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UW EE's Karl Bohringer to Lead New NSF Center

UW is one of 16 sites selected nationwide to participate in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) new National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) program, which has the objective of supporting researchers from academia and industry with access to the latest technologies. As part of the program, UW and Oregon State University have received a $4.5 million five-year grant to advance nanoscale science, engineering and technology research in the Pacific Northwest. The funding will specifically support the UW Washington Nanofabrication Facility (WNF), directed by EE Professor Karl Böhringer.

In addition to supporting the WNF, the funding also supports the UW Molecular Analysis Facility. While the Pacific Northwest NNCI site will be headquartered at UW, additional facilities are available at Oregon State University. Resources will also be leveraged at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, North Seattle College and the University of British Columbia.

“This prestigious grant is important because it confirms again that UW is one of the nationally leading institutions in the field of nanotechnology,” Böhringer said. “For all the researchers who are current or potential future users of these facilities, this grant means affordable usage rates and easy access to a vast array of cutting-edge tools and expert staff.”

Led by Böhringer, a team across campus worked to secure the funding, including Bioengineering Research Associate Professor Lara Gamble, Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Jim Pfaendtner, Bioengineering Associate Professor Dan Ratner and Chemical Engineering Professor Dan Schwartz. UW EE's Kai-Mei Fu was also a member of the investigator team.

The largest public access fabrication center in the Pacific Northwest, the WNF provides access to micro and nanofabrication processing equipment, which is used to make small computer chips and sensors for various electronic devices, to more than 140 researchers every month. The cleanrooms, which minimize environmental pollutants, are necessary as the materials the researchers are developing are often smaller than a speck of dust. The same equipment used by UW faculty and students is available to researchers from various businesses and start-ups. 

The NNCI funding will help fund staff salaries, especially for experienced technical staff. The funding will allow staff more time for training, developing new lab technologies and conducting basic research. The grant will also fund new computational initiatives, allowing researchers to partner with data science experts across campus to better model fabrication and nanoscale interactions.

The WNF also recently received a $37 million award from the UW Board of Regents to expand the facility at Fluke Hall.

“We really have a remarkable alliance of supporters for NNCI, from the departments to the colleges to the provost to regional non-profits such as WRF and the Murdock Charitable Trust to local and national businesses,” Böhringer said.

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