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Rice, NIST to Partner on Nanoscale Carbon Materials Research

Matteo Pasquali (Rice University)

Matteo Pasquali (Rice University)

Rice University in Houston and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland will collaborate in research on nanoscale carbon particles interacting with other materials at the molecular and atomic levels. The five-year, $2.7 million cooperative research agreement is funded by NIST and expected to benefit the emerging field of advanced nanomaterials manufacturing.

Researchers at Rice’s Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology will join with counterparts at NIST to advance methods of measurement and characterization of nanoparticles — particularly hollow carbon molecular spheres called fullerenes, nanotubes, and graphene. “The payoff will be grand,” says engineering professor Matteo Pasquali, Rice’s principal investigator on the project (pictured left). “The goal is to enable the manufacture of high-end products that incorporate carbon-based nanomaterials for enhanced optical, electrical, mechanical, and thermal properties.”

Pasquali notes that research up to now focused on understanding the basic characteristics of carbon nanomaterials, such as nanotubes, “but we will now go further to enable products and devices to be manufactured that include many types of carbon nanomaterials.” He believes the new research will encourage advances in energy, health care, materials science, and national security.

Pasquali’s lab at Rice has experience in the dispersal and characterization of carbon nanotubes and graphene, including the extrusion of graphene into fibers that could become components in an advanced energy grid. Junichiro Kono, a professor of engineering and physics at Rice and one of the lead investigators on the project, recently fabricated devices based on aligned carbon nanotubes and graphene to control waves in the terahertz band, at the far end of the infrared spectrum.

As a result of the agreement, Rice plans to hire a team of postdoctoral researchers who will study ways to disperse and characterize nanomaterials for specific uses, control and measure nano-network structures, and create systems for in-line measurements during manufacturing. The new team is expected to be based at NIST headquarters in Maryland, where they will work with NIST’s scientists.

Kalman Migler, leader of the Complex Fluids Group of the Materials Science and Engineering Division at NIST, and Angela Hight Walker, project leader in NIST’s Semiconductor and Dimensional Metrology Division are leading the project for NIST, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. “We look forward to leveraging our combined scientific, engineering, and standards leadership in nanomaterials to help the U.S. lead in the race toward commercialization and manufacturing,” says Migler.

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