Say you’re an aspiring young nanotechnologist with an idea for a new product. What are the barriers to moving your project forward? One big barrier is the cost of the equipment to build and test your nano-based prototype. For example an ebeam lithography system has a price tag of a million dollars, not counting the cost of installation, a facility to put it in, and maintance. The reality is that not just every Tom, Dick, or Mary can set up a nano lab. What’s a researcher to do? Rent a lab.
Several labs and facilities are making their equipment available for nano related projects. Some simply charge a rental fee, others may waive some or all fees if your research is non-proprietary. Still others will test your materials for you if your research is allied with their mission. Here’s a rundown of some of the facilities offering this nifty service.
If your in need of a lab your first step might be to see if one of the thirteen facilities of The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) located close to you has the equipment you need. These facilities, supported by the National Science Foundation, are focused on nanoscale fabrication and characterization (for example measuring particle size distribution or material strength).
These centers are all located at universities such as Cornell, Stanford, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas at Austin, University of Minnesota, and Harvard. Each was funded by the NSF to provide facilities for researchers from industry and other universities. After completing a training program to qualify on a particular tool you can rent equipment to use in building or characterizing your little bit of nano material.
If you are developing new nanomaterials you’ll be happy to hear that the DOE has created five facilities called Nanoscale Science Research Centers. These Research Centers are located in National Labs scattered around the country: Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois; Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York State; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California; Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.
The goal of these facilities is to encourage the development and characterization of new nanomaterials. Each research center has a number of focus areas that draws upon the expertise and equipment of the National Lab where they are located.
For example, one focus at the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is on biological nanostructures; one focus at The Center for Nanophase Material Science at Oak Ridge National Lab is on nano enhanced catalysts, while down in New Mexico the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Sandia National Lab includes among its focuses nanophotonics and nanoelectronics .
Making progress in the fight against cancer often requires synergistic efforts that involve sharing ideas and tools. The National Cancer Institute, in association with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has established a Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory in Maryland. The mission of this facility is to perform preclinical efficacy and toxicity testing of nanoparticles in order to accelerate the transition of nanoparticles into clinical applications.
If you’ve developed a nanoparticle for the treatment of cancer but can’t afford to do the testing required to demonstrate that your material is effective and safe, you can submit it to this facility, but be sure to take a number: The testing program to characterize physical attributes, biological properties, and compatibility of nanoparticles takes about a year.
The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) Nanofab in Maryland is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The mission of the CNST is to solve nanoscale measurement problems that hamper the progress of nanotechnology research.
These folks charge an hourly fee. If your research is non-proprietary and could help to solve a nano measurement problem that supports the production of nanobased applications you may be in luck. They may offer discounted fees or waive fees entirely.
For more information on nanotechnology research labs and links to the labs mentioned here, go to my Nanotechnology Research Lab Web page.