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Small wonders cause big stir at nanOstUdio opening

Kaitor Kposowa | Mar 24, 2014
Nanostudio Opening
Photos by: Rebecca Miller

Small wonders cause big stir at nanOstUdio opening

Kaitor Kposowa | Mar 24, 2014

Photos by: Rebecca Miller

The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology gave students, faculty and staff a gateway to the future with its nanOstUdio, which hosted an open house Mon., March 18.

Located in the Academic & Research Center (ARC) project hangar, the nanOstUdio is a nanotechnology exploration and research lab conceived by Savas Kaya, professor of electrical engineering, that demonstrates through state-of-the-art equipment and multimedia how nanomaterials and nanotechnology are used in our everyday lives.

“Nanotechnology is important because it’s shaping the world as we live it,” Kaya said. “All the exciting new materials, devices and technology developments in many different diverse parts of engineering are coming from nanotechnology.”

Nanotechnology is the basis for myriad groundbreaking technological advances, like microprocessors, light and energy resources, healthcare diagnostics and treatments, and cell-phone technology to name a few. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter or one-thousandth of a micrometer -- or in common terms, a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick and a human hair is approximately 100,000 nanometers wide.

Crowds of students waited in the ARC living room atrium to get a closer look at the studio’s features, including a series of learning stations that enable users to interact with and better understand nanomaterials and the products where they can be found. The hands-on nature of the setup offers students and the community the chance to learn by experiencing nanotechnology firsthand and how to use related tools.

Open to the public three days a week, the studio can also be used by faculty for class instruction and area schools for outreach. Kaya has put together a team of almost 10 students who serve as demonstrators, engaging university classes and local middle and high school students with STEM activities. Students also are available to assist with faculty research projects and can perform their own nanotech research. Interested individuals can apply to join and be trained.

Erik Merle, a sophomore in electrical engineering, is a lab technician who helps visitors run the lab’s software.

“The nanOstUdio gives undergrads experience doing research that only graduate students get and that’s pretty important,” he said. “It’s a good way to further knowledge and apply what you learn outside the classroom. Here, we get to test and use equipment, which is more of what we’ll be doing in the real world.”

Equipment includes a tabletop scanning electron microscope (SEM); tabletop Nanosurf Niao Atomic Force Microscope (AFM); tabletop Nanosurf Niao Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM); nanosensor testbed with vacuum chamber, optical transmission, reflection and absorption spectroscopy; and interactive educational multimedia and nano-visualization tools.

Andrey Alves, a visiting student from State University of Norte Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said he is enthusiastic about the nanOstUdio because of its high-end microscopes.

“In Brazil, It’s hard for undergraduate students to have access to these types of microscopes because they are very expensive,” said the senior in chemical engineering. “Usually only technicians deal with them. Now, this project offers students the opportunity to do things themselves and learn the subjects faster.”

Kaya is proud to be addressing what he sees as a need of undergraduate education.

“All this nanotechnology development is defining our future and defining our next phase of technology. Our students cannot wait until they graduate and do graduate research to find out about these things,” he said. “I think the kinds of careers I’m trying to cultivate here and the interest I’m trying to raise here for students creates for good because it’s long lasting and has a direct, measurable and critical impact on society at multiple levels.”

The nanOstUdio is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education (NUE) program and Ohio University’s 1804 Fund.