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May 7, 2016

UMass receives nanotechnology grant

Chris Shores/Collegian

The University of Massachusetts, with the help of a recent grant from the National Science Foundation, is preparing to build large things on a very small scale.

A five-year, $20 million grant will help support the UMass Amherst Nanotechnology Center and fund the Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing (CHM), University officials announced at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Conte Polymer Research Center yesterday afternoon.

“Centers such as this are focal points within the campus’ strategy to take our place at the top tier in public research universities,” said Chancellor Robert Holub at the event. “We want to have a significant impact on both the commonwealth’s and the nation’s research landscape… This includes nanotechnology.”

According to documents distributed to attendees, CHM “performs research on nanomanufacturing technologies for low-cost, high-volume production” of technology that is ultimately used for things such as batteries, solar panels, touch screens, displays and sensors.

“Centers such as the CHM drive transformational innovation and help industries drive opportunities in high growth areas,” said Holub. “They’re finding cheaper and easier ways to manufacture amazing things that will improve our lives.”

Among those in attendance at yesterday’s ceremony was Eric T. Nakajima, a graduate of UMass and a member of the state’s executive Office of Housing and Economic development.

“If you look to the future, I am convinced that UMass’ impact on manufacturing and innovation is going to be profound in the coming years,” Nakajima said. “I look forward to opportunities in the future for our whole team to work with UMass to make sure that every step of the way we’re able to facilitate the impact it’s going to have on the business technology.”

Mark Tuominen, a co-director of CHM, said he also believes the center will have an impact on the future of the state and country.

“In my opinion, the nation is beginning to adopt a long view,” he said. “For a vibrant economy and a thriving society, we must have sustained and comprehensive efforts in advanced manufacturing. The CHM is working to do its part.”

Tuominem also stressed the importance of education that the center has. He said that workshops are offered for elementary and secondary school teachers. In addition, the University sponsors a “Science Quest” day of activities for high school students, he said.

Also speaking at the ceremony was James Watkins, CHM director, and Michael Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement. Both thanked the University and state for their support of the center.
Two industry executives, James Casey from FLEXcon of Spencer and Michael McCreary from E Ink of Cambridge, also spoke yesterday. The industries will work in collaboration with CHM. FLEXcon manufactures adhesives and film labeling products. E Ink works on electronic displays, such as those used in the Amazon Kindle.

Following the speeches, the attendees took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the center.

According to a press release from the UMass News Office, this is the second grant the center has received from NSF. In 2006, when the center was opened, it received $16 million in the form of a federal grant and $7 million in state matching funds.

Chris Shores can be reached at cshores@dailycollegian.com

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