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Two scientific leaders from ORNL invited to White House workshop

 ORNL’s Fulvia Pilat and Karren More recently participated in the inaugural 2023 Nanotechnology Infrastructure Leaders Summit and Workshop at the White House, held Sept. 11–13. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Fulvia Pilat and Karren More recently participated in the inaugural 2023 Nanotechnology Infrastructure Leaders Summit and Workshop at the White House.

Nanoscience is conventionally defined as the study of structures, materials and phenomena on the scale of about 1-100 nanometers. To put this in context, there are more nanometers in an inch than there are inches in 400 miles. Nanotechnology includes developing materials and products that use parts at this scale, such as for electronic devices, catalysts, sensors, vaccines and medical devices.

At the invitation of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the summit was held at the White House compound in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Sept. 11–13. It served as an opportunity for leaders at user research facilities and manufacturing institutes to gain awareness of national nanotechnology programs complementary to their own and to initiate communications to spur future collaborations. A total of 35 organizations participated, including the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the National Institutes of Health, and Manufacturing USA, a national network of 16 manufacturing innovation institutes.

“This was a unique opportunity to identify other programs that had research interests in common with our own,” said Pilat, director of the Neutron Sciences Directorate’s Research Accelerator Division. “Not only will this bear dividends by improving our ability to form more strategic collaborations — in fact, we’ve already had a few inquiries — it can also help us widen our user base.”

The U.S. supports science and technology through a variety of infrastructure programs. These programs take many different forms but share the mission of facilitating cutting-edge technology research and development, often at the nanoscale. They provide a foundation for scientific innovation, commercialization, and workforce development and training through a model of access that is both efficient and equitable.

The two-day workshop on Nanotechnology Infrastructure of the Future was held at the National Academy of Sciences Building. The workshop featured speakers from diverse disciplines and sectors, panel discussions and opportunities for idea generation. Workshop attendees helped identify technological trends, significant gaps in existing U.S. technical capabilities and education, and prudent solutions in the journey toward the nation’s next shared infrastructure resource.

Focusing on U.S. nanotechnology infrastructure for the nation’s semiconductor industry, participants helped craft a roadmap that advances domestic semiconductor research and manufacturing, as well as cross-disciplinary research in science, technology and engineering. Domestic semiconductor manufacturing gained substantial interest after Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, designed, in part, to strengthen domestic semiconductor manufacturing, design and research, fortify the economy and national security, and reinforce America’s semiconductor chip supply chains.

“The workshop provided opportunities to focus on the nanotechnology industry’s near- and long-term infrastructure needs, especially in support of the CHIPS Act,” said More, director of the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences within ORNL’s Physical Sciences Directorate. “This will require developing both novel semiconductor manufacturing capabilities and modernizing the domestic workforce to meet the future needs of that industry.”

Organizers of the interactive workshop will now develop a public-facing white paper that contains essential insights and ideas gathered during the event and recommends a path forward for U.S. government agencies to shape the future of U.S. nanotechnology infrastructure.  

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit — Paul Boisvert