NSF funds take 2D materials research center to next phase
The Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings (ATOMIC), operated jointly by Penn State and Rice Universities, has secured renewed funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a new phase of expansion.
“The goal of ATOMIC is to design and synthesize atomically thin materials that solve fundamental scientific and technological challenges in corrosion, oxidation and abrasion, friction and wear and energy conversion and storage,” explains Jun Lou, director of the Rice site and professor of materials science and nanoengineering. “Our goal is to develop advanced two-dimensional (2D) coatings for a variety of industries with multiple uses.”
The national research center, which was one of more than 70 established by the NSF to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, currently boasts 13 industry and five government partners. Since 2015, ATOMIC has focused on advanced 2D materials for protective coatings, atomically thin materials for energy conversion and storage, and atomic layers for sensing applications.
ATOMIC will receive $1.5 million in Phase II funding over the next five years, adding to existing funding for research activities from industry memberships. The center is taking on Boise State University as a new academic partner and additional industrial collaborators but is still open to new members. Boise State brings expertise in advanced printing technologies and additive manufacturing, complementing ATOMIC’s existing capabilities at Penn State’s Millennium Science Complex, which include a 9500-square-foot cleanroom for nanofabrication, over 70 characterization instruments, and a 2D synthesis lab, along with Rice’s advanced synthesis and characterization instruments for low-dimensional materials.
“We are thrilled to add Boise State University and their focus on inkjet printing, as this will enable quick printing of devices that make use of the multifunctional 2D materials that we have developed,” says Mauricio Terrones, director of ATOMIC and Penn State’s Verne M. Willaman Professor of Physics and distinguished professor of physics, chemistry, and materials science and engineering.
Over the coming years, Penn State, Rice and Boise State will work together on projects that they hope will yield new intellectual property that will be available to both academic and industry members.
“We are very pleased about the renewal of the ATOMIC center,” says Lou. “In addition to the current focus areas, we look forward to expanding the research into biomedical, sustainability and energy areas.”
One of the new projects will develop nanoantennas based on 2D heterostructures for communication and sensing in wearable electronics for next generation internet-of-things applications. Other efforts will target advanced manufacturing of coatings for fast, accurate sensors.
“In Phase I, we laid the groundwork for advanced 2D coatings that have wonderful properties. In Phase II we will focus on advancing the technology to more applied solutions,” adds Terrones.