Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center (RNC) :: Materials Research Center :: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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The RNC's research efforts are enabled by excellent research facilities, including equipment managed by the RNC and by RPI. These tremendous resources at various locations are shared and utilized by RNC researchers for simulation and design, synthesis and directed assembly, and characterization. The success and growth of the RNC effort depends strongly on the quality and availability of these facilities. In addition to the experimental facilities and the excellent research infrastructures, the powerful network of computational facilities at RPI has significantly advanced our modeling efforts. Researchers at RPI’s RNC use facilities at national laboratories as well, including the Advanced Photon Source (APS), USAXS facility at Argonne National Laboratory and the grazing incidence X-ray diffraction (X21) facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
A laboratory for computational facilities utilizes the RNC's Quantum Cluster Facility, which continues to play a significant role at RPI in supporting our computational modeling and design activities. Simulation resources now include five computational clusters and a file server providing 9 terabytes of
shared data storage organized in a RAID-Z array for added reliability and performance. Two of the clusters were recently upgraded to meet the requirements of our ongoing computational studies and enhance highly effective shared memory parallel computations. This major upgrade involved the purchase of eight 12-core CPU workstations with 16 GB RAM each and 64-bit operating system. These clusters constitute an important component of the computational facilities at RPI and enable our theory and modeling research programs to conduct extensive multiscale computational research.
Our Molecularium® Render Farm was installed for the production of our Imax-type large-format show. Last year this facility was upgraded to double its computer power and now includes more than 63 terabytes of disk, 40 terabytes of back-up tape, 300 CPU cores, and 650 gigabytes of RAM. The main disk arrays are interconnected by fiber and have two
dedicated 10 gigabit Ethernet connections to the cluster switch. A myriad of commercial, open source, and custom written software packages, running on multiple operating systems, drives the rendering and compositing processes. This new system, funded by a generous gift from a Rensselaer alumnus, constitutes a leap forward for the Molecularium Project and also significantly advances scientific visualization capabilities in the RNC. It is now also being utilized to enhance the scientific computation capabilities of our research effort.
For the physical generation and in-situ modification of nanoparticles, a state-of-the-art inert-gas condensation chamber is available in the RNC laboratories at RPI. This chamber is able to produce metal, semiconductor, or ceramic particles
ranging from 5 to 100 nm in diameter with lognormal size distributions. Chemical or biological treatments may be applied immediately after the nanoparticles are produced, and the particles may be collected in solution, powder, or pellet form.
The RNC also has extensive facilities for the synthesis of multiwall and single wall carbon nanotubes using chemical vapor deposition (CVD). Several CVD furnaces with various carbon precursors and different catalyst materials for nanotube growth are available. These furnaces have capabilities such as substrate selective
growth and controllable length growth with automated feed rate control for the production of variable length nanotubes. One of the CVD setups is able to grow carbon nanotubes with high control and uniformity using wafer substrates up to four inches in diameter, ten pieces at a time. Several CVD furnaces are also optimized to grow carbon nanotubes on metallic substrates.
The recently installed TA Instruments AR-G2 rheometer is the most advanced instrument available that measures the visco-elastic properties of materials utilizing controlled stress, direct strain and controlled rates. This system features a breakthrough magnetic thrust bearing and drag cup motor technology for nano-torque control. It offers the widest torque range available [0.000003 to 200 mN-m], ultra-high resolution [0.025 micro-rad], high angular velocity [300 rad/s], and normal force transducer [0.01 to 50 N]. The ARG2 includes smart swap temperature systems and new smart swap geometries for automatic detection and configuration.
It also includes rheology advantage software for performing flow, transient (creep and stress relaxation), and oscillation experiments. It is useful for studying material behavior such as yield stress, kinetic properties, complex viscosity, modulus, creep and recovery.
The Digital Instruments Multimode IIIa Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) includes a very comprehensive set of capabilities including: tapping (regular, electric, and magnetic) and contact (regular, lateral, and current imaging)
mode imaging, which are useful for imaging surface morphologies of materials including multiphase systems such as nanocomposites; thermal imaging (capable of real-time imaging samples up to 250 degrees C and taking viscoelastic measurements); making electrical measurements using Pt/Cr conducting tips (both current and potential mapping, useful in a wide variety of systems including biological nanostructures); making magnetic force measurements (capable of measuring magnetic moments of molecules on the nanoscale); fluid imaging to observe folding and refolding kinetics of various proteins in solutions; and performing nano-indentation. In addition, this instrument has a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and a high resolution scanner attachment that can be used to measure molecular level I-V characteristics.
