Throughout the scientific community, including Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), researchers say building things atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule will revolutionize the production of virtually every human-made object. Exciting prospects–but they also point out that the promise of nanotechnology can only be realized if we learn to understand the special rules that control behavior at this small scale and develop the skill needed to integrate these concepts into practical devices.
The excitement stems from the understanding that the behavior of materials at the nanoscale is nothing like that at the large scale. The necessary tools, such as powerful new microscopes, have been developed to let researchers see these surprising behaviors. Sandia National Labs' scientists and engineers are among the leading architects and builders of these tools. To appreciate their unique design features, it helps to get an idea of the size of things at the atomic level. In nanoscience, objects are measured in nanometers, 1 billionth of a meter. For comparison, the smallest features on current computer chips measure about 200 nanometers, and a human hair is 100,000 nanometers thick.
Moving beyond observation, scientists are poised to make exciting advances in nanotechnology, the creation of materials, devices and systems through the control of matter at the atomic level. By understanding and controlling the way molecules organize into nanoscale patterns, scientists are discovering new phenomena and learning to design materials with vastly different sets of properties. As one Sandia scientist put it "Design possibilities are limited only by one's imagination."
Sandia Labs continues to enhance its proficiency in many fields, all in keeping with its Department of Energy mission to unite science and engineering to serve national needs. And along with world class capabilities in materials science, micro fabrication - including clean room space, and high performance computing and systems engineering - Sandia is uniquely positioned to be the integrating center for new discoveries in nanoscience.
One new facility, the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology (CINT), is a Department of Energy/Office of Science Nanoscale Science Research Center (NSRC) operating as a national user facility devoted to establishing the scientific principles that govern the design, performance, and integration of nanoscale materials. Through its Core Facility located at SNL and physical Gateways to both Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) and SNL (located in the Integrated Materials Research Laboratory), CINT provides open access to tools and expertise needed to explore the continuum for scientific discovery to the integration of nanostructures into the micro- and macro worlds. More information on CINT can be found at: http://cint.lanl.gov/