BIG discoveries on a small scale
Carpick and Wendy
Crone could place hundreds of thousands of nanoparticles onto the
period at the end of this sentence. And while the materials they study
are on a tiny size level called the nanoscale, the potential for their
application is huge—in everything from denser computer memory
to more efficient engines.
Carpick studies friction, adhesion and wear
of nanoscale materials. With Department of Energy (DOE) funding, Carpick,
Plesha and researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are investigating
the fundamental issues of friction in micromachines, which fail prematurely
due to friction and wear. In another project funded by the Air Force
Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), Carpick, Assistant Scientist
Anirudha Sumant, Research Professor Kumar
Sridharan, Physics Professor Gelsomina
De Stasio and colleagues at Sandia and
Argonne National Laboratory are focusing on novel forms of diamond.
“We’re finding that with nanostructured diamond, nanoscale
friction and adhesion can be far lower than silicon, and that makes
it a promising material for nanotech applications,” says Carpick.
Crone is working with Materials Science and
Engineering Professor John
Perepezko and Chemistry Professor Arthur
Ellis to develop methods to create active components and materials
for microscopic structures and miniaturized devices, and experiments
to characterize, understand and optimize their behavior. With support
from the AFOSR and DOE, they build new nanostructured materials particle
by particle. To make their work easier, members of the research group
devised a method that enables them to easily manipulate nanowires magnetically.
In a related project, they are developing nanostructured materials—in
particular, shape-memory alloys—and trying to understand how their
particle or grain size is affected by the nanoscale.
Together, Carpick and Crone share teaching duties
in a new course for undergraduate and graduate students devoted entirely
to micro- and nanotechnology and have been instrumental in creating
a vision for the nano-engineering specialty area of the department’s
new bachelor of engineering physics degree.
Insets (left to right): A
regularly “wrinkled” polymer surface as a future template
for placing or ordering nanoparticles.“Erasable” and “erased”
nano-indented shape-memory alloy for memory storage.The carbon-coated
nanoscale tip of an atomic force microscopy (AFM) probe. An AFM image
of a graphite surface, scanned with the nanoscale tip.