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Research Communications

Scientist to Build Nanoscience Equipment with New Grant 

May 26, 2005

ATHENS, Ohio – An Ohio University scientist has received a $426,600 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to fund the construction of equipment for use in nanotechnology research. Arthur Smith, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, was awarded funds from the Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research through a program called the Defense University Research Infrastructure Program.

Smith will use the grant to build a powerful crystal growth machine and microscope. The equipment will help nanoscientists at Ohio University study atoms at the surface of magnetic crystalline thin films and the magnetic properties of tiny atomic structures at those surfaces. Possible uses of these magnetic nanomaterials range from tiny computer chips to special films in which magnetic atoms define specific quantum states. This would be useful in the engineering of quantum computers, which could be much more powerful than current computers in specific applications.

Smith plans to build the equipment from the ground up – using some commercial parts but mostly with materials created in house – and will be aided by students and postdoctoral fellows in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, which is a less expensive option than purchasing the whole apparatus from a company.

The microscope will operate in temperatures ranging from room temperature (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit) to extremely low temperatures, or roughly the temperature of liquid helium, which is –450 degrees Fahrenheit.

One of the most unusual features of the microscope system will be its ability to study the magnetic properties of atoms through a method called spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscopy. Only a few scientists in the world have succeeded with this method, which allows them to study the magnetic structure of small layers of atoms, Smith said. The microscope will increase Ohio University’s visibility as a center for nanomagnetics research, he added.

Smith previously received DURIP funding in 1999 for purchasing an electron diffraction apparatus to be used with a crystal growth machine. This year, the Department of Defense gave $43.9 million to 108 universities and research institutions for equipment. The DURIP grant Smith received is considerably larger than most of the 212 grants, which averaged $207,000.

Smith is director of a Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team at Ohio University, which is funded by a $1.14 million grant from the National Science Foundation. In addition, Smith is director of Ohio University’s Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute, where he and his students research nanoscale materials and their properties.

By Suzanne Wilder

Contact: Arthur Smith, (740) 597-2576, smitha2@ohio.edu.