Under new leadership, Kavli Institute at Cornell evolves from a think tank to a proving ground

April 11, 2010

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Looking to push the boundaries of nanoscience, the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science is no longer a think tank for new ideas, but a proving ground to aggressively push the limits of nanotechnology.

And to that end, Cornell has named Paul McEuen, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics, as the director. David A. Muller, associate professor of applied and engineering physics, will serve as co-director.

The institute will fund projects and researchers to create and build the tools of the nanoscale future. "If you make a new tool, you can have an enormous impact in a variety of different areas. We don't have eyes and hands at the nanoscale to see and control things the way we're used to at the milli-, micro- or macro-scale," said McEuen.

The institute will focus on next-generation microscopies; physical and electronic measurement and manipulation; and optoelectronic nanocharacterization. The institute will fund small teams for development of novel instruments and two Kavli postdoctoral fellows annually.

The institute's leaders emphasize that "high-risk, high-payoff projects" will be encouraged. "We are looking for that handful of 'It's-so-crazy-it-might-actually-work' ideas that would change how we see the nanoworld," Muller said.

Other core Cornell faculty members are Dan Ralph, professor of physics, and Michal Lipson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Cornell's Kavli Institute is one of four nanoscience institutes funded by the Kavli Foundation. In fact, the 15 Kavli institutes worldwide focus on nanoscience, neuroscience, cosmology and theoretical physics. Cornell's institute has supported such activities as lectures, symposia, summer schools and workshops.

There are big thrills in pioneering into the realm of the very small. "One of the exciting things on the frontier is the development of increasingly complex nanoscale structures that have lots of electronics in them and other kinds of detectors," said McEuen. "[For example] we will have to enable these machines not only to interact with the world around them - by electrical, optical, chemical measurements, for instance - but we'll also have to send information back and forth between the machines and the outside world. ... So we have to invent technologies that will allow us to do that kind of interfacing with the nanoscale world. We're trying to bring to the nanoscale the same kind of control to that world that we're used to at the human scale."
A detailed interview with McEuen and Muller is available on the The Kavli Foundation Web site: http://www.kavlifoundation.org/Cornell-mceuen-muller-interview

Cornell University

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