The Nanotechnology Collaborative Infrastructure Southwest (NCI-SW) advances regional and national STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) opportunities by providing open access to faculty expertise, staff know-how, and a state-of-the art toolset for nanotechnology discovery, innovation, and education. Based on the campuses of Arizona State University (ASU) and Northern Arizona University (NAU), the NCI-SW works hand in hand with facility users to address grand challenges that the southwestern US and the nation as a whole will be confronting in the coming decades. These challenges include developing healthcare solutions for global pandemics; creating new materials for quantum security and computation; achieving water and food sustainability; and enabling new industries through workforce development and low volume manufacturing. We provide technician training through advanced laboratory classes for students enrolled in community colleges offering two-year degree and certificate programs in nanotechnology. With a focus on developing opportunities for Hispanic and Native American students at community colleges in Arizona and New Mexico we provide remote on-line access to a scanning electron microscope, and recruit participants for summer research experiences. And we are studying the impact of nanotechnology on society in Arizona and across the NNCI network to provide government agencies, non-governmental organizations, industrial stakeholders as well as scientists and engineers the tools they need to better inform science policy outcomes.

Technical Abstract

The goals of the NCI-SW are to build a regional infrastructure for nanotechnology discovery and innovation, while addressing societal needs through education and entrepreneurship. By providing access to three core facilities and faculty-led centers of excellence we provide intellectual and infrastructural strengths in bio-synthetic nanomaterials; semiconductor device, sensor, and micro-electro-mechanical systems fabrication; advanced electron microscopy and materials characterization; quantum materials; renewable energy; the environmental impact of nanotechnology; geosciences to understand natural nanomaterials; and computational nanoelectronics. By providing access to a new compact x-ray free electron laser (CXFEL) source we will enable new materials characterization opportunities for the wider NNCI community. The CXFEL will allow the study of semiconductors, quantum materials, and nano-bio systems at timescales and energy levels that would otherwise require access to a synchrotron or linear accelerator. The NCI-SW will partner with other NNCI sites to provide intellectual leadership and anticipate future needs of the nano earth-systems research community. Social scientists working with NCI-SW faculty will explore ways to better align nanotechnology research and development with the public good as part of a network wide research community focused on the societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology. We shall disseminate best practice in cleanroom management though a regional association of laboratory managers from ASU, and the Universities of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The NCI-SW will continue the network-wide Science Outside the Lab program to educate the next generation of nanotechnologists about science policy decision making.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Arizona State University
United States
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