30 September 2009
Stimulus package for nanoscience, education, the arts
Future electronics will largely depend on something really small. It will depend on nanomaterials for building nanoelectronics.
A key component of these tiny circuits is stable nanowires that work reliably for a decade or more. Currently, however, nanowires often fail after anywhere from a few days to a few months, due to prolonged electrical stressing.
Carmen Lilley, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is working on new procedures for making nanowires more electrically stable and therefore more reliable. She recently received a $505,532 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Award to help advance her project.
“My idea is to look at the physics of failure,” she said. “How do these systems fail when stressed electrically? If we can develop a basic understanding of the mechanisms that control failure and a way to model these mechanisms, we can create material designs with predictable behavior.”
Lilley’s research focuses on studying properties of single crystals of common conductor metals such as gold, silver, copper, nickel, and iron, and their unusual behavior characteristics at the nanoscale. Lilley plans to use part of her grant to continue an ongoing effort to attract underrepresented minorities to engineering careers.
She hopes to give undergraduate assistants more hands-on laboratory experience, and to bring students from Chicago Public Schools to UIC to see work in the lab and view some of the breathtaking images produced by instruments such as scanning electron microscopes. “These beautiful images often have artwork properties. For the visiting kids, it can spark an interest.”
For related information, go to www.isa.org/link/powerIND.