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UNT Insider | October 2010 Issue | UNT to build advanced materials analysis lab

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UNT to build advanced materials analysis lab

From a UNT News Service press release

UNT will build one of the most advanced materials analysis laboratories at any university when it begins construction of its new Nanofabrication Analysis and Research Facility (NARF) in November at Discovery Park.

The new $6 million facility, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, will integrate UNT's Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) with a new clean room that will allow scientists to synthesize and process samples of new materials and then test and examine them at the molecular and atomic levels using CART's 27 state-of-the-art instruments and microscopes. CART is one of the nation's most extensive facilities for powerful materials characterization and analysis.

The adjacent location of UNT's state-of-the-art business incubators will add to the uniqueness of the facility by giving the start-up businesses convenient access to NARF equipment and resources to better advance research.

"The opportunity to co-locate the equipment housed in the Center for Advanced Research and Technology with a new clean room is a major step toward integrating world-class research into our institution," says Vish Prasad, vice president of research and economic development. "While we have a legacy of excellence in science, our engineering and technology programs are young enough that we can reshape them into leading research centers, giving our students, our faculty and our science community opportunities to develop new technologies for a wide range of applications."

The CART instruments will be housed in 10 contiguous research laboratories encompassing 5,485-square-feet. The renovated space will be equipped to optimize performance of the instrumentation including vibration isolation pads and electric field isolation cages to ensure optimum performance. The new 3,000-square-foot clean room will be located immediately adjacent to the renovated area.

When the facility is complete, scientists will be able to synthesize and process samples of new materials and devices in the new clean room and transfer them to the advanced characterization equipment in CART under controlled atmospheric conditions, as needed. Using the array of instruments available, scientists will be able to see three-dimensional images of semiconductor devices and test materials at near-atomic to atomic resolution.

"The complementary use of these advanced instruments for synthesis, characterization, and analysis will allow UNT researchers to work at the leading edge of nanotechnology and advanced materials," says Raj Banerjee, director of CART and associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

In its simplest terms, characterization, when used in materials science, is the use of magnification to look into the internal structure and properties of a material to allow scientists to understand the distribution of elements within the structure and their interactions. At UNT, scientists will be studying the interaction of individual atoms, molecules, and other nanoscale features. That window into the nanostructure will allow scientists to determine what failed and what worked as they research how to build new materials and devices.

The $6.4 million project is being built with a $1,046,053 NSF grant and approximately $5.4 million from the UNT System. A critical feature of the design is to facilitate training of graduate and undergraduate students, post-doctoral researchers and visiting scientists in the central space surrounded by instrument laboratories. This space will be used for lectures and the informal exchange of ideas, which is key to developing new ideas and theories.

The space will be wired to allow scientists at other sites around the world to see images from the microscopes immediately via their computers and, in certain cases, actually remotely control the operation of the instrument. This ability to collaborate globally will extend use of the facility to the scientific community.

Remote, real-time display of research activities can also be transmitted to schools and museums to enhance educational outreach and the public's understanding of science. At the facility, onsite demonstrations, glass wall enclosures around the equipment, and high-resolution monitors will allow high school students and other visitors to view both the space and the research under way.

About CART:

Located at UNT's Discovery Park, CART is a $15 million, federally funded service facility that supports advanced scientific research activities through the maintenance, operation and lease of high-powered microscopes and other imaging equipment used for characterizing and processing materials.

CART collaborators are affiliated within UNT as well as with other universities and industries. UNT faculty, students and research staff from the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences use the more than two dozen machines at CART to analyze materials from the micro to atomic level. Current research includes:

Buddy Price with UNT News Service can be reached at buddy.price@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

October 2010

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