New center for advanced materials and nanotechnology established

The new center, which replaces Lehigh’s 41-year-old Materials Research Center (MRC), will oversee nanotechnology research activities in a dozen different academic departments and programs at Lehigh.
The decision to reconstitute the MRC as the CAMN was approved by Mohamed S. El-Aasser, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, and David B. Williams, vice provost for research. The new center will be directed by Martin P. Harmer, Alcoa Professor of materials science and engineering and director of the former MRC.
Derived from the word nanometer (nm), which is one one-billionth of a meter, nanotechnology refers to the creation of materials and devices through the control of matter at the atomic and molecular level, where the bulk properties of the larger material are often determined.
Nanotechnology-based research programs are already underway at Lehigh. In the civil and environmental engineering department, researchers use nanoparticles to clean contaminated groundwater. In the chemical engineering department, researchers are building a processor for fuel cells that run on hydrogen and fit on a standard, 2-centimeter silicon chip.
Other possible applications of nanotechnology include drugs that can target and kill cancer cells, new computers millions of times more efficient than current machines, and breakthroughs in genome sequencing, to name just a few.
Much nanotechnology research relies on the use of electron microscopes, an area in which Lehigh is internationally renowned. The university’s two-week Microscopy School has drawn hundreds of international researchers each summer since it opened in 1970.
The CAMN will coordinate all of Lehigh’s nanotechnology programs, and will promote interdisciplinary research and education, working with Lehigh’s other research centers and with academic departments in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Electron Microscopy Laboratory, formerly housed and administered within the MRC, will be incorporated within the CAMN as part of a new Nanocharacterization Laboratory. Chris Kiely, professor of materials science and engineering, will direct the new lab.
--Kurt Pfitzer