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NNN Director Mark Tuominen Testifies on Capitol Hill

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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Mark Tuominen
Leading nanotechnology researcher Mark Tuominen yesterday provided expert advice to Congress on where and how federal spending can better bolster nanomanufacturing. Tuominen, a professor of physics and co-director of the MassNanoTech Institute, said the purpose of his March 17 testimony was to boost research and development and to foster university-industry partnerships.

“We work hard to make sure these groups don’t sit isolated in their own little bubbles,” he said recently. “To be fruitful and effective we need to meet each other and learn from each other.”

Tuominen was tapped for the March 17 hearing because he has 20 years of successful nanotechnology research experience and is director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National NanoManufacturing Network (NNN) as well as co-director of UMass Amherst’s Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing (CHM). The CHM last year hosted a major summit for the nanomanufacturing community in Boston. Both the CHM and NNN aim to bring academic researchers, industry and government together to advance nanomanufacturing progress, Tuominen says.

Nanomanufacturing, according to the NNN, is the use of value-added processes to control matter at the nanoscale in one, two and three dimensions for reproducible commercial-scale production. Areas where nanomanufacturing is being embraced aggressively right now, according to Tuominen, include magnetic data storage, lightweight batteries and high-efficiency solar cells. UMass Amherst is a research leader in all three, he adds.

In his testimony, he addressed what the NSF is currently doing to support nanomanufacturing research and development, offer his opinion on areas that should be supported but that don’t receive funding now. More broadly, he will discuss what the government can do to support nanomanufacturing innovation.

Tuominen says there are a few areas where government could do more, but the good news is that agencies already are aware of these and have modest projects already in place to meet the need. He’ll be specific about how and where to inject more funding.

Tuominen describes the UMass Amherst CHM and NNN’s role as bringing key players together.

“There are a lot of discoveries made at universities but most manufacturing companies don’t have the budget to support such efforts,” he says. “Nevertheless, they need to hear about the new knowledge. It’s important to bring these two communities together so companies can learn about all the new developments and basic researchers at the universities can hear about industry’s needs. These interactions are at the core of what we do.”

Overall, Tuominen says he hopes to see a change in how we as a nation support manufacturing development. This area should get continuous research attention because there is a good possibility of continued improvement in benefits and rewards, which is good for the economy, provides good jobs and other “considerable societal benefits,” plus promotes sustainable manufacturing in the long run, he adds.

The only way to do this is to have the three partners, university researchers, industry and government working together, says Tuominen, because none can succeed as well alone. “We all will do a more effective job if we continue to communicate effectively, collaborate and move forward working together on these goals.”

“We in the universities are doing fundamental research on new nanomanufacturing techniques, which we hope industries will need. In turn, manufacturers have told us they want to see more targeted research in certain areas. The third partner, government agencies, would like to see more of this kind of collaboration, where universities are talking with industry and together we’re identifying manufacturing targets.”

To read more about the Hearing and to view expert testimonies, visit the Committee on Science and Technology page

Image courtesy of the House Committee on Science and Technology. Source University of Massachusetts Amherst.