Illinois launches first U.S. nanomanufacturing node

09.12.17 -

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers, in conjunction with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), have been awarded a 5-year, $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch the country's first computational node aimed at developing nanomanufacturing simulation tools to improve efficiencies and strengthen the economic viability of nanomanufacturing.

The nanoMFG Node, which launched on September 1, 2017, has a mission to be the engine for design, simulation, planning, and optimization of highly relevant nano-manufacturing growth and patterning processes.

Kimani Toussaint (PI and Director), NCSA's Narayana Aluru (Co-PI), Elif Ertekin (Co-PI), and Placid Ferreira (Co-PI), all faculty members from the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) at Illinois, will lead this effort, along with Hayden Taylor (Co-PI) from UC, Berkeley.

"To make nanomanufacturing economically viable, we envision end-users getting onto the nanoHUB cyber platform and simulating every stage in the manufacturing of a nano-enabled product," Toussaint said. "These simulation tools could save significant time and money while providing valuable insight on how to refine critical process steps in nanomanufacturing."

Nanomanufacturing critically depends on achieving control over complex process parameters and a thorough understanding of the underlying driving scientific phenomena. To date, there has been a clear absence of open source simulation tools to help guide precise design and manufacturing of complex nano-scale structures. A 2010 science policy report commissioned by the NSF highlights that multiscale theory, modeling, and simulation is essential to advancing theory in nanoscience, which will lead to the nanomanufacturing of useful devices and structures.

According to Toussaint, the nanoMFG Node team plans to develop computational tools that have been validated by experiments by collaborating with many of the facilities and centers at Illinois, including the Materials Research Laboratory and the Micro-Nano-Mechanical Systems Cleanroom Laboratory. They also plan to collaborate with NCSA for software development and design.

"We are very excited about the collaboration opportunities between nanoMFG Node efforts and NCSA researchers," said Dr. Seid Koric, Technical Assistant Director of NCSA and Research Professor of MechSE. "The advancement of cutting-edge tools for simulation software in hierarchical nanomanufacturing processes from nanoscale components to devices and systems is a huge accomplishment which will aid and enable a number of research projects at NCSA, the University of Illinois, and beyond."

The NCSA Industry Program, of which Dr. Koric is the technical director, is the largest industrial HPC outreach in the world. NCSA has worked with more than one-third of the Fortune 50 companies, in sectors including manufacturing, aviation, automobile, oil and gas, finance, retail/wholesale, bio/medical, life sciences, astronomy, agriculture, technology, and others. Many of these partners have expressed a strong interest in nanomanufacturing technologies. Hosting the nanoMFG Node at the University of Illinois will have a broad and positive impact on the industrial partners of NCSA and, more broadly, to U.S. industrial competitiveness.

The nanoMFG Node team aspires to create tools in areas ranging from nanoscale transport phenomena models to nanoscale self-assembly. The tools developed by the node will be validated by experimental data and made available on the nanoHUB, which is the cyber platform for the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN). The NCN's goals are to: 1) accelerate the transformation of nanoscience to nanotechnology through the integration of simulation with experimentation; 2) engage an ever-larger and more diverse cyber community sharing novel, high-quality nanoscale computation and simulation research and educational resources; 3) develop open-access, open-source software to stimulate data sharing; and 4) inspire and educate the next-generation workforce.

"We are excited to develop high fidelity theory, modeling, and simulation tools that will reduce the lead time to design, fabricate, and scale nano-manufactured products," Ertekin said. "Our goal is to help realize the potential of nanomanufacturing by streamlining the process and making simulation tools widely available to anyone interested in developing a nano-manufactured product."

The node will have many opportunities for student engagement through summer workshops that will be open to Illinois students as well as students from all over the country. There will also be engagement with industry in order to keep the tools developed relevant to industry needs.

This project was made possible by NSF award #1720701.

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