IUPUI's big strides on the nano scale 

click to enlarge Dr. Charalabos "Haris" Doumanidis
  • Dr. Charalabos "Haris" Doumanidis

The School of Engineering and Technology's Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis made major strides in the field of nanotechnology in the month of October, welcoming Dr. Charalabos "Haris" Doumanidis of the National Science Foundation and securing grant money for an electron microscope.

IUPUI's Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute is a leader in nanotechnology, a highly technological field that focuses on matter manipulation on the 1 to 100 nanometer scale. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter and approximately half the diameter of a DNA helix. At this scale, all forms of matter – solid, gas and liquid – act unusually. Researchers at IUPUI's Integrated Nanosytems Development Institute are looking for ways to actively harness the unique characteristics of matter on the nanoscale to advance science.

Dr. Charalabos "Haris" Doumanidis of the National Science Foundation (or NSF), a federal agency responsible for promoting science and engineering through research and education, deeply explored the field of nanomanufacturing, the manufacturing subfield of nanotechnology, at IUPUI.

Dr. Doumanidis spoke on part of The National Nanotechnology Initiative, an NSF program dedicated to the advancement of nanotechnology. Dr. Doumanidis complimented the nation's investment in nanotechnology, both in the private and public sectors. While $1.8 billion is spent on nanotechnology research by the public sector, slightly more is spent by the private sector, which, according to Dr. Doumanidis, signifies a healthy research economy. The United States can improve its annual patent creation, however. China outputs more patented nanotechnology than any other country, a position previously occupied by the United States. The European Union also trumped the United States with 25,000 nanotechnology publication releases last year.

Nanotechnology has the potential to be a major source of American GDP. Investment in nanomanufacturing can help refurbish the struggling manufacturing industry. In 2000, manufacturing accounted for 22 percent of the United States' GDP. Today, it accounts for just 11 percent of American GDP. Further investment in nanomanufacturing can also increase the United StatesÕ humanitarian presence in the world. Nanomanufacturing is used frequently in high-quality water filters and has practical applications in brain-operated prosthetics, a newly evolving scientific field.

Just weeks before Dr. Doumanidis arrived on campus, IUPUI announced it had received a $495,744 grant from NSF for the installation of an electron microscope, which operates at the nanoscale level. Unlike traditional microscopes, electron microscopes do not use light photons for magnification and, instead, use electron beams.

The Integrated Nanosytems Development Institute at IUPUI will use the electron microscope, for nanotechnology research and education. Other IUPUI departments, including the School of Engineering and Technology, School of Science, School of Medicine and School of Dentistry will use the electron microscope for research.

"The electron microscope enhances research in biotechnology and energy," said Dr. Mangilal Agarwal, associate director of Research Development of IUPUI's Office of Vice Chancellor for Research. "It opens new avenues of advanced research and collaboration."

In addition to research, IUPUI plans to use the electron microscope to strengthen its nanotechnology discovery summer camps for K-12 students and educators. These camps will allow students to have a hands-on approach to electron microscopes, which are usually only accessible to high-level researchers. Interested students can have practical application experience with electron microscopes, which will further their interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, also known as the STEM fields.

NSF provides funding to more than 2,000 United States colleges and universities in all 50 states. While 50,000 requests for funding are submitted each year, only 11,000 grants are rewarded. "IUPUI stands apart from other campuses because it has a diverse range of participants who will benefit from the microscope," Dr. Agarwal explained. "IUPUI is different from other schools, who only see the benefits of electron microscopes in science and engineering."

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