NU to develop smart sensors and nanoscale materials

Northeastern University will receive a $3 million grant to establish the Advanced Nanomanufacturing Cluster for Smart Sensors and Materials (ANSSeM), a consortium of private manufacturing companies and tier-one research universities working on new methods to create smart sensors and other materials using “nanoscale” printing processes, according to a press release.

The five-year grant award is made by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program, which supports large-scale long-term research projects in the state. In addition to the state’s grant, Northeastern will also receive nearly $11 million in outside funds.

“Our administration has prioritized the growth of the Commonwealth’s nationally-leading innovation economy,” said Governor Charlie Baker, according to the press release. “Through collaborative projects like the Advanced Nanomanufacturing Cluster for Smart Sensors and Materials, we are unlocking private investment and job creation in revolutionary technologies, unleashing the unmatched ingenuity of our citizens, and connecting every region in the Commonwealth to the innovation economy.”

This technology may be used towards medical, defense, and energy applications, from high-precision sensors used to monitor premature babies in hospital neonatal units, to devices that track water quality, to wearable devices that monitor biometric data. A 2015 study by IDTechEx in Cambridge estimated that the market for wearable sensors and electronics would grow to $64 billion over the following decade.

The ANSSeM consortium will work with the Nanoscale Offset Printing System (NanoOPS), a manufacturing technology pioneered by Northeastern University’s Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN), which will be the institutional home for the ANSSeM cluster work. NanoOPS can print nanoscale sensors and devices as small as 20 nm (or more than 1,000 times thinner than a human hair) on a variety of surfaces, and can print 100 to 1,000 times faster than current inkjet-based electronic and 3D printing.

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