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$21.5 million for materials research at the University of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 8, 2011 The University of Utah is launching a six-year, $21.5 million effort to conduct basic research aimed at developing new materials for uses ranging from faster computers and communications devices to better microscopes and solar cells.

The new Center of Excellence in Materials Research and Innovation is being established and funded for six years by a $12 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), $6.5 million for major equipment from the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative and $3 million from the University of Utah.

The coveted NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center grants are obtained only by the nation's best research universities, says Anil Virkar, director of the new center and a University of Utah distinguished professor and chair of materials science and engineering.

"At the federal agency level, this is about the most prestigious award possible," Virkar says. "Securing a grant of this size and scope really inaugurates our academic membership in the Pac-12."

Other universities included in the new round of NSF materials research grants include Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern and Michigan.

The new Utah center involves more than two dozen researchers from seven departments in the College of Science, College of Engineering and College of Mines and Earth Sciences.

The NSF says the new University of Utah center will focus on "next-generation materials for plasmonics and spintronics."

"We are among the world leaders in these two fields," Virkar says.

The center's two interdisciplinary research groups will focus on those areas:

-- Physicist Brian Saam will lead the organic spintronics research effort, which will work on developing organic semiconductors that can be used to carry and store information not only electronically by exploiting the electrons in atoms, but also "spintronically" by using

Contact: Lee Siegel
University of Utah

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