Thinking Big to Think Small: US Nanoscale Science Research Centres

by | May 17, 2013

Scanning probe microscopy in the US Department of Energy Nanoscale Research Centers: status, perspectives, and opportunities.

A new special issue of Advanced Functional Materials has just been published online, entitled “Scanning Probe Microscopy in US Department of Energy Nanoscale Research Centers: Status, Perspectives, and Opportunities“.

MaterialsScienceOnTheNanoscaleGuest-edited by Prof. Sergei Kalinin of Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the special issue not only provides an overview of SPM activities at the 5 centers, but also represents an invaluable contribution to the whole SPM research field.

The operational model of the Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs) generally combines an external user program with an in house research program and instrument development. This system of give and take allows the retention of skilled staff, the development of new commercially available instruments and dissemination of knowledge into the broader scientific community.

With this issue, Prof. Kalinin has assembled feature article contributions from amongst the NSRCs to give an overview of recent developments and the different focuses of the SPM programme at the 5 research centers.

At the Center for Nanophase Materials Science (CNMS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, work is focused on a) development of SPM for ultra high vacuum and controlled environment imaging, b) novel multi-dimensional data acquisition and image analysis methods, and c) in situ sample preparation.

At the Center for Integrated Technologies, SPM is used to investigate the dynamic properties of soft, biological and complex nanomaterials with the aim of  mimicing 2D function and organization in biological systems for materials development.

SPM plays a critical role at the Molecular Foundry, where efforts are focused on the development of a) multimodal and multidimensional SPM and b) in-situ SPM, particularly at solid-liquid interfaces.

At the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) at Argonne National Laboratory, ultra high vacuum STM and AFM is used to explore the structural and electronic properties of cutting edge materials and nanoscale molecular systems.

Finally, the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) at Brookhaven National Laboratory applies in situ/operando surface microscopy and spectroscopy to the investigation of chemical processes in energy conversion and energy storage.

In an essay introducing the issue, Prof. Kalinin quotes Freeman Dyson: “Philosophy supplied the concepts for science, and skilled crafts provided the tools”. Through this combination of new thinking and cutting edge tools, NSRCs have emerged as a hotbed of SPM development and application.