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2 Overall Assessment The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology in the National Institute of Standards and Technology was founded on May 1, 2007. The CNST mission is “to operate a national, shared resource for nanoscale fabrication and measurement and develop innovative nanoscale measurement and fabrication capabilities to support researchers from industry, academia, NIST, and other government agencies in advancing nanoscale technology from discovery to production.”6 The CNST has two components with complementary purposes―the research program and the NanoFab facility. The research program is organized in three groups―Electron Physics, Nanofabrication Research, and Energy Research; the NanoFab Operations Group is responsible for the operation of the NanoFab. Individuals from beyond NIST and elsewhere at NIST can interact with the CNST through collaborations with the scientific research staff in the research program and through use of the NanoFab to fabricate structures or devices. The center has matured significantly in the 2 years since the previous review,7 having achieved nearly steady state in terms of staffing and projects. The research program consists of leading-edge nanoscale research directed toward exploring phenomena that may provide the basis for future nanoscale measurement and characterization techniques. This component of the CNST is staffed by scientific research staff with strong records of individual research accomplishment. There is an increasingly impressive record of publication by scientists at the CNST.8 This output is supported by a significant cadre of postdoctoral appointees and support staff. The CNST should consider enhancing the professional development of postdoctoral staff by offering opportunities (possibly through partner institutions such as universities) for staff to learn skills needed for non-academic careers—for example, in entrepreneurship. The NanoFab component of the CNST is a national shared-use facility that aspires to provide a state-of-the-art suite of nanoscale measurement and fabrication capabilities. It is largely a clean-room facility and is staffed accordingly. The NanoFab is attracting users from all sectors of the economy―industry, academia, and government―through its impressive capital- equipment capabilities; it appears to be operating at near capacity. As described to the panel, the CNST, with an FY 2010 budget of $23 million, is currently staffed by 97 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees, including 60 technical staff. There are currently 19 staff members with the title of “project leader,” 9 of whom are new to the CNST since the previous review. Each project leader is allocated 2 postdoctoral researchers and one- sixth each of an electrical engineer, a mechanical designer/instrument specialist, a computer specialist, and an administrative assistant. There are 11 administrative support positions, 8 technical support positions, and 12 NanoFab staff positions. 6 National Institute of Standards and Technology, Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology 2010, NIST SP 1121, March 2011, p. 4. See http://www.nist.gov/cnst/upload/cnst_2010_report.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2011. 7 National Research Council, An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology: Fiscal Year 2009. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2009. 8 National Institute of Standards and Technology, Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology 2010, NIST SP 1121, March 2011, pp. 78-81. See http://www.nist.gov/cnst/upload/cnst_2010_report.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2011. 7
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ACHIEVEMENT OF OBJECTIVES AND FULFILLMENT OF MISSION The vision of the CNST is “to be recognized for providing ready access to unexcelled nanoscale measurement and fabrication facilities and as a world leader in each of our measurement science research areas.”9 The CNST has, overall, made dramatic strides toward achieving this vision since the previous review, as exemplified by specific details provided in Chapters 3 and 4. The NanoFab has progressed impressively and is providing outstanding service with unparalleled capabilities to a broad range of users. Anecdotal inputs from users indicate that users are highly satisfied with their experience. The CNST is a world leader in some of its areas of emphasis, as discussed in the more detailed reviews of the four groups in Chapters 3 and 4. The focus areas that are well established, especially those whose genesis predates the formation of the CNST, are among the best in the world. There are many unique capabilities throughout the CNST, and CNST staff have extensive collaborations with scientists, engineers, and companies from the United States and around the world. Although the center’s staffing is largely complete, many laboratories, especially in the newer groups such as the Energy Research Group, are still under development. These newer efforts appear to have assembled highly talented teams that have the potential to develop a high-quality effort. These areas are likely to continue to grow and develop over the next few years. The CNST supports researchers from industry, academia, NIST, and other government agencies. As reported to the panel, the number of users is impressively high. Although the center’s method of counting users is different from that used by other laboratories, the approach seems to take into consideration measurement against outcomes that are important to the key stakeholders (for example, NIST leadership and the Department of Commerce). There has been growth in the user base in all sectors since the previous review; industrial users accounted for the largest percentage growth, consistent with the NIST/CNST mission. Given NIST’s mission to increase U.S. competitiveness, the CNST should continue to increase its focus on industry as its key customer. Specific focus should be on the industrial segment that requires state-of-the-art nanofabrication capability and access to outstanding scientific staff. The users represent a broad geographic distribution. Even greater demand from across the country should be possible with enhanced communication about the CNST capabilities relative to those available elsewhere. TECHNICAL MERIT OF THE CENTER’S PROGRAMS For many of the programs presented by the CNST to the panel for review, the staff, the projects, and the facilities are outstanding and in several instances unique. The various parts of the CNST are not uniformly mature, although the gap between mature programs and the newer ones has closed significantly since the previous review. All of the work reviewed by the panel is scientifically very good. Much of it is original, innovative, scientifically outstanding, and among the best of its kind. The breadth of scientific knowledge and the overall level of enthusiasm of the staff throughout the CNST are impressive. Almost all of the projects are clearly focused on the stated mission of NIST as they seek to develop understanding that will lead to standards and precision measurement at the nanoscale. A fair amount of the research is directed toward developing unique instrumentation. 9 Robert J. Celotta, CNST, “Overview of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology,” presentation to the panel, Gaithersburg, Maryland, March 7, 2011. 8
