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Vanderbilt Engineering to lead new defense nanotechnology program

Jun. 24, 2004, 3:13 PM

Nashville, Tenn. ó The Vanderbilt School of Engineering will lead a new
$2.4 million multi-institutional nanotechnology program funded by the
U.S. Army Research Laboratory to develop radically improved
electronics, sensors, energy-conversion devices and other critical
defense systems.

The Advanced Carbon Nanotechnology Research Program will explore
various nanostructures of carbon, including diamond, at the molecular
level to develop next-generation materials that can be used in a wide
range of defense devices and systems. The Army Research Laboratory
funds will support the program’s first year of operation.

"Nanoscale" describes objects that measure approximately a millionth of
a millimeter, or roughly 1/100,000th the diameter of a human hair.

"The goal of this cutting-edge research is to gain control of
structures and devices at atomic and molecular levels and to learn to
efficiently manufacture and use these devices," said Jimmy L. Davidson,
principal investigator of the new program.

Davidson, professor of electrical engineering and professor of
materials science and engineering, will coordinate the research
efforts. In addition to Vanderbilt, the University of Kentucky, North
Carolina State University, the University of Florida and the
International Technology Center will participate in the program.

Davidson pointed out that although carbon is the most versatile of
elements and is the foundation of most fuels, synthetic materials and
biological systems, little is known about its behavior at the nanoscale

"Using carbon as a building block in this promising new area of science
is a potentially boundless resource not sufficiently explored in
today’s research endeavors," Davidson said.

In addition to conducting research into carbon-based nanotechnology,
the new program will train graduate students to work in the emerging
field and will establish close interactions among U.S. industry and
government laboratories.

Initial goals include developing diamond/carbon nanostructures for
biological and chemical sensors, developing a new energy-conversion
device, and developing electron emission devices for advanced

Biological and chemical sensors: Carbon-derived nanotubes, electrodes and microtips could detect toxic chemical agents.

Energy-conversion device: Thermal-electric energy conversion devices
based on diamond/carbon vacuum field emitter nanostructures can provide
power and cooling systems that are more efficient, clean and
environmentally friendly.

Electron emission devices: New cold-cathode electron emitters and gated
field emission devices could improve performance, efficiency and
reliability in advanced electronics. Infrared-emission displays can be
used in infrared imaging and sensing equipment. These materials may
also be useful for medical, biological and chemical applications.

The research is sponsored by the Army Research Laboratory under
Cooperative Agreement Number W911NF-04-20023. The views and conclusions
contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be
interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or
implied, of the Army Research Laboratory or the U.S. Government.

Media contacts: Vivian Cooper-Capps, (615) 322-2762

Melanie Catania, (615) 322-7970