Mechanical engineering professors Placid Ferriera, Kimani Toussaint, Narayana Alura, and Elif Ertekin
University of Illinois researchers have been awarded a 5-year, $4M grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch the country’s first computational node aimed at developing nanomanufacturing simulation tools. Kimani Toussaint (principle investigator and director), Narayana Aluru (co-PI), Elif Ertekin (co-PI), and Placid Ferreira (co-PI), all faculty members from the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) at Illinois, will lead this effort, along with Hayden Taylor (co-PI) from Cal Berkeley.
Having launched September 1, the nanoMFG Node’s mission is to be the engine for design, simulation, planning, and optimization of highly relevant nano-manufacturing growth and patterning processes. “To make nanomanufacturing economically viable, we envision end-users getting onto the nanoHUB cyber platform and simulating every stage in the manufacturing of a nano-enabled product,” Toussaint says. “These simulation tools could save significant time and money while providing valuable insight on how to refine critical process steps in nanomanufacturing.”
Nanomanufacturing critically depends on achieving control over complex process parameters and a thorough understanding of the underlying driving scientific phenomena. To date, there has been a clear absence of open-source simulation tools to help guide precise design and manufacturing of complex nano-scale structures. A 2010 science policy report commissioned by the NSF highlights that multi-scale theory, modeling, and simulation are essential to advancing theory in nanoscience, which will lead to the nanomanufacturing of useful devices and structures.
According to Toussaint, the nanoMFG Node team plans to develop computational tools that have been validated by experiments by collaborating with many of the facilities and centers at Illinois, including the Materials Research Laboratory and the Micro-Nano-Mechanical Systems Cleanroom Laboratory. They also plan to collaborate with the NCSA for software development and design.
The team aspires to create tools in areas ranging from nanoscale transport phenomena models to nanoscale self-assembly. The tools developed by the node will be validated by experimental data and made available on the nanoHUB, which is the cyber platform for the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN). The NCN’s goals are to: 1) accelerate the transformation of nanoscience to nanotechnology through the integration of simulation with experimentation; 2) engage an ever-larger and more diverse cyber community sharing novel, high-quality nanoscale computation and simulation research and educational resources; 3) develop open-access, open-source software to stimulate data sharing; and 4) inspire and educate the next-generation workforce.
“We are excited to develop high fidelity theory, modeling, and simulation tools that will reduce the lead time to design, fabricate, and scale nano-manufactured products,” Ertekin remarks. “Our goal is to help realize the potential of nanomanufacturing by streamlining the process and making simulation tools widely available to anyone interested in developing a nano-manufactured product.”
The node will have many opportunities for student engagement through summer workshops open to Illinois students as well as students from all over the country. There will also be engagement with industry to keep the tools developed relevant to industry needs.