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A Review of the Manufacturing-Related Programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
various programmatic elements were chosen or not chosen for inclusion in the Nanomanufacturing initiative. Finally, if the most expansive view of the organizational structure were taken, a “shared vision” and management structure would have to be clearly articulated to allow for such an enterprise to thrive.
It is clear that NIST is taking the first steps toward articulating its vision for nanomanufacturing technology by drawing together some programmatic elements that contain strong nanomanufacturing components. However, NIST is encouraged to continue to define its vision further.
Photovoltaics (PV) is one area in the Nanomanufacturing activities in which NIST has research, testing, standards, and standards to support PV manufacturing. There should be a coupling between NIST and the two PV manufacturing centers in the country funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) under the DOE Sunshot Manufacturing Initiative)—one is the PV Manufacturing Center (PVMC) under SEMATECH at Albany, New York, and the other is the Bay Area Photovoltaics Consortium (BAPVC) run from Stanford University—because NIST could add value (e.g., technology roadmapping, manufacturing support, etc.), and smart manufacturing is very much needed by the PV industry. (In the PV area, because the industry is heavily driven by end-product pricing—unlike, just to give one example, precision machine tools—resulting from intense cost pressures from offshore competition, the need for smart manufacturing in the United States has become especially critical.)
Since the PVMC and the BAPVC are specifically funded for PV manufacturing, and since they are just getting started, NIST (which leverages much other electrooptical activity in addition to its PV nanomanufacturing focus) could bring value to these two national efforts. These centers have a mission in concert with the PV area of the NIST effort, and they would benefit from the NIST PV nanomanufacturing expertise. The suggested coupling could allow the rather extraordinary level of effort and concentration of expertise at NIST to enhance and assist the DOE manufacturing effort, as well as increasing the exposure and potential for expansion of work at NIST into other technologies.
An important issue for consideration in NIST Nanomanufacturing activities is “bankability.” Many new technologies suffer because the emphasis is placed only on demonstrating them at some performance levels. However, if they are too expensive to manufacture, they cannot be commercialized. It would be good for NIST to avoid projects that may provide exciting research opportunities but are weak in manufacturability and/or commercialization potential (e.g., they are too expensive, or there is insufficient market size). Bankability was the issue with Solyndra, for example. NIST can play an important role here in many ways—by providing, for example, methodologies, databases, reference materials, and modeling to the manufacturing community (especially new entrants) so as to enable them to evaluate their approaches independently.
Within the Nanomanufacturing area, it is important to note the excellent and unique capabilities that NIST has built and operates in its shared facilities. The Nanomechanics Cleanroom Facility is an excellent example of how NIST is making important contributions with unique facilities. Particularly impressive (shown during one of the tours) was the millikelvin controlled room used to provide AFM tips standards.
The technical merit and caliber of the work performed in the Nanomanufacturing area are generally very impressive. All of the groups are either world leaders in their chosen area or making strong strides toward a leadership position. This is particularly evident in the CMOS