Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Larisa M. Brass ()
Communications and External Relations


ORNL nanoscience center officially complete

(Top) Laura Buchanan, a summer student, and Joe Pickel check on the progress of a polymer synthesis reaction underway at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences. (Below) One specialty of the CNMS is custom synthesis of tailored macromolecules, shown here, which enables detailed study and manipulation of polymer properties through control of the molecular configuration on a nanometer-length scale.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Sep. 25, 2006 — Oak Ridge National Laboratory's new centerpiece for nanoscience research, the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, is now complete—on scope, under budget and a month ahead of schedule.

"This is a demonstration of teamwork at its best," said Linda Horton, director of the CNMS. "The science staff has worked seamlessly with engineering staff, construction crews, federal regulators and staff at our neighboring facility, the Spallation Neutron Source, to complete this nanoscience center ahead of time and under budget."

Nanoscience is the study of materials measured in billionths of meters. A nanometer is 1,000 times smaller than a germ or 100,000 times smaller than a human hair.

Equipped with world-class instruments and staffed by researchers in a variety of scientific disciplines, the nanoscience center at ORNL allows researchers from universities, other national laboratories and industry to create, test and characterize a variety of new materials at a molecular level. This basic research could contribute to development of new catalysts to improve the environment, better sensors for industry, nanoscale computer processors, renewable energy solutions and lighter and more durable materials for cars and airplanes of the future.

With initial operations and the completion of the facility progressing simultaneously over the last year, the CNMS has already hosted nearly 100 users. While the center attracts researchers from around the world, it is also proving to be an important local research center, drawing many scientists from the southeastern United States.

"This completion of this facility is significant as it represents the first DOE Office of Science nanoscale science research center to achieve this milestone. Congratulations to the entire project team for their efforts in this major accomplishment," said David Arakawa, CNMS federal project director. Other centers are located at the Argonne, Brookhaven, Berkeley and Sandia/Los Alamos national laboratories.

Construction on the $65 million nanoscience center began in August 2003. With completion of the building last year, the past 12 months have been spent installing world-class microscopes, lasers, scanning probes and other instruments for materials synthesis and characterization. Those activities also included outfitting a 10,000-square-foot clean room, a research-scale version of facilities used to make computer chips.

The nanoscience center is among the largest of several new construction projects at ORNL. Designated a user facility by DOE, the center integrates nanoscale science with neutron science, synthesis science, theory, modeling and simulation. With its proximity to SNS, a recently completed $1.4 billion neutron science facility, materials from the nanoscience center will have easy access to beams of neutrons. ORNL's Leadership Computing Facility is also a partner in the research, bringing the muscle of some of the world's most powerful supercomputers to bear on understanding the complex phenomena controlling nanoscale behavior.

Horton attributed the facility's early success to the teamwork of staff members from various divisions and scientific disciplines who put together a user facility still grounded in basic research. The center's development has stayed true to the vision outlining research directions for nanoscience authored by a team of scientists led by CNMS Scientific Director Doug Lowndes.

"Almost our entire team has stayed intact from the original proposal to the launching of the CNMS and building the user facility," Horton said. "That has proved invaluable both in setting up the user facility and in our ability to attract top-notch researchers to staff it. I'm proud of all of the staff who have worked very hard to make this a premier research facility for nanoscience."

"Our staff have also been successful in bringing on a number of really outstanding young postdoctoral researchers," Lowndes added. "These post-docs were hired as a result of international searches from institutions around the world, and the quality of their work is key to carrying out the CNMS's own in-house research program as well as providing the best possible 'hands on' support for users' research activities."

Successful construction was accomplished through a number of local partnerships with contractors, labor unions and ORNL staff.

The building was designed by M&W Zander and constructed by Caddell/Blaine Joint Venture of Knoxville, Tenn., with construction managed by Jacobs Engineering. Other local contractors, including Engineering Services Group, GEM Technologies Inc., Hicks and Ingle, Temperature Control Inc., Adman Electric and Siemens, made major contributions during the installation of the equipment into the building.

Jack Stellern, the ORNL construction project manager, said, "The cooperation and communication between the scientific team and the engineering design and construction team was the best I have experienced at ORNL. This resulted in a building that fully met the needs of the research scientists when they moved in."

UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy.