Project Details


The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the Pennsylvania State University exploits unique capabilities in materials synthesis and fabrication, microscopy, physical property measurements, molecular synthesis and theory to attain materials with new properties and functions in areas of fundamental scientific importance.

The Center includes several interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs). The Motors IRG designs, synthesizes, and studies molecular, nano- and micro-scale motors that employ chemical reactions to generate force at the nanometer scale. This IRG constrains and controls motor movement via tethers, tracks, rotary bearings, gradients in the fuel concentration, magnetic or electric fields, patterns of light and interactions between motors themselves, to enable long-term applications in systems that sense, respond, organize and adapt to their environment. The IRG on Electrons in Confinement advances our understanding of electrons that are confined to move within precisely defined, narrow one-dimensional single crystals made from a wide range of metals and semiconductors. Interactions between these confined electrons generate new phenomena involving superconductivity, magnetism and the motion of electron spins. The IRG on Electromagnetic Nanostructures organizes and integrates metals and semiconductors in sophisticated patterns. By marrying the ideal media for electrons and photons, it enables a new class of in-fiber devices for the generation, modulation and detection of light. Patterned planar nanostructures generate unusual optical properties such as low, zero and negative refractive index, thereby enabling an unprecedented degree of control over the propagation of light. The IRG on Multiferroics exploits strain, the ability to stretch or compress the atoms within a lattice by depositing them layer-by-layer, to create a new class of materials that couple together elastic deformation, electric fields and magnetism, guided by computational modeling that can predict new materials. Multiferroics promise a variety of new material applications, such as electrically switched magnetic memories. Seed grants, selected through competitive peer review, will lead the Center in new scientific directions by nurturing high-risk, transformative research by both early-career and established faculty. These projects include making new electronic materials by connecting atomic clusters with conductive linker molecules and studying the quantum mechanical aspects of electron transport in one-dimensional systems. All research projects will be regularly competitively reviewed to maintain high levels of innovation, collaboration, productivity and scientific impact.

The MRSEC nurtures a broad range of partnerships with national, international and industrial collaborators. Center research activities are strongly integrated with educational and industrial programs, providing interdisciplinary training within a culture of outreach for a diverse group of students and postdocs. For maximum impact, the Center?s outreach activities couple the scientific expertise and enthusiasm of its members with its partners' expertise in reaching large audiences. The MRSEC develops content on topics of public interest for K-8 summer science camps. With The Franklin Institute, the Center designs and produces hands-on cart-based shows for distribution to a national network of science museums. Center faculty will mentor high school students from the Science Leadership Academy. The Center recruits and supports students from under-represented groups at all levels through close ties with institutions in Puerto Rico, Texas, Louisiana, and (through the NSF Discovery Corps) Africa. The Center reaches a broad range of high schools and middle schools through teacher training workshops and research experiences, and mentors a diverse group of students through Research Experiences for Undergraduates. All major outreach programs are regularly assessed for efficacy and impact.

Effective start/end date9/1/088/31/15


  • National Science Foundation: $13,729,860.00


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