The mission of the Center is to work on real-world problems that can potentially be solved with appropriate nano-enabled technologies. The Center draws heavily on expertise from departments across the colleges of engineering and science. It pursues basic research in science and engineering activities at the nanometer-scale. The overarching goal of these activities is to enable the design of innovative systems. The unifying theme of the Center is nanometer-scale materials that are deliberately synthesized, self-assembled, assisted to self-assemble, or structured by engineering know-how to create novel properties, processes, or principles. It is the new properties or principles that are taken advantage of in the design and engineering of innovative (i) devices, (ii) arrays of devices, and (iii) ultimately systems. The Center's current approach to creating unique materials is two-fold. The first approach relies on solid-state synthesis and structuring to produce nanostructures with new physics or chemistry that leads to novel devices. The second approach is based on chemistry, where chemical synthesis creates unique molecules that are used to make novel materials. These, in turn, are used to produce structures with novel function or utility.
The current focus of the Center is on nano-enabled sensor and energy technologies. This focus is intended to address some of society's most important problems. Energy, as an example, is probably one of the most pressing issues of our time. The dwindling world energy resources, combined with a growing world population with a voracious appetite for energy will lead to an unsustainable world order if no new or alternative energy resources, or more efficient ways of using the resources that we do have are found. The other problems are the quality of the environment, water, food, and more recently, terrorism and war. Nano-enabled sensor technologies can be brought to bear on some of the latter problems. The sensor work at the Center is on chemical and biological sensors, physical sensors, and imaging sensors. In energy, the interest is on technologies for clean energy generation and storage. Specifically, there are on-going projects in the generation of hydrogen as a fuel for fuel cells. There are also projects on novel fuel cell technologies. In addition, there are others on spectrally broadband photovoltaic cells for solar energy conversion.
The secondary focus of the Center is on nano-enabled information technologies that include devices and sub-systems for electronic and photonic information manipulation, as well as magnetic data storage systems.