Ohio State awarded prestigious Materials Research Center

Published on September 30, 2008

A new $10.8 million interdisciplinary research center at Ohio State University will study and develop materials for tomorrow's electronics.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) today (9/30) announced that Ohio State would receive funds over six years to establish a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). With this, the university joins a national network of 27 MRSECs that foster active collaboration between universities and industry.

To the $10.8 million in NSF funds, the university will add a $6.2 million cost share, bringing the total funds to $17 million.

The Ohio State MRSEC will be called the Center for Emergent Materials (CEM), and it will marshal Ohio State's considerable expertise in electronic materials. From plastics to semiconductors to unique hybrid materials, the CEM faculty are experts in understanding and manipulating materials on the atomic, molecular, nanometer and micrometer levels.

Ohio State CEM is the largest among the five new MRSECs that were awarded by NSF out of 87 applications, in a national competition that is held every three years.

"This is a first for Ohio State and for the state of Ohio," said Nitin Padture, professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State and director of the CEM. "The fact that we won this highly sought-after center speaks volumes about the outstanding quality of our faculty team and its interdisciplinary research, and the excellent infrastructure and support we enjoy."

The cornerstone of the CEM will be research into magnetoelectronics, he explained. Also known as spintronics, this approach utilizes the spin of electrons in atoms to push beyond looming barriers for computer chips. This focus emerged from two years of collaborations within two interdisciplinary organizations at Ohio State: Electronic & Magnetic Nanoscale Composites of Multifunctional Materials (ENCOMM) and the Institute for Materials Research (IMR).

Magnetoelectronics could be the key to developing computers that store more data in less space, process data faster, and consume less power. A computer with this kind of integrated magnetic memory would function as soon as it was switched on – no "boot up" needed.

To make that happen, researchers must not only develop new materials, but also find new ways to study and manipulate materials. The 21 CEM faculty members – in departments as diverse as chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering, and electrical and computer engineering – are collaborating across disciplines to do just that.

NSF's MRSEC program supports interdisciplinary materials research and education, while addressing fundamental problems in science and engineering. Universities that host a MRSEC must possess "outstanding research quality and intellectual breadth, provide support for research infrastructure and flexibility in responding to new opportunities, and strongly emphasize the integration of research and education."

In fact, of the 75 people at who will take part in the CEM, more than half are students, both graduate and undergraduate.

"A significant number of undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars will be educated and trained under the auspices of the CEM," Padture said. "The creation of this large and diverse work force in highly interdisciplinary materials research will contribute towards maintaining U.S. global leadership in the field of advanced materials and related technologies."

Ohio State is already home to another NSF-funded materials-related center, the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC), which supports research in nanotechnology. Only eight universities nationwide boast both an NSEC and a MRSEC: University of California, Santa Barbara; Cornell University; Harvard University; University of Pennsylvania; Northwestern University; University of Massachusetts; University of Wisconsin; and now Ohio State.

Further information about the CEM is available at: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/mrsecinfo.pdf

The NSF MRSECs press release can be found at: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=112340&org=NSF&from=news
Contact: Nitin Padture, (614) 247-8114; Padture.1@osu.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu


Nitin Padture
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