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The Center for Electron Microscopy and Nanofabrication
The Center for Electron Microscopy and Nanofabrication

Consider that a single sheet of standard 8½" x 11" paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick, and that there are whole branches of science and industry that now focus on materials only a few nanometers in size. In this bizarre world, normal properties and behaviors may no longer apply, opening the door to new industrial and scientific applications, like clothing that cleans itself, and solar collectors that can be painted onto any surface.

Over the last 40 years, advances in the field of nanoscience have paralleled breakthroughs in the technology of electron microscopy (EM). Largely because of its high tech industries, Oregon has a large complement of companies that make and use electron microscopes. As a result, in 2003 Oregon’s Legislature, industries, and universities created the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), one of three Signature Research Centers intended to stimulate technology-related economic development. ONAMI placed facilities at a number of universities to help solidify the state’s leadership role in this emerging sector.

PSU’s part of ONAMI is the Center for Electron Microscopy and Nanofabrication (CEMN), which supports the nanoscience and nanotechnology research activities and collaborations of more than 200 faculty, post-doc and student researchers at Oregon’s universities, and promotes partnerships and interactions between PSU and industry. PSU’s participants, from the departments of Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, conduct externally-funded research projects on diverse topics that include nanomaterials synthesis, nanodevice fabrication, nanometrology development, green chemistry, micro-scale energy, and chemical systems.

Besides strengthening PSU’s capabilities, the instruments, resources and personnel at CEMN help members of the high-tech community meet their needs through consultations, training and certification, and analytical services. Since its inception, CEMN has collaborated with over 60 companies.

CEMN’s latest addition, a powerful  X-ray Photo-electron Spectroscopy Microprobe allows commercial partners, faculty, and students to map out chemical variations on surfaces in far greater detail than has previously been possible.

CEMN also hosts one of PSU’s most active science outreach portfolios. Opportunities such as the Oregon Saturday Academy’s Apprenticeship in Science and Engineering summer program, Partners in Science Program, the Intel Northwest Science Expo and others, allow K-12 students, many from communities under-represented in STEM fields, to learn about and explore the fascinating worlds revealed by PSU’s powerful electron microscopes, while gaining hands on experience with the methods and tools used by professional scientists and engineers. CEMN Director Jun Jiao has won a steady stream of large federal and industry grants and contracts, including some that focus on undergraduate training.

Innovations in nanoscience and nanotechnology hold the promise of profound impacts in applications ranging from medical devices to green energy. Some of the best-established players responsible for those discoveries (such as Intel) have sizable operations here, alongside up-and-coming startups like Energy Storage Solutions and Pacific Light Technologies. This mix of industrial leaders and rising stars assures that the demand for CEMN’s facilities and services, along with PSU graduates who know how to use them, will remain strong well into the foreseeable future.

Authored by Shaun McGillis
Posted September 15, 2014