The study, manipulation and exploitation of nanostructured materials and devices lies at the heart of modern science and technology. NTNU – the Norwegian University of Science and Technology – is home to the largest centre for nanoscience and nanotechnology in Norway. Read on to discover some of the ways in which nano-related education and research at NTNU is creating knowledge for a better world.
Rector’s prize studentships in nanoscience, nanotechnology and functional materials
Each year the Rector sponsors a university-wide competition for two PhD positions in nanoscience, nanotechnology and functional materials, open to nano-active research groups in all faculties.
The results of this year’s competition are now out:
One position has been awarded to Jianying He and Helge Kristiansen from the Department of Structural Engineering to develop high thermal conductivity interface materials for metal/polymer interfaces; while the other has been awarded to Sverre Magnus Selbach, Mari-Ann Einarsrud and Sondre Kvalvåg Schnell from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering to develop high performance solid-state Li electrolytes for Li-ion batteries.
We wish both research teams success with their projects, and look forward to reporting on their progress in future news items.
Joined up thinking to make materials greener
A new research centre is about to give Norway a window into how its rich mineral resources can be turned into useful – and more environmentally-friendly – materials.
The Norwegian national centre for minerals and materials characterisation, known as MiMaC for short, promises to look at every step of the process of turning minerals into materials. The centre is a joint project of NTNU, the Geological Survey of Norway and research company SINTEF.
When it’s fully up and running by the end of the year, it will be made up of five world-class instruments allowing researchers to look at materials in different ways, from the atomic scale up to the microscale.
But the crown jewel of the project is already in place: a state-of-the-art atom probe that can image materials in three dimensions. It works by using laser or high voltage pulses to evaporate away the tiny sample you put into the probe, pushing its way through a few atoms at a time.
“You can reconstruct exactly where every single atom is sitting,” says Jostein Mårdalen, head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at NTNU. “We have a tool which is much more accurate - with higher resolution and better performance - than any other material science instrument available.”
As a national centre, MiMaC is open to scientists from other institutions who want to use its instruments. Mårdalen says he hopes that other researchers will take advantage of the atom probe to see objects such as fossils and even meteorites in a new light.
But the main reasoning behind MiMaC is more down to Earth. Using the centre’s instruments, researchers will look at the whole lifecycle of minerals: from their extraction and processing, to their design and production, and eventually their re-use or recycling.
Until now, neither research nor industry has had such a complete view, leading to inefficient ways of making materials. For example, a raw material might be stripped of impurities, only to have some new elements later added back in to make an alloy.
Now demand for greener materials is growing, Mårdalen hopes MiMaC will help both research and industry change. Seeing the full picture, he says, should allow researchers to come up with ways to make manufacturing processes less wasteful and better for the planet – for example, by finding new ways to use recycled materials. “The industry now is thinking how to be greener,” he says.
--Kelly Oakes, Mar 2019
Dennis Meier - Creating a new kind of electronics
At the border between physics and material science, Dennis Meier and his colleagues are searching for a new kind of electronics.
They hope to make circuits that are smaller, faster, and better for the environment than today’s electronics, by taking advantage of defects that already exist within materials. The electronic components the team have made so far are just a few atoms long, and could eventually be connected together to form circuits that measure mere nanometres across – far smaller than those we use today.
“We're working at the limit of what is doable in a solid-state system when you want to construct electronic components,” says Meier, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at NTNU.
The defects used to create these components are made when two parts of the same material have different properties. For example, their electric dipole moments – a measure of the distribution of charge in a material – might point in different directions. When these contrasting sections meet at an interface, they create what is known as a domain wall. The domain wall doesn’t behave like the rest of the material – for instance, it might be electrically conducting, even though the rest is an insulator.
So far Meier’s team have created two electrical components using domain walls: a digital switch and a half-wave rectifier. A rectifier turns alternating current that reverses direction regularly to direct current that just flows one way. The next step in his research is to connect components together. Once that’s possible, the team can start thinking about creating logic gates and doing some basic computing with the circuits.
Theoretically, circuits made with these materials could be tweaked when new technology demands it. “Once you have made your nanoscale circuit you can update it, you can upgrade it if needed, or even erase it and rewrite it – all within the same material,” says Meier.
Because domain walls occur naturally in materials, the production process should – in theory – be simple. “The interfaces are always there and they are perfect, no additional work is needed,” says Meier.
--Kelly Oakes, Mar 2019
Introducing Kelly Oakes as our new science writer
I am delighted to report the appointment of Kelly Oakes as the new science writer for NTNU Nano. Kelly is a freelance writer who specialises in science, health, environment, and technology. Her work has been published in New Scientist, BBC Future, Nature, BuzzFeed, and many other publications. She has a degree in physics and a master's in science communication from Imperial College London. Please click here for lots more information about Kelly’s extensive experience in science journalism.
