Nanotech Grant is up for Renewal

07/09/2008
By From the Lowell Sun

By Dan O'Brien

LOWELL -- A collaboration for nanotechnology research that includes UMass Lowell has been recommended for renewal of a five-year, $12.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, officials say.

Funds would be applied toward the so-called Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing, a virtual campus and collaboration between UMass Lowell, Northeastern University and the University of New Hampshire.

Joey Mead, professor in the Plastics Engineering Department at UMass Lowell and deputy director of the nanotech collaboration, cautioned that winning renewal was not yet guaranteed. Nevertheless, "We're really excited, we couldn't be happier. It's wonderful for the university."

A spokesman from NSF didn't return a call for comment yesterday.

The center was established in 2004 with another $12.4 million grant from the NSF. That grant is due to expire next year.

Nanotechnology, sometimes referred to as the "small science," is the study and application of tiny particles between one and 100 nanometers large; a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. The field is seen as holding considerable promise for research breakthroughs and economic growth.

Mead said the collaboration has been able to develop a suite of nanomanufacturing tools involving particles, tubes and polymers.

"We believe this research will accelerate the pace of nanomamufacturing, and that industry will easily adopt it," she said.

The center is collaborating with two private companies to develop manufacturing processes using nanotechnology -- computer memory chips with Woburn-based Nantero Inc., and biosensors with Triton Biosystems Inc., which recently merged with Oncologic to form Berkeley, Calif.-based Aduro Biotech.
 
Mead also said the collaboration has been able to study the environmental and health aspects of nanotechnology.

Last fall, UMass Lowell announced plans for its Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, which is expected house at least some of the Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing. The project, which UMass Lowell estimated to cost $80 million, is expected to open in the fall of 2011.