LEWISBURG, Pa. – A $200,000 nanotechnology grant from the National Science Foundation will help create dedicated lab space at Bucknell for working with nanoscale materials.

Using a combination of new and existing instruments, students and professors will be able to produce and analyze materials with features approaching one nanometer (100,000 times smaller than a human hair).

Under the direction of Erin Jablonski, assistant professor of chemical engineering, the lab will be used to introduce students to the aspects of process engineering that are unique to nanofabrication. Experiments and demonstrations conceived for the nanofabrication lab will have applications relevant for mechanical, electrical, chemical, and biomedical engineering.

In addition to providing equipment and supplies, the grant provides resources for student and senior personnel involvement as the lab is organized and equipped next summer.

Undergraduate opportunities
The Bucknell lab will provide a unique opportunity for students, as many primarily undergraduate institutions are not equipped to properly introduce nanotechnology with relevant experiments. Most nanofabrication labs are at larger universities with doctorate programs.

“The lab is a great way to demonstrate principles of nanotechnology, and it will also significantly strengthen Bucknell’s Nanotechnology in Engineering initiative,” Jablonski said. “We’re planning to do faculty workshops, as well as outreach to pre-college students.”

Professors have discussed how the lab may be incorporated into the curriculum, ranging from first-year engineering courses to senior design projects. The lab will also provide new opportunities for students interested in independent research projects.

Real world applications
Planned activities include aspects of integrated circuit manufacture, surface-directed segregation in polymer thin films, surface patterning for biological applications, nanoscale phase morphology in block copolymers, fabrication of polymeric light-emitting diode devices, and investigations of self-assembling systems.

The focus on nanotechnology comes as the applied science is beginning to turn promise into actual products.

“Nanotechnology even makes it possible to replicate nature to a degree,” said Donna Ebenstein,assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who was co-principal-investigator on the grant. “For example, a lotus leaf is self-cleaning. It is covered in extremely small and closely-spaced ‘pillars.’ Dirt sits on top of these, allowing water to easily wash it away. This phenomenon has been recreated for certain paints and deck coatings.”

Lab equipment
Current dedicated lab space contains a radio frequency plasma etcher, spin coater, ultraviolet exposure source and test-pattern photo-mask, a contact angle device, and other equipment. An atomic force microscope and scanning electron microscope are also accessible.

New instruments will include an interferometer for measuring film thickness, digital programmable hot plates for curing and baking, vacuum ovens for annealing samples, and additional amber light fixtures necessary for working with photosensitive materials.

Consumables such as silicon wafers, photoresists, chemicals, and polymers will also be funded by the grant.

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted Oct. 25, 2007

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