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The substantial budget of the CNST and the “block funding” nature of its allocation are increasingly unusual in the U.S. scientific community. This approach enables the CNST staff to concentrate on their scientific endeavors in a way that is all too rare. Staff are able to spend a significant number of years working on extremely high risk, high payoff instrument development, which may ultimately lead to the demonstration and exploitation of unique capabilities. There are very few, if any, other institutions in the United States where such endeavors are possible, making this capability at the CNST all the more valuable. The staff expressed recognition of its enviable position and great appreciation of the NIST and CNST leadership for their roles in making this funding model possible. In such an environment, it is manifest that the leadership of the organization has particularly significant responsibility to evaluate projects rigorously and to curtail long-standing projects that are not paying off. With the addition of important theoretical and chemical expertise, the balance of CNST staffing has improved significantly since the previous review. Since that review, the theorist in each research group has tended to become “glue” uniting the various efforts within the group, and each group has made significant progress: The technical merit of the reviewed work of the Electron Physics Group relative to the state of the art is at the level of the best in the field. The group’s laboratory facilities are state of the art and in many cases unique. The outstanding accomplishments of the group and the external recognition of group members indicate the achievement of the group’s stated objectives and impact.10 The Nanofabrication Research Group is a highly competent assemblage of scientists that has taken on the additional mission of advancing the state of the art in nanomanufacturing, an area of growing importance. The laboratory facilities available to the group could well be the best in the world. The group’s research programs are of high quality and are aligned with its mission. Some of the laboratories in this group are still under development. The Energy Research Group is now fully staffed, with a good combination of junior and more senior staff, although many of the laboratories are still under development. The work of this group is the most technologically (rather than scientifically) focused of the research groups. The addition of a theorist provides needed intellectual coherence within the group. The laboratories and equipment that are in place are state of the art in all respects. It is still too early to judge in detail the quality and mission alignment of the research programs. The NanoFab facility has progressed significantly and is reaching capacity. The equipment and capabilities are probably as modern and complete as those in any similar facility in the United States. The facility is well managed and has dramatically increased its capabilities and support of users since the previous review. The productivity of staff while affiliated with the CNST has grown nicely since the previous review. The number of publications with CNST affiliation was 24 for FY 2008, rising to 33 for FY 2009, 41 in FY 2010, and 19 as of March FY 2011. An additional 18 publications 10 National Institute of Standards and Technology, Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology 2010, NIST SP 1121, March 2011, pp. 76-77. See http://www.nist.gov/cnst/upload/cnst_2010_report.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2011. 9
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are currently in press, with 26 more submitted for publication. CNST staff and leadership have also garnered an impressive array of external professional awards since the previous review.11 ALIGNMENT BETWEEN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AND THE CENTER’S SERVICES The work carried out at the CNST covers a wide range, varying from nanofabrication and other services, through relatively near term collaborations with industry, to extremely fundamental science that may lead to future measurement capabilities. It is important to recognize the tension inherent in supporting both high-quality science and measurement capabilities and user facilities. This tension adds richness to the CNST environment, but it needs to be monitored and balanced continually. The diversity of effort is well aligned with the CNST vision and is key to the center’s ability to meet its mission, both now and in the future. A number of good examples of close interactions and collaborations between industry and the research groups were discussed during the review. In some cases, the instrumentation or understanding provided through the interaction helped a company develop or improve a product. In other cases, CNST staff led the development of instrumentation (in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA) that significantly enhanced equipment sold by a company. These interactions appear to be rather common throughout the CNST, but a quantification of the number and scale of such collaborations was not provided to the panel. The NanoFab facility and its highly skilled staff can be credited with a major advance in the research capabilities of the CNST. A dynamic group of researchers including students, postdoctoral researchers, and NIST staff are engaged in research utilizing this modern capability. A very high percentage of presentations (both oral and poster) during the review indicated that the research described in the presentations depended in some way on the NanoFab. 11 National Institute of Standards and Technology, Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology 2010, NIST SP 1121, March 2011, pp. 76-77. See http://www.nist.gov/cnst/upload/cnst_2010_report.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2011. 10