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NDnano seeks to promote greater good through nanotechnology

| Monday, August 27, 2018

Have you ever thought about the smallest particles of matter and how they can be used to create good?

Notre Dame’s Center for Nano Science and Technology, better known as NDnano, has been working since 2001 to answer this and other unsolved scientific questions using nanotechnology — the branch of technology that studies and manipulates extremely small matter such as atoms and molecules at a ‘nanoscale’ length.

NDnano is a collection of faculty members who are interested in what can be learned by understanding the nanoscale. At the group’s meetings, engineers and scientists across the University gather to share their understanding of the scale with each other and to solve nanoscience problems.

“It’s really quite exciting when you start to think about how the world works on an atomic scale,” Alan Seabaugh, the director of NDnano, said. “There are many abilities that have come out in the last couple decades about this topic. These abilities are starting to give us great insight into how we can engineer new kinds of structures so we can revisit problems that have solutions now, but were solved before we had this level of understanding.”

Recent work at NDnano has included continuing to invest in the future of computing, Seabaugh said. Notre Dame recently won a research center in an effort led by Suman Datta, the Freimann chair of engineering. Called “Ascent,” the center is looking at the bottlenecks of computing and how they can be solved.

“This center has been a big win for the University,” Seabaugh said. “It’s a national center that’s come from NDnano that has several other universities involved and well over 100 researchers in that institute.”

Other projects include research into drug delivery to cancer cells, new fuels, nuclear sustainability, solar and thermal electrics and analyzing water for pathogens, he said.

NDnano aims to engage students, too — a number of undergraduate research fellowships are offered during the summer to propel students into projects with the center. Additionally, Seabaugh said faculty research groups often have openings for undergraduates.

Even with the progression of NDnano’s research, however, the organization’s goal remains the same — to address questions with an aim to promote the greater good.

Ever since they began meeting during lunch back in 2001, the NDNano faculty continues meeting monthly to discuss the nanotechnology topics and questions that interest them. After comparing ideas, they aim to write winning proposals.

“We talk about problems we’re interested in addressing, we talk about things that we can do and can’t do, and it’s the faculty teaching the faculty and collaborating on problems that we want to tackle together,” Seabaugh said.

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