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Research Program Structure

Since its inception in September 2001, our NSEC has assembled and improved the strong research teams at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) that comprised our two original thrusts. These teams are already making fundamental discoveries and developing new technology in the directed assembly of nanostructures in areas ranging from novel nanostructure synthesis and characterization to creating new materials and devices with a wide range of functions.

Our original two coordinated multidisciplinary and inter-institutional thrusts have been supported by strong crosscutting theory, computer simulation, and characterization efforts. These latter efforts are now so fully and successfully integrated into the individual thrusts that they no longer appear as separate groups.

Thrust 1: Nanoparticle Gels and Polymer Nanocomposites is focused on the synthesis, phase behavior, structure, and assembly of organic, and inorganic nanoparticles with homogeneous or heterogeneous surfaces under chemical and/or physical control.

Thrust 2: Nanostructured Biomolecule Composite Architectures is focused on the incorporation of biological macromolecules into nanocomposite materials to enable specific applications, including tailored assembly based on biorecognition, biocatalysis, tissue engineering and biosensing, self-cleaning and self-repair capabilities, and novel lamellar structures.

This core research program has been complemented since inception of our NSEC by: an extensive and important set of educational programs that reach a diverse audience and that broaden the technical reach of our NSEC through programs carefully designed to integrate nanotechnology research with education; a research effort at RPI and UIUC on socioeconomic impacts of nanotechnology in important areas dealing with radical innovation; and a continuing and active interaction with industry at both institutions. Now, these three areas, along with a new effort that explores potential biological effects of nanoscale building blocks, are being brought together under a new thrust.

Thrust 3: Serving Society through Education and Outreach. This new coordinated thrust will focus on serving society, through education, industry outreach, and biological safety, (i) by raising the scientific literacy of the public through formal and informal education and (ii) by enhancing the responsible, efficient, and safe transfer of nanotechnology developments to industry, the primary route through which society can benefit from the fruits of NSEC research.

The programmatic structure of our NSEC is shown schematically above.