Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences
DOE's first nanoscale research center opened to its first users in late 2005 at ORNL.
After the panel review, DOE selected ORNL to house the first of what would eventually be five Nanoscale Science Research Centers of the agency's Office of Science. Supported by DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, CNMS is the first of the five new facilities to be completed. A foundation for the CNMS user program is its convenient location next door to the Spallation Neutron Source. Equally important are the nanocenter's ties to other DOE user programs at ORNL, including the National Leadership Computing Facility resources in the Center for Computational Sciences, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, and the microscope facilities in the Shared Research Equipment User Program, the High Temperature Materials Laboratory, and the Advanced Microscopy Laboratory.
Following the initial peer review, CNMS construction has been on a fast track. Several building features as well as the selection of scientific themes and the initial equipment set were based on input from the academic and industrial community. These useful suggestions were collected in a series of planning workshops beginning in 2002.
The nanocenter has 85,000 sq. ft, including a 10,000 sq. ft nanofabrication clean room facility. Designers included spaces to provide opportunities for interactions among staff researchers and users. CNMS offers amenities such as plenty of sunlight and coffee areas on every floor that, according to their professors, are important for today's graduate students. The construction line item contains the initial suite of technical equipment needed for research on macromolecular materials, catalysts, functional nanomaterials, and magnetism and transport in nanoscale materials. In addition to providing remote access to the National Leadership Computing Facility (one of the world's most powerful unclassified supercomputers) for high-end computing challenges, CNMS operates its own computer cluster for theory, modeling, and simulation research.
Construction of the CNMS began in August 2003. Beneficial occupancy of the facility occurred less than 2 years later, in April 2005. The first users in the new facility were welcomed in October 2005, with final completion of the facility, including installation of all of the technical equipment, expected in October 2006. The first neutron beams are also expected at the SNS in 2006, marking the dawn of an exciting era for nanoscience and neutron science at ORNL.
The User Program
As a DOE national user facility, the CNMS makes its unique capabilities available to scientists from around the world. Use of the nanocenter's facilities and collaborative support from CNMS staff are free of charge for users conducting non-proprietary research that is intended for publication in the open literature. User research proposals are brief and focused. The proposal's core is a narrative research description of no more than two pages. Selection of researchers who will be granted access to the CNMS is based on the scientific and technical quality of their proposals. The CNMS relies on a Proposal Review Committee, which consists of external members to evaluate the user proposals and provide ratings that guide prioritization of user access.
Due to its multidisciplinary nature, a nanoscience user program differs in two fundamental ways from the user programs at traditional user facilities such as those for neutron sources, light sources, and microscopy. First, nanoscience user facilities have a much broader spectrum of research instruments and other equipment that require different levels of expertise for operation, that have vastly different throughputs, and that may be used both independently and interdependently. Equally significant, extensive collaboration between users and CNMS staff will be an important component of virtually all of the user research programs.
With encouragement and funding from the Department of Energy, the CNMS in the fall of 2003 began operating a limited "jump-start" user program, relying on existing ORNL facilities and staff distributed among the Laboratory's various research divisions. The program's objectives were to nurture a vibrant and active user community during the nanocenter's planning and construction period, as well as to gain experience in the operation of a user program that, in several respects, was breaking new ground.
The user community responded very favorably during the jump-start period. In response to two calls for user proposals, in August 2003 and in September 2004, the CNMS received 72 and 63 user proposals respectively. Forty-three projects were approved following the first call and 32 following the second. CNMS staff and the jump-start users became well seasoned by the experience. Both groups looked forward to utilizing the lessons learned in jump-start practice when the nanocenter became fully operational.
In the fall of 2005 CNMS began regular operations. The center now offers a wider variety of capabilities, supports a larger number of projects, provides more extensive access to individual projects, and makes longer-term commitments to, for example, multi-year projects that involve larger research teams. The CNMS is initially planning to announce calls for user proposals semiannually following the first full call that closed in July 2005. Eventually, the calls for proposals will parallel those of the CNMS sister user facilities, allowing external users to prepare a single proposal for accessing multiple ORNL facilities for their research. The CNMS expects to have 100 users in fiscal-year 2006 and as many as 250 users by the end of FY2008.
CNMS has a Scientific Advisory Committee to advise ORNL management on the nanocenter's scientific directions and overall quality of its user program. Jerzy Bernholc of the Department of Physics at North Carolina State University chairs this committee. Members of this committee include Bill R. Appleton, former ORNL deputy director for science and technology and now director of the Nanoscience Institute for Medical and Engineering Technologies at the University of Florida, and Richard E. Smalley, professor at Rice University who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of buckyballs.
For more information on the CNMS, visit our web site at http://www.cnms.ornl.gov/—Linda L. Horton, director of the CNMS User Program
Web site provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Communications and External Relations