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NSF Awards ASU Nanotechnology Labs $4M To Increase Accessibility, Production

Trevor Thornton
(Photo courtesy of Trevor Thornton)
Professor Trevor Thornton and an ASU student Jason Kam demonstrating the latest nanotechnologies at Tempe’s Geeks’ Night out in 2014.

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, and making technology nearly that small is popular in the Phoenix area. Thanks to new funding, an ASU laboratory may soon let anyone — maybe even you — develop nanotechnology.

The National Science Foundation awarded ASU $4 million over five years to increase accessibility to nanotechnology resources. Valley industries are already making computer chips and semiconductors, and want to expand into fields like biology.

ASU Professor Trevor Thornton said by 2020, 1 million people in the U.S. alone will work in nanotechnology, making it a $1 trillion industry.

“If we’re to make that happen we need to provide the resources to do the basic science and engineering and training," said Thornton. "Not just the sort of typical undergraduate, graduate students but we need to get this into the community colleges and the high schools and the middle schools and across the whole range of education in the state.”

Thornton said the award also intends to make the lab available to companies and governments. In total 16 national sites were funded at $81 million.

Nanotechonology In Action

"One of the goals for nanotechnology as applied to health care is to reduce the size and scale of traditional biology testing labs and scale them down in the same way that semiconductor technology has scaled computers. The video shows a microfluidic channel filling with a fluorescent dye. It is part of a sensor used for detecting biotoxins that was developed for a Department of Defense DARPA contract," said Trevor Thornton.

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Andrew Bernier was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2016.