This grant provides support for the acquisition of a new state-of-the-art high-resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM) at the University of Minnesota that will be used by faculty and students in several departments (Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Geology and Geophysics, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, Physics and Astronomy, and Soil, Water and Climate). This instrument is equipped with a field-emission gun and energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, beam-scanning, high-angle annular-dark-field (Z-contrast) imaging, low-dose imaging, and high-resolution phase-contrast imaging capabilities. The unifying research theme research involves understanding how composition, structure, and chemical bonding at the nanometer length-scale influences the processing and properties of materials. Research areas that will benefit from this acquisition include processing and characterization of nanoparticles and other nanomaterials, porous semiconductors and metals, functionality of nanotubes, atmospheric particles, characterization of interfaces between crystalline and noncrystalline phases, paleomagnetism, and environmental geochemistry.
Nanotechnology is inherently an interdisciplinary field, which requires both an engineering and science approach. Many of the specific research projects that will be conducted using the new HRTEM cross traditional discipline areas and involve collaborations between investigators in two or more departments. Faculty from five science and engineering departments at the University of Minnesota came together to create a new degree-granting program entitled "Nanoparticle Science and Engineering," demonstrating a strong commitment to the interdisciplinary philosophy and to training scientists and engineers in this area. More than 30 faculty, 27 postdoctorals, and 81 students will have access to this electron microscope, greatly facilitating the education and training of students on the campus in the capabilities, theory, and use of state-of-the-art HRTEM techniques. In addition to this interdisciplinary and interdivisional group of on-campus users, many industrial users have expressed interest in collaborations that would use the proposed instrumentation for the areas of data storage, biomedical research, nanotechnology, insulated metal substrate applications, tires and rubber, and particle processing. The new instrument will strengthen ties between the UMN groups and these companies and will most certainly open the door for new collaborative research projects.