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What's Nano at UC?

UC created its Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology to offer promise of ground-breaking advances in physics, chemistry, materials science, electronics and medicine. The institute was developed through collaboration among UC’s McMicken College of Arts & Sciences, the Colleges of Engineering and Medicine, and the Vice President for Research and Advanced Studies. Many nanotechnology activities are taking place at the University of Cincinnati. 

Date: 9/2/2005 12:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826

UC ingot   Examples of Nanotechnology at UC

Carbon Nanotubes

Nanotube arrays compared to a dime.
Nanotube arrays compared to a dime

Vesselin N. Shanov and Mark J. Schulz direct the Smart Materials Nanotechnology Laboratory at UC. “We synthesize carbon nanotubes and put them into applications including reinforcing polymers and developing sensors and actuators,” says Schulz. “We have synthesized a 4mm-long patterned carbon nanotube post, which is close to the longest in the world. Long nanotubes are easier to process for applications.” The team has submitted disclosures on their nano sensors at UC and is working on refining concepts hoping for commercialization.

Marc Cahay has been involved in the study of nanoscale devices since his PhD days at Purdue. He is currently writing a book, Introduction to Spintronics, with his colleague, Supriyo Bandyopadhyay, from Virginia Commonwealth University. Cahay is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer Engineering & Computer Science.

“Spintronics is the science and technology of manipulating the spin degree of freedom of a single charge carrier (electron or hole) or an ensemble of such carriers to encode, store, process and deliver information,” says Cahay. “This new field is an outgrowth of the older and more-established field of magnetoelectronics that traditionally dealt with magnetic or magneto-resistive effects for sensing and storing information.”

Early successes in spintronics include the developments of read heads for sensing massively dense magnetic storage media, non-volatile magnetic random access memory. Spin devices may have an inherent advantage in terms of energy consumption.

“The ultimate rendition of this ideology is spin-based quantum computers, which dissipate no energy at all to complete a logic operation, since they operate on the basis of reversible quantum dynamics,” Cahay says. “The area of spintronics is now poised at a crucial point where technological breakthroughs may be just around the corner.”

Cahay and his colleagues at UC have developed two classes taught at the dual level (graduate and undergraduate, combined) and graduate level on quantum computing.

“Quantum computing would allow the ultimate computer to be built which would be extremely powerful in performing large data base search and in cryptography. The latter has ramifications for making secure communication systems between different locations. The actual realization of a practical quantum computer would render the existing cryptography systems pretty vulnerable to the attacks by hackers,” says Cahay. “A practical solid state quantum computer is however very difficult to make and it will probably still take a few decades before one can actually be build. In any case, it has led to a lot of research that only people familiar with the field of nanotechnology can understand. That is why teaching an increasing amount of quantum mechanics to our undergraduate and graduate student is more and more important.”

Cahay is also Co-Chair of the IEEE-Nano2006 meeting, which is one of the major meetings held by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The meeting will be at the Westin hotel in downtown Cincinnati from July 16–20, 2006, and should attract more than 500 researchers from all over the world.


A recent cover of Polymer Research shows Clarson's work.
A recent cover of Polymer Research shows Clarson's work. (Photo by Jay Yocis)

Stephen J. Clarson studies how nature makes minerals and uses the results of his research to either create new structures or to mimic nature with similar structures.

“Nature is more sophisticated, more complex than we are,” says Clarson. “We are just beginning to understand in a simplistic way how we as scientists can mimic these fabulous, ornate structures in nature.” Clarson’s work has been published in Nature (2001 and 2005). As a chemical engineer, he is pleased to work closely with chemists, biologists and photographers to see what things affect structures in nature. “In biology we study things. In chemistry we try to figure out how can we manipulate it, what can we do with it. One of the greatest pleasures of this job is to interact with chemists and biologists and receiving artistic input from our photographer at UC as well. It’s a holistic, complete package.”

Clarson's work on the cover of ChemComm, as photographed by Jay Yocis.
Clarson's work on the cover of ChemComm, as photographed by Jay Yocis.

“Nature’s had billions of years; we’re trying to do it in 10.”

In January 2000, Clarson was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC). He has received numerous award for his teaching including the Neil Wandmacher Excellence in Teaching Award in 1993 for “Most Outstanding Teacher in the College of Engineering,” the TEXNIKOI Award in 1992 for “Outstanding Teaching and Service to the College of Engineering” and the Engineering Tribunal Award, for “Outstanding Teacher of the Quarter,” Spring Term, 1992 and Spring Term, 1995. He was nominated by the UC student chapter to membership of the engineering honors society Tau Beta Pi in 1999. Clarson has published more than one hundred technical articles and co–authored the books Siloxane Polymers (1993), Silicones and Silicone-Modified Materials (2000) and Synthesis and Properties of Silicones and Silicone-Modified Materials (2002, in press). The research carried out in his group has led to a number of inventions; he holds five US patents and two Japanese patents. He has been principal investigator (PI) or Co-PI of research awards totalling more than $4M in the past ten years. His current scientific research interests include materials chemistry, polymer synthesis, silicon-based chemistry, biomaterials, opto-electronic materials and surface science. In February 2005, Clarson was named North American Editor of European Polymer Journal (University of York).

BioMEMS and Biosensors
Chong Ahn is leading multidisciplinary BioMEMS and Lab-on-a-Chip teams at the University of Cincinnati. The Smart Disposable Polymer Lab-on-a-Chip with Whole Blood or Serum for Clinical Diagnostics leads to Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) Cardiac Biomarkers.

Ahn’s team is leading business in point-of-care clinical diagnostic market using proprietary fabrication processes and microfluidic/biosensor technology base; leading business in rapid, disposable, smart and user-friendly lab-on-a-chip market; and leading business in sample preparation for proteomics and genomics market using proprietary microfluidic technology.

Chemical Sensors and Biosensors
William R. Heineman, professor in the Department of Chemistry, is working with chemical sensors and biosensors for the following uses: 
— Detection of bioterrorism agents in drinking water
— Detection of E. coli in beach water
— Bioterrorism Agents
— Characterization of nuclear waste in storage tanks
— Detection of material leaking from storage tanks
— Detection of Biological Agents


Professor J. E. Mark.
Professor J. E. Mark was recently honored by Polymer.

Professor J.E. Mark was recently honored in an editorial to Polymer, Volume 46, Issue 12, 26 May 2005, Pages 4105–4107: “In recognition of the many contributions of James E. Mark to polymer science and technology” (eds. Bruce Eichinger, Joel R. Fried and Dale Schaefer). Mark has worked on generating nanoparticles within polymers, particularly elastomers, to improve their mechanical properties.

“It’s a good method for reinforcing polymeric materials, particularly properties such as toughness,” says Mark. "I work closely with UC associates Dale Schaefer, Greg Beaucage and Steve Clarson."

Ohio Center for Advanced Propulsion and Power
Resulting from a $10.8 million award from the State of Ohio Third Frontier Project for research facilities, this is a joint project with Ohio State and others. Technologies to be studied include the following:

— propulsion aerodynamics
— heat transfer and cooling
— aeroacoustics
— flow control
— combustion and emissions
— advanced materials
— intelligent engines using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)

For more information about these or the many other nanotechnology initiatives at UC, contact:

Thomas Mantei, Interim Director
Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology
Mail Location 0030, University of Cincinnati
(513) 556-4753