Vanderbilt's research on nanometer-sized structures reached the next level with the creation of the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. This interdisciplinary center has core facilities in biomolecular nanostructure, nanocarbon, nano-optics, nanocrystal fabrication, silicon integration and electron microscopy.

Philippe Fauchet

Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Dean of Engineering, Emeritus
Professor of Electrical Engineering

In today's world, success in the field of engineering is marked by collaboration, creativity and the ability to solve problems. Philippe Fauchet's diversity of interests and innovative projects are perfect examples. Fauchet's multidisciplinary research combines elements from semiconductor and device physics, materials science, physical chemistry and optics to form three major centers of interest that involve silicon.

His research group is focused on nanoscience and nanotechnology with silicon from manufacturing and processing to modeling and testing devices. Silicon has been developed into a very inexpensive, highly manufacturable material for one application microelectronics. Fauchet is investigating the use of silicon for other applications. One focus of Fauchet's research is nanometer-thin porous silicon membranes for purification of biological samples. The second focus is ultra-thin silicon solar cells that maintain high conversion efficiency while decreasing the material costs thanks to the use of nanoplasmonics. The third focus is developing optical components made of silicon, such as lasers, modulators or chemical/biological sensors.

Weng Poo Kang

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering 

Design, fabrication, characterization and modeling: these are the pillars of Weng Poo Kang's research on micro- and nanoelectronic devices and sensors. Kang has worked alongside fellow Vanderbilt researchers to develop innovative electronic devices that are tolerant of harsh environments. He has also developed physical, chemical and biological sensors, nanostructured high-power, highenergy supercapacitors and lithium-ion batteries.

For one such project, Kang collaborated with Jim Davidson, research professor of electrical engineering, to develop the technology to produce vacuum microelectronic devices out of thin films of nanodiamond. This technology could be used in designing computer chips and electronic circuitry for extreme environments, since diamond-based devices can operate at much higher temperatures than silicon-based ones and are largely immune to radiation damage. Kang also collaborates with Supil Raina to develop nanodiamond-based biosensors for detecting, measuring and monitoring the concentration of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine.

Though many of Kang's research initiatives involve utilizing emerging diamond, carbon nanotubes and graphene technologies, he also conducts research on silicon-based devices and sensors. In addition to this work, Kang partners with defense sciences companies to develop novel nano-architectured electrodes such as CNT-MnO2,  graphene-MnO2 and CNT-orthosilicates for ultracapacitor and lithium-ion batteries applications. The electrode unit has the potential to produce hybrid supercapacitors and batteries that last longer, provide more power, charge faster, meet high-energy and high-power requirements for energy storage and delivery and, most importantly, are environmentally friendly.

Sharon Weiss

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering
Professor of Electrical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering,
Professor of Physics
Director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

Accurate and reliable detection of biological and chemical materials is essential to improving medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring and homeland security. Sharon Weiss aims to achieve more sensitive and efficient detection of biomolecules by developing sensors made from porous silicon, a material with billions of nanometer-sized holes. These cost-effective biosensors have the potential to revolutionize medical diagnostics, as they are used to identify specific DNA sequences, various toxins and viruses. In microand nanoparticle form, porous silicon may also be used for superior disease treatment through improved targeted drug delivery and controlled drug release.

The Weiss Group is currently working on several other projects in the areas of photonics, optoelectronics and materials research. The focus of one such project is to develop an optical silicon-based modulator, which could be a building block for next generation computers and communication networks. Other current projects theoretically and experimentally investigate novel photonic crystal microcavity and nanobeam structures for advanced optoelectronics and optomechanics.

Weiss's innovative research has positioned her as one of the nation's top young scientists. She received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals beginning their research careers.

James Wittig

Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Emeritus

Materials science is the foundation for developing new technologies, and it demands collaboration among a variety of disciplines in order to advance in today's complex climate. James Wittig is one of 40 faculty members involved in Vanderbilt's Interdisciplinary Program in Materials Science, a collaborative research and teaching program. Wittig's work on the magnetic properties of monodispersed FePt nanoparticles exemplifies the interdisciplinary nature of the  field, as it combines chemistry with materials science and engineering. The project aims to improve nanoparticle synthesis in order to increase magnetic properties, possibly providing a basis for future magnetic recording media.

Wittig is also collaborating with Joachim Mayer, of the RWTH University in Aachen, Germany, on a project that focuses on understanding the deformation mechanisms in iron-manganese steels as a result of changes in stacking fault  energy (SFE). Iron-manganese steels are candidates for commercial applications that require high formability and energy absorption due to their ductility and toughness. The SFE of the alloys affects these mechanical properties by influencing the deformation mechanisms of the steel. Therefore, increased understanding of the SFE for iron-manganese steels through experimental determination will play an important role in their optimization for commercial use.