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IUPUI awarded half-million-dollar National Science Foundation grant for state-of-the-art electron microscope


October 3, 2012

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Instrument to foster translational research, industry and community partnerships

The National Science Foundation has awarded the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis a $495,744 grant for the purchase of a state-of-the-art Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope with Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy, through the Major Research Instrumentation Program. The enhanced imaging resolution and elemental analysis capabilities of the microscope will greatly advance research projects, including those in energy, sensors and materials development, and molecular and cellular roles in biological systems.

“The advanced capabilities of the FESEM will significantly enhance our existing nanotechnology initiatives, create new avenues for research and education at IUPUI, promote economic development opportunities in Indiana and stimulate interdisciplinary research collaborations across campus and with industry partners,” said Mangilal Agarwal, interim director of the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute. “We’re extremely grateful to the National Science Foundation for their investment and excited to see the many ways it will benefit the community at large.”

Rather than the visible light photons used by standard microscopes, the FESEM uses electron beams to provide the high-resolution magnification of materials at nanoscale -- up to 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair -- as well as the elemental analysis capabilities necessary for current nanoscale research.

Through the understanding and control of matter at these minute nanoscale dimensions, where new functionalities and properties of matter are observed, researchers may create functional materials, devices and systems, which have a broad range of applications. Examples of these applications include smaller, faster and more powerful computing systems, improved solar and fuel cells, lightweight and high-capacity batteries, targeted drug delivery systems, and consumer goods such as cosmetics, textiles and advance packaging materials.

“The FESEM will also provide students with valuable hands-on experience in operating state-of-the-art instrumentation, an essential skill for students interested in future graduate studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields,” said Jian Xie, principal investigator and assistant professor of mechanical engineering and the new energy engineering degree program at IUPUI.

“Additionally, the instrument will be used to strengthen planned community outreach activities, including existing nanotechnology discovery summer camps for K-12 students and teachers,” added Agarwal, who also serves as the program leader for these summer camps. “This instrument will allow the exploration of nanoscale materials and structures, as well as a better understanding of nanotechnology concepts for these students and teachers.” The expertise and resources in nanoscale science and engineering at IUPUI, coupled with the desire of faculty and student researchers from diverse disciplines to develop nanotechnology-based systems addressing important societal and economic needs, have constituted the main driving forces for the establishment of the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute.

“Funded by IUPUI’s Signature Centers Initiative, INDI provides the organizational platform and resources necessary for a cutting-edge interdisciplinary research program in nanotechnology,” said Kody Varahramyan, vice chancellor for research, who oversees the Signature Centers Initiative on the IUPUI campus.

INDI unites a highly motivated group of faculty with strong track records in nanomaterials, devices, systems design, development and applications from the School of Engineering and Technology, School of Science, School of Dentistry and School of Medicine.

About the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute at IUPUI:

INDI is an interdisciplinary institute supported through the IUPUI Signature Centers Initiative in partnership with the School of Engineering and Technology, the School of Science and the School of Medicine. Over 30 faculty members from these schools are associated with INDI. These researchers have expertise in a wide range of fields, including chemistry, physics, biology, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, orthopedics, pathology and laboratory medicine.

About the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI:

The mission of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI is to be one of the best urban university leaders in the disciplines of engineering and technology recognized locally, nationally and internationally. The school’s goal is to provide students an education that will give them the leverage to be leaders in their communities, industry and society.

About the National Science Foundation:

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year 2012, its budget is $7 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 50,000 competitive requests for funding and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards nearly $420 million in professional and service contracts yearly.