In September 2001, NSF selected Rensselaer as one of the six original sites nationwide for a new Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC).
As part of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, the program is housed within the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center and forms a partnership between Rensselaer, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The NSF Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures at Rensselaer is distinctive for its focus on the structured assembly of nanomaterials and for its emphasis on the applications of nanotechnology to biotechnology, such as the creation of drug delivery systems.
The center integrates research, education, and technology commercialization through partnerships with government and industry.
Center researchers are creating novel materials and devices that can, for example, create stronger and more durable plastics, enable high capacity energy and information storage devices, and produce flame-retardant plastics for planes and automobiles.
Research areas of the center include advanced materials and coatings, biosciences and biotechnology, nanoelectronics, microelectronics, and nanosystems.
The self-assembly of thin films with special optical properties has already been adopted in several industries.
The assembly of complex molecular structures, such as nanotubes, has applications as varied as nanocomposite materials with extraordinary strength, nanoconducting wires for electronic interconnects, and nanomatrices for supporting active biological molecules in medical applications.
Visualization and manipulation of individual molecules has special importance in the biological realm. Rensselaer core strengths in this arena form the basis for future research opportunities.
In addition, a new research effort on potential socioeconomic impacts is being initiated to understand the effects of nanotechnology on industry and society.