Kelly has just completed her first two articles for NTNU Nano, with more on the way. If you have interesting research to report and would like it communicated to the wider scientific community in a clear and accessible way, please get in touch!
Grey Goo 2019
Congratulations to the master students in nanotechnology for a fun and informative set of talks at the Grey Goo Symposium on Feb 17. Some great science presented with humour and flair - learn more about what went on here.
Important: new procedures for Research Council of Norway grant applications
You are hopefully aware that the Research Council of Norway (RCN) is changing the way it handles research proposals. The biggest change is the introduction of a common 10th April application deadline for most of its funding schemes. (Some schemes have deadlines in September, but these are mainly related to projects with industry involvement).
The RCN has introduced new portfolio boards updated its evaluation criteria (which now relate to “excellence”, “impact” and “implementation”), and introduced new templates for research proposals and investigator CVs. It has also placed some new restrictions on the number of applications that you can make as a principal investigator. You can find a helpful summary of the changes in this presentation. The following calls are likely to be the ones that are of most interest to nano-researchers: FRIPRO (basic research projects), Nano2021 (nanotechnology and advanced materials), BEDREHELSE (better health and quality of life), BEHANDLING (diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation) and ENERGIX (energy research). However, nanoscience obviously has a valuable role to play in other programmes too, so be sure to check out all of the calls.
Unfortunately, if you are planning to resubmit an unsuccessful application from a previous funding call, then you will need to make substantial changes to its format and content to satisfy the new procedures. On the other hand, the changes do bring the RCN into closer alignment with Horizon 2020 criteria, so you will hopefully be able to use your RCN proposal as the basis for a future H2020 funding application.
Be aware that the move to a common once-per-year submission deadline means there are no “second chances” if your application is unsuccessful. You are therefore strongly advised to enlist the help of some trusted colleagues to review your proposal and suggest improvements to its structure and content; many departments are currently in the process of setting up formalised peer review procedures to assist with this.
One final warning, the common submission deadline is likely to place considerable pressure on your Department’s management and administrators, so please make sure you engage with them well in advance of the application deadline.
And remember, if you are planning to use any of the central infrastructures such as the NanoLab in your work, you will need to discuss the budget with their administrators too. Please contact the director of NTNU NanoLab, Peter Köllensperger if you need advice regarding choice of processes and budgeting.
Don’t delay – the clock is ticking!
Appointment of Peter Köllensperger as the new Director of NTNU NanoLab
NTNU Nano Symposium 2018
November was the month of our thirteenth “nano symposium”, which took place at NTNU’s Kalvskinnet campus in central Trondheim. With well over a hundred participants from across NTNU, this two-day annual event has always been one of the best opportunities to learn about the amazing breadth of nano-related research happening at the university. This year’s meeting was no exception. The presentations covered a wealth of topics, including the synthesis of nanomaterials and nanostructured surfaces, the development of new sensor technologies, solar energy, quantum computing and many more. This year’s prize for the best oral presentation went to Anders Strømberg whose talk “Unconventional Computing with Artificial Spin Ice” described how two-dimensional lattices of interacting nanomagnets offer an efficient and highly parallel approach to computation. The prize for best poster went to Stephanie Burgmann, a first-year PhD student who impressed the judges with her firm grasp of detail. You can find a complete list of the talks and posters, including abstracts by clicking here(pdf).
In addition to the participants from NTNU, we were also fortunate to have two external speakers at the meeting, Prof. Andrew de Mello from ETH, Zurich (who spoke on the application of microfluidics to ultra-high-throughput chemistry and biology) and Dr. Wilhelm Glomm from Sintef Industry (who described how micro- and nano-encapsulation technologies can be applied to food production and healthcare). Many thanks to them both for their inspiring and well-pitched talks. And finally, a big thank you to Hanna Gautun and Berit Myhre for their immense efforts in putting together such an enjoyable and well-planned programme!
The Kavli Prize 2018
Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Kavli Prizes.
In the ten years since their inception, the Kavli Prizes have established themselves as some of the most important prizes in the international scientific calendar. Founded in 2008 by the Norwegian-born businessman-turned-philanthropist Fridjtof (“Fred”) Kavli, the prizes recognise exceptional breakthroughs in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. The 2018 astrophysics prize was awarded to Ewine Van Dishoeck “for contributions to observational, theoretical, and laboratory astrochemistry”; the neuroscience prize was awarded to A. James Hudspeth, Robert Fettiplace and Christine Petit “for their pioneering work on the molecular and neural mechanisms of hearing”; while the nanoscience prize was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer A. Doudna and Virginijus Šikšnys “for the invention of CRISPR-Cas9, a precise nanotool for editing DNA.”
