNMS researchers will focus on "science-driven synthesis" as a tool for discovery to reveal new phenomena and obtain new functionalities. The new Nanofabrication Research Laboratory will be used to develop ways of achieving the controlled synthesis and directed assembly of functional nanomaterials needed for nanotechnology. The materials processing and nanoscale patterning capabilities in the laboratory's "clean room" already are attracting local science-based firms, reinforcing predictions that the CNMS could be an incubator for commercial nanotechnology.
Our dreams have been realized. Our real work is just beginning.
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