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Princeton Materials Science Center Wins $20 Million NSF Award

The National Science Foundation has awarded nearly $20 million to the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, an interdisciplinary research program dedicated to improving and developing materials for uses ranging from alternative energy production to quantum computing.

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The National Science Foundation has awarded nearly $20 million to the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, an interdisciplinary research program dedicated to improving and developing materials for uses ranging from alternative energy production to quantum computing.

The grant provides six years of funding (2008 to 2014) for the Princeton center, which is one of 26 research programs in the United States supported by NSF's Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program.

The new funding represents the largest of the four such grants Princeton has received since the University first won the highly competitive award in 1994. The Princeton center brings together faculty and students from five science and engineering departments to explore the basic properties of matter and to use their discoveries to advance science and technology.

"These grants are intended to be collaborative, and that's something Princeton can do very well," said Richard Register, a chemical engineering professor and director of the materials science center. "We have strength and depth in certain research areas that address some of the fundamental problems society faces. Materials science is one of those areas."

"Materials science is the study of how materials can be improved and how unknown materials can be discovered to serve purposes that can improve our day-to-day existence," said Phuan Ong, a professor of physics and associate director of the center.

As an example of the transformative potential of this kind of research, Ong noted that techniques for purifying silicon developed in the 1950s at Bell Labs led to the invention of solid-state transistors. By replacing the clunky vacuum tubes then in use, transistors, in turn, led to the development of miniaturized circuits which ushered in modern computers. "It was an invention that was as important as the wheel and fire," Ong said. "It introduced us to the computer age."

The center comprises of four interdisciplinary research groups that focus on different aspects of cutting-edge materials science.

Source: Princeton University