UT Snags $18.5 Million Grant To Advance Nanomanufacturing

Wearable electronics, foldable laptops, and rollable batteries—a whole new nanomanufacturing industry is within view, and with a huge new federal grant, UT-Austin is positioned right at its center.

UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering will be establishing an official Engineering Research Center called NASCENT, for Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Energy Technologies. Making it possible is a prestigious $18.5 million grant announced today by the National Science Foundation.

It’s the first such grant given to a Texas institution in more than a quarter-century. The last state ERC funds given were to the Offshore Technology Research Center, run jointly by UT and Texas A&M, in 1986.

UT had applied in the intervening years for ERC grants, but its proposals never made it through the ultra-competitive process.

This time was successful for several reasons, according to Professor S.V. Sreenivasan, who will lead the center along with Professor Roger Bonnecaze. To start, Sreenivasan said, it had solid backing from a dean who had previously won such grants (Dean Gregory Fenves had done so at UC-Berkeley) and a strong team.

It was also an idea whose time had come. If you’ve heard talk of “Google goggles”—eyewear that would allow you to surf online while walking around—you can imagine the possibilities that nanomanufacturing would open.

Before now, Sreenivasan said, universities had explored nanotechnology, but not necessarily gotten it ready for manufacture. NASCENT will focus on getting the technology ready for production. “We have always had an emphasis on practicality and manufacturing,” he said. “Now I believe this kind of work is valued more.”

NASCENT will be headquartered on UT’s Pickle Research Campus. Several industrial partners will participate, including 3M, Lockheed Martin, Texas Instruments, Applied Materials, and Corning Inc. Several local middle and high schools will also have students involved in the work performed there.

Flickr Creative Commons photo via Éammon.


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