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DOE picks Brookhaven for nanocenter

By SCOTT R. BURNELL, UPI Science News   |   June 14, 2002 at 4:52 PM
UPTON, N.Y., June 14 (UPI) -- Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Friday the Brookhaven National Laboratory will be the nation's next center of research into nanoscience, where matter is manipulated on the atomic and molecular scale.

The new Center for Functional Nanomaterials will help researchers create better solar cells, superconductors and other scientific advances at the nanoscale, Abraham told laboratory staff.

"Nanoscience offers the potential for a second Industrial Revolution," Abraham said. "To realize this promise ... means that our scientists must work together as never before. You need major facilities for this kind of work, facilities with the best new technology and the best minds that America has to offer, and we believe we have all of that here at Brookhaven."

The "Nanocenter" will work with industry and academic researchers to better understand the physical, chemical and magnetic properties of materials at the atomic scale, as well as determine what applications these nanomaterials can provide. One of the lab's existing research tools, the National Synchrotron Light Source, will be particularly useful as it generates intense X-rays that allow scientists to examine nanostructures as they develop.

Construction plans call for a laboratory and office building with the type of ultra-clean production and analysis rooms found in computer ship manufacturing plants. The project also will expand the lab's electron microscopy facility and the NSLS. The $70 million to $85 million project, slated to begin fiscal year 2004, will be open to any researcher on a peer-reviewed basis, the DOE said.

Brookhaven has plenty of experience dealing with non-staff specialists. More than 4,000 researchers already visit the lab each year, said Peter Paul, Brookhaven's interim director.

"Our motto is 'a passion for discovery,' " Paul told the gathering. "We work with a passion on the science, and science-based applications that derive from it, for the good of the nation and its industry."

Nanoscience is a major endeavor for the Bush administration, Abraham said, noting more than $600 million of the White House's 2003 budget goes to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, a multi-agency effort overseen by the National Science Foundation. The country's redoubled focus on national security means basic research is more important than ever, he said.

"We know we're at the very beginning of a science initiative that may change the way we look at and use the world around us," Abraham said. "We hope, over the course of the next few years, to make people better aware of that connection (to real applications)."

Friday's announcement could be the first of many, as almost every national lab has submitted some sort of nanocenter proposal. The labs, all under DOE control, have many of the same goals as the Brookhaven center, but there could be enough variation to justify another project. For example, Argonne National Lab in Illinois has devoted more than $300,000 in initial planning efforts for its center, which would focus on nanoscale electromechanical devices and high-speed nanotech manufacturing methods.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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