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Energy Secretary Abraham announces Center for Nanosciences at Brookhaven Lab



UPTON, N.Y. -- Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham today announced that the department plans to proceed with a center for nanoscale science research at its Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. Secretary Abraham made the announcement at a meeting with laboratory employees following a tour of Brookhaven laboratory facilities. He was accompanied by Interim Lab Director Peter Paul and Congressman Felix Grucci, a member of the House Committee on Science and a leader on science issues.

"Nanoscience holds the potential for a veritable second industrial revolution," Secretary Abraham said. "Possible applications range from microscopic chemical factories to electronic devices that first assemble themselves and then repair themselves!"

The new center at Brookhaven will include a laboratory and office building with clean rooms, nanofabrication facilities and scientific equipment. The center will house an expanded electron microscopy facility, ultrafast laser sources and powerful probes to directly image atomic and molecular structure. The center will be a user facility open to researchers outside the lab on a peer-review basis.

Nanomaterials -- typically on the scale of billionths of a meter or 1,000 times smaller than a human hair -- offer different chemical and physical properties than bulk materials, and have the potential to form the basis of new technologies. The Brookhaven center's focus is to achieve a basic understanding of how these materials respond when in nanoscale form. Understanding these properties may allow researchers to design materials with properties tailored to specific needs such as strong, lightweight materials, new lubricants and more efficient solar energy cells. By building structures one atom at a time, the materials may have enhanced mechanical, optical, electrical or catalytic properties.

The U.S. has built outstanding facilities, mostly owned by the Department of Energy, to characterize and analyze materials at the nanoscale, but world-class facilities available to the scientific community to synthesize, process and fabricate nanoscale materials and structures do not exist. The Brookhaven center is one of five nanoscale science research centers proposed by the Energy Department to fill that need. The centers will provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to explore, fabricate and study nanoscale materials. The centers are part of the department's contribution to the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

Brookhaven Lab brings three major strengths to the advanced study of nanoscience materials. First, the laboratory operates key facilities for studying the properties of nanomaterials: the National Synchrotron Light Source, the Laser-Electron Accelerator Facility and a Transmission Electron Microscope Facility. Second, Brookhaven's scientific staff and facility users have had a long history of achievement in probing structures of new materials. Finally, Brookhaven is an integral partner of the university community in the Northeast, where nanoscience has emerged as a major research thrust.

The Brookhaven Nanocenter will focus on six areas: examining changes in the electronic response of metal oxides with nanoscale dimensions; probing magnetic interactions in nanomaterials; studying new ways to form nanocatalysts; understanding electronic conduction in molecular wires; studying the self-assembly of thin organic films; and applications such as building nanoscale electronic devices, ultrathin-film optical devices and advanced fuel cell catalysts.

Today's announcement follows positive results from a peer-review that the Energy Department conducted of Brookhaven's proposal for a center. The department's Office of Science will now begin preparing the facility's conceptual design report that will be needed to request construction funding from Congress. The preliminary cost range for the project is $70-85 million. Engineering design, construction and commissioning is estimated to take four years and could start in Fiscal Year 2004.

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