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Norman Wagner
UD photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

A University of Delaware-led research team has received a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to fund research on nanoscale directed self-assembly in electrical and optical fields.

The team will be laying the groundwork for new technologies by directing tiny particles invisible to the human eye to create materials such as crystal arrays and wire-like structures that can then, in turn, be used to create even more complex materials, according to principal investigator Norman Wagner, Alvin B. and Julia O. Stiles Professor of Chemical Engineering at UD.

Co-investigators on the four-year project are UD's Eric Kaler, Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical Engineering and dean of the College of Engineering, and Eric Furst, assistant professor of chemical engineering, as well as Orlin Velev, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University, and John Brady, Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

The funding is through NSF's Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team program, which Wagner said is part of a national campaign to develop nanomaterials and nanotechnologies known as the National Nanotechnology Initiative. “It is not quite the Manhattan Project, but it certainly is an enormous national effort,” he said.

The UD team will be looking at new ways to take nanoscale “building blocks” and assemble them into “highly structured, highly functional materials,” Wagner said.

The NSF is interested in using the NIRT grants to stimulate multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research, Wagner said. Velev is a former UD researcher who now has a well-recognized research program at North Carolina State, and Brady is a renowned chemical engineer.

The grant will provide research opportunities for three doctoral students at UD and one each at North Carolina State and Cal Tech, and for undergraduates at the participating institutions. Students and faculty will work together at all three institutions, as well as with industrial partners who are interested in developing technologies from the basic research.

Contact: Neil Thomas, (302) 831-6408, []
November 14, 2005