The U.S. National Science Foundation has announced a $162 million investment to create nine Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs). Each center will receive $18 million over six years to extend basic materials science discoveries into practical innovations and applications in several areas of the U.S. economy.
“NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers will help us seize new opportunities in semiconductors, biotech, quantum information and more, addressing the needs of our society and advancing critical emerging technologies,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, in the agency’s announcement. “They will do so by expanding and enriching the ecosystem of innovation across our country.”
The new MRSECs are located at nine institutions across the country. In addition to existing centers, NSF will now support 20 MRSECs, with the latest cohort focusing on developing new capabilities in the areas of semiconductors, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, sustainable energy sources and storage, advanced manufacturing, and quantum computing and sensing.
In addition to conducting cutting-edge research and collaborating with various U.S. industries to create new products and technologies, the centers will train students and early career researchers in basic and applied materials science. They will also introduce educational STEM programs for K-12 students and teachers in dozens of school districts across the country.
According to NSF, the centers will partner with local startups and the business community to “take novel materials from the discovery phase to commercialization.” Dozens of collaborating institutions will also participate with the centers, including many minority-serving and emerging-research institutions.
The nine 2023 centers are:
Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
Located at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the center will investigate how strain in materials can control the motion of electrons and enable novel information storage and processing models in quantum materials and for energy production and storage. It will also examine how new materials can be applied in areas such as electrochemical manufacturing, energy and information technologies.
Center for Dynamics and Control of Materials
This center, at the University of Texas at Austin, will design new soft biomaterials that can be used for applications such as synthetic cells and thermal coatings. It will also develop very thin materials that can be used in microelectronics, quantum information processing and other applications.
University of Washington Molecular Engineering Materials Center
The University of Washington center will develop materials in which light can tune the magnetic properties of individual electrons for applications in quantum information processing and sensing. It will also work with what are known as “elastic quantum matter” materials.
Northwestern University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
Located at Northwestern University, the center aims to create bio-inspired materials that can be programmed to perform functions like self-healing and shape-morphing. Such materials can be used in food-storage, clothing or wound care. The center will also develop materials that conduct electrons and ions, mimicking the action of brain neurons.
Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter
This center, located at the University of Pennsylvania, will develop new materials that can adapt to their surroundings and to external triggers. These flexible materials include the creation of soft robots capable of performing complex tasks. The center will also develop tissue-like biomaterials that could be capable of the controlled release of key molecules inside cells, like drug delivery.
Materials Research Laboratory at UCSB
Located at the University of California, Santa Barbara, this center will focus on developing new chemistries and processing techniques to enable the manufacturing of polymers with better recyclability. It will also work with biomaterials that can mimic living systems with possible applications in soft implants and haptics (systems that use touch and movement to exercise control).
Wisconsin Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
This center, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will develop 1) new types of glassy materials that can be used in electronic displays or for formulations of drug molecules, and 2) thin, crystalline-based membranes that have ultrafast magnetic switching properties that can be used in information processing, high-speed data storage and quantum computing.
Center for Advanced Materials & Manufacturing
Located at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the center is dedicated to better understanding, design and control of quantum materials and systems through artificial intelligence, with potential applications in energy harvesting, low-power electronics, quantum computing and novel sensing applications. It will also develop materials that can withstand the extreme temperatures and pressures needed in nuclear fusion and hypersonic defense systems.
Center for Materials Innovations at Michigan
Located at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the center will focus on developing 1) new layered materials with tailored nanoscale structures that can be used in quantum information processing, and 2) new recyclable polymeric materials that are capable of self-healing and have potential for applications in additive manufacturing and for the creation of materials with properties that can be regulated on demand.
“Since the 1970s, NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers have yielded countless breakthroughs, from shape-morphing materials to plastics that conduct electricity,” said NSF Assistant Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences Sean L. Jones. “Our current centers continue that proud tradition and provide the essential catalyst — born in the materials lab — which ignites American innovations that propel our country’s scientific and economic leadership.”
Read the full article here