funded capital investments at universities is not allowed. A variety of techniques are employed to cover operations. Some facilities attempt to subsist primarily on user fees, operating as so-called recharge facilities. Another model, principally in the Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, relies heavily on institutional and/or federal support and has no user fees. Most facilities rely on a mix of funding sources. Among those that depend on user fees as a primary source of support, several make special allowances for graduate student and postdoctoral users. For example, the Microfabrication Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley caps the maximum hourly charges that can be incurred by a single user in any one month so that a principal investigator’s grant would not be drained by a burst of concentrated effort by a student. This type of policy cap on charges incurred by student users is common. Another interesting model for covering professional staff costs involves “backstopping,” so that if a facility loses its primary source of funding, its technical staff will have alternative support over a short period of time (perhaps 1 to 3 years), allowing them to identify other opportunities. Harvard University supports such a policy for its Center for Imaging and Mesoscale Structures, for instance. Some facilities are designed primarily for service work, while others are focused more on carrying out cutting-edge research that is commonly done as a collaboration between users and facility staff.

  • Ease of access. Larger facilities tend to have well-defined access rules and formal booking systems, while others, especially the smallest ones, have a less formal access structure.

Research Activities Supported

Materials research spans a broad program of exploration into the properties of materials—the substances of which everything is made. Generally speaking, experimental materials research can be grouped into different categories, although any one research project typically cuts across many activities. Borrowing nomenclature developed by the community, the committee believes that most small to midsize multiuser facilities support one or more of the following types of research:

  • Synthesis—a chemical or physical process used to prepare a material of specific chemical composition and/or spatial arrangement of the component atoms. A very large number of synthetic processes and techniques have been or are being continuously developed to prepare known and novel materials. The first generation of ceramic high-temperature superconductors was discovered by materials synthesis.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement