NASCENT announces new partnership with Emerson and Renwick

Annie L. Zhang

The Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies program, or NASCENT, recently announced the addition of Emerson and Renwick, a manufacturing company, to its Industrial Partnership Program. 

NASCENT, headquartered in the Cockrell School of Engineering, is one of the National Science Foundation-funded Nanosystems Engineering Research Centers. The center, which researches efficient ways of producing very small structures called nanomaterials, is required to have an industry affiliates program, where industrial companies become members and participate in an industry board.

“[The board] advises us on how to do research that has societal relevance,” said S. V. Sreenivasan, mechanical engineering professor and co-director of NASCENT. “That is one important difference between classical academic research and what we do here. Even though we’re doing fundamental research, we’re constantly being guided by industry members.”

Currently, NASCENT has 16 industry partners, the latest being Emerson and Renwick, a production machinery manufacturer based in Accrington, England.

“We chose these partners based on having some kind of strategic overlap in what they’re trying to do and what we’re trying to do,” Sreenivasan said. “Most of our partners have a specific, meaningful relationship with us.” 

Through partnerships with industries and companies around the world, Sreenivasan said NASCENT seeks to bring together researchers and industrial leaders to address a variety of problems.

“Our vision is to bridge the gap between basic scientific nanoscale discoveries that have been made over the last 10 years and real societal needs in areas like wearable electronics and healthcare modeling,” Sreenivasan said. “All of the research we do is set up in a way to really take these basic discoveries and scale them up to allow us to address real societal needs.”

NASCENT hopes to work with Emerson and Renwick to develop roll-to-roll manufacturing capabilities. 

Roll-to-roll manufacturing, a process of creating electronics on a roll of flexible plastic or metal foil, is used to make many commodities today. This cost-effective process is already used to make Scotch tape and paper towels. 

“What we’re trying to do is to use that type of technology and bring it to the nanoscale manufacturing area, so we can make flexible electronics that are — although not at the cost of paper towels — less expensive than what is available today,” Sreenivasan said. “We’re trying to bring in electronics to the world of roll-to-roll printing, and Emerson and Renwick has roll-to-roll vacuum processing expertise.”

According to Sreenivasan, this partnership with Emerson and Renwick also helps NASCENT reach its goal of creating a scalable and cost-effective nanotech factory, which he said will allow companies to meet societal needs with nanoscience applications.

This factory, called a Nanodevice Manufacturability Fabrication Facility, will include roll-to-roll nanomanufacturing systems.

Sreenivasan said that roll-to-roll manufacturing will help develop NASCENT’s theme of nanopatterning, which involves making structures at the nano-scale.

“The area [of nanopatterning] is really about pushing the limits of how you can make structures at single digit nanometer scales and how [you can] control materials in the sense of their shape and size over large areas,” Sreenivasan said. “If you have that building block — the ability to actually structure materials of the nano-scale — you can start making very interesting nanomaterials, such as engineered nanomaterials and [apply them] to electronics, energy and healthcare.”