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Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NSF grant to fund instrumentation for IU Nanoscale Characterization Facility

Oct. 11, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The National Science Foundation has awarded $776,114 to Indiana University Bloomington researchers to acquire instrumentation for investigating how the nanoscale structure and composition of surfaces give rise to the unique properties of materials.

The three-year grant, from the NSF Division of Materials Research, supports the purchase of an X-ray photoelectron spectrometer, to be located at the Chemistry Building or Simon Hall and available for use by faculty members, scientists and graduate students from across campus. The researchers awarded the grant are all affiliated with the Nanoscale Characterization Facility at IU Bloomington and the instrumentation will be included as part of this user facility.

"This is state-of-the-art technology for elucidating the chemical state of surfaces and for understanding molecular interactions with surfaces," said Sara Skrabalak, principal investigator for the grant and an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry. "It will help answer questions related to the understanding and development of materials for solar energy, chemical sensing and other technologies, as well as addressing fundamental questions about materials found in nature."

Skrabalak Lab Grant

From left, Liang-shi Li, Steven Tait, Dongwhan Lee, Amar Flood, Sara Skrabalak, David Bish and David Baxter. Not pictured, Lyudmila Bronstein.

Print-Quality Photo

Other researchers involved in the grant include co-principal investigators Lyudmila Bronstein, Dongwhan Lee, Liang-shi Li and Steven Tait and fellow investigators David Baxter, David Bish and Amar Flood. Lee and Flood are associate professors, Li and Tait are assistant professors and Bronstein is a senior scientist, all in the Department of Chemistry. Baxter is a professor in the Department of Physics and Bish is the Haydn Murray Chair in the Department of Geological Sciences.

Funding to supplement the grant comes from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) reveals the elemental composition and chemical and electronic states of surfaces by irradiating a material with a beam of X-rays and measuring the energy and electrons that escape. The XPS instrument will also be equipped for ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy (UPS), which together can provide a more complete representation of the electronic structure of surfaces.

Researchers expect the equipment to be installed at IU and ready for use by the fall of 2012.

Skrabalak said having the instrumentation available in Bloomington will complement the existing instrumentation housed in the Nanoscale Characterization Facility and help to elevate the NCF to a world-class research center. The facility is part of the IU Bloomington Nanoscience Center.

Until now, researchers have had to send samples to other campuses for experiments involving XPS. Once the instrument is on line, it will increase the speed of research, allow "proof of concept" experiments to make the case for funding, and enable graduate students to be more accountable for their results as a result of having carried out all the research steps themselves.

The instrumentation has the potential to open new lines of research inquiry for the principal investigators and increase collaboration among scientific disciplines at IU Bloomington. It also will contribute to the public outreach mission of the Nanocience Center, which partners with regional academic and research institutions, businesses, K-12 schools and campus organizations.

Nanoscience is concerned with the unique properties of materials with dimensions of less than about one millionth of a meter. Understanding and measuring fundamental phenomena associated with such materials is essential to advancing many areas of modern science, including energy production, environmental remediation and biomedical and information technology.

To speak with Skrabalak or other researchers involved with the project, please contact Steve Hinnefeld at University Communications, 812-856-3488 or, or Jocelyn Bowie at the College of Arts and Sciences, 812-855-5265 or