NSF renews/expands mission of MRSEC
ith $18 million over six years, the National Science Foundation is expanding the mission of one of the UW-Madison's most prolific and prestigious interdisciplinary research centers. The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) on Nanostructured Interfaces, directed by Juan de Pablo, includes more than 40 faculty and 50 students from across the UW-Madison campus. It now will serve as a network of regional, national and international collaborations that will tackle several grand challenges of materials research and engineering.
The newly funded MRSEC will focus its work through three new interdisciplinary research groups. The first seeks to create new semiconductors and will explore new multi-element compounds through the manipulation of strain, dimensions and deformability. A fundamental understanding of phenomena in this area will enable researchers to create entirely new materials for technologies ranging from sensors and solar cells to uses not yet conceived.
The second group will study molecular and electronic dynamics where carbon-based compounds meet inorganic compounds. Its goals are to probe simultaneously the transport of energy and molecular motion one electron at a time, to achieve fundamental understanding of such dynamics, and to gain unprecedented levels of control over these materials interfaces and their preparation.
A third team will build knowledge about coupling structural, mechanical and interfacial interactions in liquid crystalline materials through an emphasis on defect manipulation, nucleation, mechanical strain and growth. Liquid crystals have the properties of both conventional liquids and solid crystals, with many phases in between. Through techniques such as confinement, nanoscale patterning and the addition of multifunctional polymers that induce structural order in the liquid crystals, the group will create new classes of materials that have applications in engineering, biology and medicine including separations technologies, drug delivery, nanoscale materials processing technologies and biosensors, among others.
MRSEC will include an industrial consortium whose membership will increase to 40 companies, and also will build on its tradition of excellence in education and outreach to communicate the excitement of cutting-edge science to large numbers of K-12 students and teachers.