NTNU is fortunate to play a key role in the Kavli prize celebrations, acting as the official host for the Prize Lectures in nanoscience and neuroscience. This year’s lectures were held in Trondheim on the 6th September, two days after the official prize ceremony in Oslo. During the morning we were treated to a series of inspiring lectures by the Laureates, touching on the science behind their research and the consequences for society at large. Since we are writing for NTNU Nano, it is only right that we should say a little bit more about the subject of the nanoscience prize: CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene editing tool that simplifies the removal, addition and alteration of sections of DNA from the genome, making genetic modification easier than ever before; intriguingly, the technique has its origins in an ancient mechanism that certain bacteria use to defend against viral attack. By making the process of gene editing faster, cheaper and more reliable, CRISPR-Cas 9 offers numerous opportunities for improving clinical practice; at the same time, however, the vastly increased simplicity of gene editing raises profound ethical questions that will be debated for many years to come. If you would like to learn more, you can find a clear and simple discussion of the technology here: https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-crispr-cas9.
Following the prize lectures, a terrific line-up of guest lecturers presented on wider topics in nanoscience, with Nobel-Prize laureate Albert Fert from Université Paris-Sud speaking on magnetic disturbances in thin-film magnetic materials; Chris Palmstrøm from UC Santa Barbara describing how the epitaxial combination of dissimilar materials can lead to precision-engineered structures with novel physical properties; Kristina Edström from Uppsala University describing how the selective use of nanostructurally optimized inorganic materials may allow for a new generation of safe, recyclable and high-capacity batteries; and Albert van den Berg from the University of Twente explaining how micro- and nanofabrication technologies are enabling the development of chip-based devices for chemical sensing, modeling of genetic processes, and the implementation of artificial organs. All in all, this was a fascinating and deeply inspiring day of talks from researchers at the absolute forefront of nanoscience and nanotechnology. We are already looking forward to hosting the next series of Prize Lectures in 2020!
International Nanoscience Student Conference
John de Mello, the new director of NTNU Nano, reports on NTNU’s hosting of the International Nanoscience Student Conference, INASCON 2018
I arrived in Trondheim in early August, which very fortunately coincided with NTNU’s hosting of the International Nanoscience Student Conference August 7-10. This student-run, three-day meeting will definitely go down as one of my personal highlights of the year. In the months running up to the meeting, I had the opportunity to watch the conference plans take shape, and I was ‘blown away’ by the professionalism and creativity of the student management team. Arranging a conference with 142 participants from across the globe is a huge undertaking; and, in this case, it was made doubly tough by the need to squeeze in all of the preparations between work assignments, research projects, and exam revision!
Through an impressive mixture of ambition and perseverance, the INASCON team put together an outstanding programme of talks and events, securing a superb line-up of world-leading experts in numerous aspects of nanotechnology (including the 2002 and 2016 Nobel chemistry laureates Kurt Wüthrich and Sir Fraser Stoddart). The diversity of talks was immense, covering self-assembly, molecular machinery, photonics, electronics, analytical science, imaging, healthcare, potential solutions to the energy crisis and many other central topics in nanoscience. Added to this were live demonstrations, panel sessions on battery technology and commercialisation, and a number of fun interactive sessions (including, a little oddly, a group rendition of “Hode, skulder, kne og tå” complete with actions).
All in all, there was a great balance of education and entertainment that kept the audience 'captivated' from beginning to end. I offer my congratulations to the whole INASCON team for putting together one of the best organised and most enjoyable conferences that I have attended in my career to date. And I wish the very best of luck to the students at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who will be hosting the next INASCON conference in July 2019
Don’t miss it!
Seminar on Steep Slope Transistors - June 20, 2019
You are cordially invited to a short seminar on steep slope transistors!
Time: Thursday, June 20, 2019
Place: Lecture Hall R5 in the Natural Science Building at NTNU
Alan Seabaugh, University of Nortre Dame, USA
Low-voltage steep-subthreshold-swing transistors
Lars-Erik Wernersson, Lund University, Sweden
III-V Nanowire Tunnel Field Effect Transistors with
ALL ARE WELCOME!
For practical reasons we kindly ask that you register through the link below by 12.00, Monday, June 17:
Workshop on atomistic modelling at NTNU - August 8.2019
Please find the attached invitation to a workshop for atomistic modelling at NTNU!
Advanced computer simulations based on quantum or classical methods, are found everywhere in science and engineering at NTNU. Unfortunately, there is no common meeting-ground for researchers working in this field. This workshop will be an opportunity to meet other people working on the field of atomistic modeling.
Time: 13.00 – 18.00 August 16, 2019
Place: Lecture hall R9 in the Natural Science Building
We encourage master students, PhDs, post docs and permanent staff to join us to discuss problems, opportunities, potentially new collaborations, or perhaps just see who is filling up the queue on the cluster in person.
Participation is free of charge. However, we ask you to register here by August 8.
Norwegian NanoSymposium, October 16-17, 2019
SAVE THE DATE!
Information regarding the program and registration will be posted in due course.
Nano Network Workshop, June 17-19, 2019
The 10th annual workshop of the Nano Network takes place in Tromsø, June 17-19, 2019.