Government Grants Accelerate University's Nanotechnology Research

23 April 2002

Founded only last fall, the UTD NanoTech Institute at The University of Texas at Dallas has begun ramping up its nanotechnology research efforts on news that it won two grants worth a total of $1.8 million in initial annual funding from the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The projects being funded will involve collaboration among researchers at UTD, as well as at major universities and research institutes throughout the U.S. and in other countries.

""This is leading-edge science and precisely what we had in mind when we brought two of the top nanotechnology experts in the world to UTD last fall,"" said Dr. Franklyn Jenifer, president of UTD. ""Now that the UTD NanoTech Institute is up and running, the university is in a position to begin playing a pivotal role in helping realize the potential of nanotechnology.""

In the fall of 2001, UTD hired Dr. Ray Baughman and Dr. Anvar Zakhidov from Honeywell International, where they had earned reputations as pioneers in the promising field of nanotechnology. Baughman became director of the UTD NanoTech Institute and holds the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry. Zakhidov is associate director of the institute and a full professor in the UTD Department of Physics.

Shortly after the arrival on campus of Baughman and Zakhidov, UTD announced that Dr. Alan G. MacDiarmid, the 2000 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, would join the university as a distinguished scholar in residence. Among his roles at the university, MacDiarmid chairs the advisory board of the UTD NanoTech Institute.

Nanotechnology enables the fabrication of material structures and devices having molecular dimensions and entirely new physical or chemical properties as a result of sizes smaller than the wavelength of light. Still in its infancy, nanoscience has the potential to revolutionize such disparate fields as electronics, medicine, communications and manufacturing.

The larger of the two DARPA awards to UTD is for a project, funded at $1.4 million annually, headed by Baughman. The goal of the research is to demonstrate that carbon nanotube fibers can be used simultaneously as ultra-high-strength structural materials and as materials that store electrical energy, harvest waste energy and convert electrical energy to mechanical energy.

Carbon nanotubes are sheets of graphitic carbon that are rolled into straw-like nanoscale structures having 50 times the strength on a weight basis of steel wire.

Potential applications of the research range from high-power, low-voltage artificial muscles that can operate at extremely high temperatures to robotic devices, super capacitors for energy storage on electronic circuit boards and structural shells that harvest waste thermal energy for aerospace vehicles.

Baughman has assembled a team of leading researchers from around the world to work with UTD personnel on the project. Included will be researchers from the Max Planck laboratory in Germany, the University of Pisa in Italy, the University of Wollongong in Australia, as well as the University of Utah, Georgetown University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Florida at Gainesville and Morris Research of New Jersey.

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