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USC Awarded $8 Million MGI Grant to Establish Center for Discoveries in Nanomaterials

Priya Vashishta, professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and director of the Collaboratory for Advanced Computing and Simulations, along with USC colleagues Aiichiro Nakano, and Rajiv K. Kalia, were awarded an $8 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy under The White House Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) to establish a center for long-sought discoveries in nanomaterials.

Together they are developing open-source software and carrying out experiments in partnership with Stanford University's ultrafast X-ray laser lab at Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) and UC Berkeley's Lawrence Lab.

Theirs is the first of three out of some 50+ proposals from universities and D.O.E. labs nationwide that will be funded under the ambitious White House Materials Genome Initiative. The center represents the heart of the MGI: the Materials Innovation Infrastructure, a framework of seamlessly integrated advanced modeling, powerful computation, data and experimental tools linking together networks of scientists to accelerate the pace of innovation.

"It is a unique opportunity for USC to build something lasting under the Materials Genome umbrella and open new frontiers in materials science," said Vashishta. "Our team of four experimentalists, seven theorists, eight postdoctoral research associates, four graduate students, and two software-data experts will use immersive and interactive visualizations that will offer not only an unprecedented opportunity for research but will foster innovation in science and engineering education." The open-source software, materials simulation and experimental data generated by the center will be widely distributed to the materials science community and will cross the boundaries of academia, federal laboratories and industry in record time. "It frequently takes 20 years or more to transition a new material from initial discovery to practical use," Vashishta pointed out. "What if we cut that time in half while reducing cost and improving quality? That is a wonderful challenge to have."

Accelerating the pace of discovery and deployment

The Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) is designed to create a new era of policy, resources, and infrastructure in the effort to discover, develop and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost. The White House communiqué underscored the importance of the new USC Center's work: "In much the same way that silicon in the 1970s led to the modern information technology industry, the development of advanced materials will fuel many of the emerging industries that will address challenges in energy, national security, healthcare, and other areas."

Priya Vashishta, Rajiv K. Kalia and Aiichiro Nakano

Vashishta's team has long been exploring the effects of extreme conditions on everyday materials. This research has led to newer and better-designed products, ranging from components for computer chips to materials less susceptible to corrosion and oxidation.

Dean Yannis C. Yortsos commended their visionary initiative: "Through Priya Vashishta's and his colleagues' leadership, USC has been at the forefront of shaping the Materials Genome Initiative. This award is a well-deserved acknowledgment of their effort, vision and outstanding potential to make true breakthroughs. We look forward to unlocking the tremendous promises of creating novel materials for disruptive innovation in energy, security, sustainability and health."


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