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CMSE wins six-year, $19.2m NSF grant

Amid an increasingly challenging federal funding environment, MIT's Center for Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE) has won a six-year, $19.2 million National Science Foundation grant that will support research, K-12 educational outreach programs and vital shared experimental facilities.

"CMSE is privileged to be able to bring some of the Institute's finest researchers together to perform interdisciplinary materials research that can impact the current and future needs of society," said CMSE Director Michael Rubner, the TDK Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. "We're excited about moving forward with a new research program that represents the culmination of a two-year internal and external review process."

Through the new program, research will be conducted in three interdisciplinary research groups. One, the Design of Nanomaterials for Electrochemical Energy Storage and Conversion, seeks to accurately model, predict and determine how thermodynamics, phase behavior and kinetics are modified at the nanoscale.

The second, Mechanomutable Heteronanomaterials, will develop new dynamically tunable multicomponent heterogeneous nanostructured systems with an emphasis on mechanical behavior.

The final group, Multimaterial Multifunctional Nano-Structured Fibers, will explore the design, fabrication, characterization and physical phenomena of a new class of multicomponent nanoscale fiber materials.

The NSF grant will also support two smaller projects: Engineering Living Cells via Nanomaterials, and New States of Frustrated and Correlated Materials. CMSE also plans to provide seed funding for research that has the potential to redefine the direction of an existing interdisciplinary research group (IRG), or lead to a completely new IRG. A seed competition will begin this fall.

The new grant, awarded through NSF's Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) program, will also allow CMSE to continue two other key programs: shared experimental facilities and K-12 outreach.

Every year some 700 to 800 individual researchers use CMSE facilities for materials analysis, crystal growth and preparation, electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction. "Our facilities are critically important to the MRSEC program as well as to the broader MIT community and beyond," Rubner said. "We are gratified that we will be able to continue support of these facilities and expand them in coming years."

The center also has a strong education program directed toward graduate students, undergraduates, middle- and high-school students, and K-12 teachers.

CMSE has been part of the MRSEC program since 1994. For more information on CMSE and how you might be able to collaborate with the center, go to

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 24, 2008 (download PDF).

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