There is a vast opportunity for innovation at the nanoscale to transform the world in a positive way, said Vladimir Bulović, director of MIT.nano, asking two questions of participants at the start of the first Nano Summit: “Where are we going? We ? And what’s the next big thing we can develop?
“The answer to this question puts our main goal into perspective – and that is to change the world,” said Bulović, Fariborz Maseeh Professor of Emerging Technologies, to an audience of more than 325 in-person participants and 150 virtual participants gathered for an exploration of nano-related research at MIT and celebration of the fifth anniversary of MIT.nano.
More than a decade ago, MIT embarked on a massive ultra-small project: building an advanced facility to support nanoscale research. Construction of MIT.nano at the heart of the MIT campus, a process comparable to assembling a ship in a bottle, began in 2015 and the installation was launched in October 2018.
Fast forward five years: MIT.nano now contains nearly 170 tools and instruments serving more than 1,200 trained researchers. These individuals come from more than 300 principal investigator labs, representing more than 50 MIT departments, laboratories, and centers. The facility also serves external users from industry, other academic institutions and more than 130 startups and multinational companies.
A cross-section of these faculty and researchers joined industry partners and members of the MIT community to launch the first Nano Summit, which is expected to become an annual flagship event for MIT.nano and its industry consortium. Held on October 24, the inaugural conference was co-hosted by MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program.
Six thematic sessions highlighted recent developments in quantum science and engineering, materials, advanced electronics, energy, biology and immersive data technology. The Nano Summit also featured startups and an art exhibition.
See and manipulate at the nanoscale – and beyond
“We need to develop new ways to build the next generation of materials,” said Frances Ross, TDK professor of materials science and engineering (DMSE). “We need to use electron microscopy to help us understand not only what the structure is once built, but also how it was created. I think the next few years in this part of the nano realm are going to be truly amazing.
Speakers in “The Next Materials Revolution” session, chaired by James LeBeau, co-director of Characterization.nano at MIT.nano and associate professor at DMSE, highlighted areas where cutting-edge microscopy is providing insight into the behavior of functional materials at the nanoscale. , from antiferroelectrics to thin-film photovoltaics and 2D materials. They shared images and videos collected using instruments from MIT.nano’s characterization suites, which are specifically designed and built to minimize mechanical, vibrational, and electromagnetic interference.
Later, in the “Biology and Human Health” session chaired by Boris Magasanik, the Thomas Schwartz Professor of Biology, the biologists echoed the materials scientists, emphasizing the importance of the ultra-quiet, low-vibration environment in Characterization.nano to obtain high-resolution images. of biological structures.
“Why is MIT.nano important to us? » asked Schwartz. “An important part of biology is understanding the structure of biological macromolecules. We want to achieve an atomic resolution of these structures. CryoEM (cryo-electron microscopy) is an excellent method for this. In order to enable the resolution revolution, we had to bring these instruments to MIT. For this, MIT.nano was fantastic.
Seychelle Vos, Robert A. Swanson Career Development Professor of Life Sciences (’69), shared CryoEM images from her lab’s work, followed by Associate Professor of Biology Joey Davis who spoke about image processing . When asked about the next step for CryoEM, Davis said he is very excited about in situ tomography, noting that new instruments are being designed to improve the current, labor-intensive process.
To chart the future of energy, Associate Professor of Chemistry Yogi Surendranath is also using MIT.nano to see what’s happening at the nanoscale in his research on using renewable electricity to transform carbon dioxide carbon into fuel.
“MIT.nano has played an immense role, not only in facilitating our ability to fabricate nanostructures, but also in understanding nanostructures through advanced imaging capabilities,” Surendranath said. “I see much of the future of MIT.nano around the question of how nanostructures evolve and change under conditions related to their function. MIT.nano tools can help us solve this problem.
Technology transfer and quantum computing
The “Advanced Electronics” session, chaired by Jesús del Alamo, Donner Professor of Science in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), brought together industry partners and MIT faculty for a roundtable discussion on the future of electronics. conductors and microelectronics. “Excellence in innovation is not enough, we must also be excellent in transferring it to the market,” del Alamo said. On this point, panelists spoke about strengthening ties between industry and academia, as well as the importance of collaborative research environments and access to advanced facilities, such as MIT.nano, for these environments thrive.
The session followed a startup expo in which eleven START.nano companies presented their technologies in health, energy, climate and virtual reality, among other topics. START.nano, MIT.nano’s hardware technology accelerator, allows participants to use MIT.nano’s facilities at a discounted rate and gain access to MIT’s startup ecosystem. The program aims to ease the transition of hard tech startups from lab to market, surviving common “valleys of death” as they move from idea to prototype to scale.
Asked about the state of quantum computing during the “Quantum Science and Engineering” session, physics professor Aram Harrow shared his response to these startup challenges. “There are quite a few valleys to cross: there are the technical valleys, then also the commercial valleys.” He talked about scaling superconducting qubits and qubits made of suspended trapped ions, and the need for more scalable architectures, for which we have the ingredients, he said, but putting it all together is quite difficult.
Throughout the session, William Oliver, professor of physics and Henry Ellis Warren Professor (1894) of electrical engineering and computer science, asked panelists how MIT.nano can address assembly and scalability challenges in the quantum science.
“To harness the innovative power of students, you really have to allow them to get their hands dirty, to try new things, to try all their crazy ideas, before it gets into a process at the level of the foundry,” responded Kevin O’Brien, partner. professor at EECS. “That’s what my group has been working on at MIT.nano, building these superconducting quantum processors using MIT.nano’s cutting-edge manufacturing techniques.”
Connecting digital to physical
In his thoughts on the semiconductor industry, Douglas Carlson, senior vice president of technology at MACOM, focused on connecting the digital world with real-world applications. Later, in the “Immersive Data Technology” session, Brian Anthony, associate director of MIT.nano, explained how at the MIT.nano Immersion Lab, researchers are doing just that.
“We think about and facilitate work that immerses humans between hardware, data and experience,” said Anthony, a senior research fellow in mechanical engineering. He spoke about using the Immersion Lab’s capabilities to apply immersive technologies to different areas: health, sports, performance, manufacturing and education, among others. Speakers in this session gave specific examples in the areas of hardware, pediatric health, and opera.
Anthony connected this third pillar of MIT.nano to the manufacturing and characterization facilities, highlighting how the immersion lab supports work being done in other parts of the building. The strength of the Immersion Lab, he said, is taking new work developed within MIT.nano and bringing it to the human scale to think about applications and uses.
Artworks inspired by science
The Nano Summit concluded with a reception at MIT.nano where guests were able to explore the facilities and look through the cleanroom windows, where users were actively conducting research. Attendees were encouraged to visit an exhibit in the first and second floor galleries of MIT.nano featuring the work of students in MIT’s Art, Culture, and Technology (ACT) program who were invited to use MIT.nano toolsets and environments as inspiration. for art.
In his closing remarks, Bulović spoke about the community of people who run MIT.nano and use the tools to advance their research. “Today we celebrate the facility and all the work that has been done over the past five years to get it to where it is today. It is there to function not only as a space, but also as an essential part of MIT’s mission of research, innovation and education. I hope that all of us here today will take away a deep appreciation and admiration for those who are leading the journey into the nano era.