The WITec alpha300R Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)/Confocal Raman Microscope represents a new generation of Raman imaging systems with high resolution, speed spectrum, and imaging, as well as in-situ topological mapping with AFM. In typical experiments, the acquisition time for a single Raman spectrum is significantly less than 50 milliseconds.
This allows complete two-dimensional images consisting of tens of thousands of spectra to be collected within a few minutes, realizing 3D mapping via depth profiling with 200 nm resolution in both lateral and vertical points. Its sensitive setup allows for the nondestructive imaging of chemical components without specialized sample preparation for various materials. Attaching special objective lenses – such as a water and oil immersive lens – eliminates distortion of the Raman image depth profile caused by index mismatching between the media and the sample. A heating stage has recently been attached to the system to observe in-situ material modification caused by heating.
The TI 900 Hysitron Triboindentor Nanoindentor and NanoDMA with in-situ surface imaging is a low load nanomechanical test system. It is ideal for measuring the hardness and elastic modulus of thin films and coatings.
The Hysitron TriboIndenter provides quantitative nanomechanical testing capabilities with the convenience of modern automation. With both normal and lateral force loading configurations, it revolutionizes the sub-micron scale testing arena with real-time data collection and nanometer resolution using the optical viewer.
The RNCs general facilities include chemical hoods, sonicators, glove-boxes, etc. For more specific uses (e.g., chemical modification of nanoparticle surfaces, synthesis of protein/nanoparticle conjugates, protein assay, studies of the kinetics of enzymatic reactions, etc.) we have a wide range of equipment including: incubator-shaker (Boekel Scientific, 30-70°C); analytical balance (HJM Co., 0.01 mg); pH meter; stirrer/hot plates with external temperature probes, 30-300°C; UV-Vis spectrophotometer (Thermo Electron Co., wavelength range: 190-1000 nm) and a cryo-ultramicrotome, which is necessary for making sections of various structures including biopolymer hybrids, polymer nanocomposites, and thin films on silicon wafers.
A conventional microtome and ion mill are also available, as is equipment for sputter- or CVD-coating of sample surfaces for microscopy sample preparation.
Quantum Cluster Facility
Molecularium® Render Farm
Inert-gas Condensation Chamber
Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)
AFM/Confocal Raman Microscope
Nanoindentor and NanoDMA
RPI Facilities: University facilities at Rensselaer that are managed outside of the RNC, but which are accessible to RNC researchers, play a vital role in RNC research. These central facilities increase the breadth of simulation and design, synthesis and directed assembly, and characterization abilities.
Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS). The CBIS' vision is to be a pacesetter nationally for fundamental and applied research in biotechnology, thereby leading to new discoveries and applications, and new commercial ventures. From complex biological networks to nanoscale assemblies that mimic biological processes, scientists and engineers in the CBIS are striving to elucidate the molecular basis of biological mechanisms and disease, to exploit biological systems for the discovery and development of new therapeutics, and to develop new cellular niches critical in tissue regeneration. As a result of CBIS’ focus at the interface of the life sciences, physical and computational sciences, and engineering, new tools are being developed to delve into and better understand biology and ultimately to design new products and processes that will benefit society. Visit the CBIS website here for more information.
Center for Computational Innovations (CCI). The establishment of the CCI at RPI with funding from IBM and New York State has greatly increased our computational capabilities. This Center hosts one of the world’s most powerful university-based supercomputer consisting of a series of IBM BlueGene/L systems with a total of 32,768 PowerPC processors. RNC researchers extensively use the possibility of highly parallel computations provided by CCI that in some cases reduces the computation time by a factor of 30 when compared with conventional computer clusters. Visit the CCI website here.
Nanoscale Characterization Core (NCC). The Department of Materials Science and Engineering hosts Rensselaer’s Nanoscale Materials Characterization Core, an on-going institute investment in advanced facilities for nanoscale measurement of structure, chemistry and properties of materials. Recent additions include state-of-the-art Auger Electron Spectroscopy (Phi 700 Auger nanoprobe) and X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (Phi Versaprobe) systems that provide superb facilities for surface chemical analysis, at spatial resolution down to 10 nm (Auger) and 10 μm (XPS).
Other Rensselaer core facilities available to RNC researchers can be found here.
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