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National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN)

April 7, 2003

Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NSE)

October 24, 2002

Program Announcement:
NSF 02-148, Nanoscale Science & Engineering

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announces a program on collaborative research and education in the area of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NSE). The goal of this program is to support fundamental research and catalyze synergistic science and engineering research and education in emerging areas of nanoscale science and technology, including: biosystems at the nanoscale; nanoscale structures, novel phenomena, and quantum control; device and system architecture; design tools and nanosystems specific software; nanoscale processes in the environment; multi-scale, multi-phenomena modeling and simulation at the nanoscale; manufacturing processes at the nanoscale; and studies on the societal implications of nanoscale science and engineering. This solicitation will provide support for: Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Teams (NIRT) and Nanoscale Exploratory Research (NER). Other research and education projects in nanoscale science and engineering will continue to be supported in the relevant Programs and Divisions.

There are many opportunities for geoscientists to contribute to our understanding of fundamental nanoscale processes, and the chemical, physical and biological processes they affect. The crust of planet Earth can be thought of as a catalytic bed of enormous diversity consisting of trillions of square kilometers of surface area. Much of this surface is in contact with water or its vapor. This mineral-water interface and the nanoscale processes that occur here regulate and moderate the planet upon which we live. These processes play critical roles in, for example, the quality of the world's fresh water, the development of soils and the distribution of plant nutrients within them, the integrity of underground waste repositories and, in the global sense, the geochemical cycling of the elements.

Studies of nanoscale processes in the environment and biosystems at the nanoscale provide a natural opportunity for the geoscience community to participate in this rapidly developing initiative. GEO research in this area will focus on probing nanostructures and processes of relevance in the environment. Some likely areas of emphasis include: understanding the distribution, composition, origin, and behavior of nanoscale structures under a wide variety of naturally occurring physical, chemical and biological conditions, including nanoscale interactions at the interface between organic and inorganic solids, liquids and gases; undertaking detailed atomic and molecular studies of mineral surfaces using new surface-sensitive microscopies (e.g., atomic force microscopy and scanning tunneling microscopy) and spectroscopies in conjunction with ab initio molecular orbital calculations; studies of cell-cell, mineral-microbe, mineral-water, colloid-water, and molecular biological interactions that are known, or suspected, to underlie the functioning of the ocean as a global biogeochemical system; investigation of biological, biochemical, and physicochemical processes at marine interfaces at the sea-air, water-sediment, and organism-environment levels in the open ocean as well as in estuarine-coastal waters and hydrothermal environments that will require experimental innovation and may employ nanoscale technological developments that push the leading edge of biology, chemistry, and physical research; understanding and documenting processes that operate at supramolecular, cellular surface, and phase boundary scales that will require the development and application of chemical and biological sensor technology for making rapid, high-precision observations at submicroscopic spatial and volumetric scales; studies focused on the diverse marine biota that may reveal novel biosystems that facilitate biomineralization and transport nutrients and trace substances at molecular and supramolecular scales; developing new field and laboratory instrumentation for characterizing the chemical composition and physical/chemical properties of molecular clusters, ultrafine and fine aerosol particles, and the gaseous precursors and reactants which influence nucleation and growth in the atmosphere; and, conducting field missions using airborn and surface platforms to detect and characterize nanoscale particles throughout the atmosphere and to understand their interactions with the surrounding gases.

The underlying fundamental benefit from this research includes better understanding of the role of surface phenomena in regulating chemical exchanges (including pollutants) between mineral surfaces and water or air that are known, or suspected, to underlie the functioning of the atmosphere, lithosphere, and ocean as a global biogeochemical system.

GEO Contacts:

NSF Celebrating 50 Years Directorate for Geosciences, NSF
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 705N, Arlington, Virginia, 22230
Tel: 703.292.8500 | FAX: 703.292.9042| TDD: 800-281-8749
Last Modified:
Apr 16, 2004

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