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Joint Institute for Advanced Materials

The Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM) is a multidisciplinary research organization whose mission is to serve as an umbrella organization to foster interdisciplinary research and education for the development of advanced materials, as accomplished by enhancing the quality of faculty, students, and support staff, building world-class facilities, enhancing the educational experience, and assisting in new hires to move in strategic directions. Being a joint institute, JIAM will leverage significantly from the strengths in materials research at ORNL.

The multidisciplinary research organization will be located at UTK in a new research facility. This research infrastructure is funded by $30M in federal and state funding and represents the cornerstone of the new Cherokee Farm Campus. Hopefully, construction on the JIAM building will begin in the late summer of 2011.Together with the JIAM Program Advisory Committee (PAC) and with input from the JIAM Executive Committee, JIAM leadership is tasked with facilitating the building planning process, working closely with the building designers and architects, and providing them with key input on the technical/utility needs of individual lab spaces and on the programmatic layout of the building. JIAM is led by Director Prof. George Pharr, who is also Head of the Materials Science and Engineering Department, and by Deputy Director Prof. Hanno Weitering (Physics).

The primary goal of mobilizing the broader materials community and support interdisciplinary research initiatives has been accomplished through JIAM’s seed grant program through a project competition open to all materials researchers at UT and ORNL. Among the most notable scientific achievements are the spatial mapping and spectroscopic analysis of plasmonic hotspots in metallic nanoparticles by Jon Camden’s group in Chemistry, and the elucidation mechanism of graphene on metal surfaces by one of our JIAM fellows, Hua Chen in Physics. The seed money support has been instrumental in funding thirteen proposals so far, two of which have already been funded while eight others are still pending. In addition, some seed money support was used to develop novel instrumentation capabilities for JIAM, including an ultrahigh vacuum suitcase for sample transport between UTK and ORNL and a scanning electron microscope with in-situ nano-indentation capability.

Six focus areas are currently under consideration by the JIAM Program Advisory Committee and JIAM leadership to focus and define JIAM’s research activities, chosen based on existing strengths, future importance, and complementary expertise/capabilities at UTK/ORNL. These are:

  • Functional materials and devices
  • Soft and hybrid materials
  • Advanced structural materials
  • Materials for advanced energy applications
  • Theory, simulation and modeling
  • Advanced materials characterization

JIAM will encourage lead scientists in these thrust areas to bring together scientists with similar interests to develop strong working relationships and infrastructure that will lead to future funding success, rather than the individualized seed grants that have been supported by JIAM to date.

JIAM has worked diligently to implement a detailed equipment acquisition plan since its inception in early 2010, coordinating the preparation of NSF MRI instrumentation proposals through the joint institute. A successful NSF MRI proposal, led by Prof. Hanno Weitering of Physics, obtained a unique oxide molecular beam epitaxy system (MBE) valued at $1.1M. This follows a successful JIAM equipment acquisition of a $592K photoelectron spectrometer obtained through an NSF MRI proposal led by Prof. Norman Mannuella. Concurrent to more proposals for equipment acquisition competitions being submitted, a group of JIAM scientists have pooled research funds to acquire a used, but very good, Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry system (SIMS).

JIAM also has an emerging role as a home for core central facilities at UTK and the UT system, and, in particular, a world-class electron microscopy facility with funding assistance from the Office of the Chancellor and the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Engineering. The facility will include a transmission electron microscope (TEM) and a high-resolution scanning electron microscope with focused ion beam milling capabilities (dual beam SEM/FIB) that would be used broadly by hard and soft matter scientists at UT and ORNL alike. The instruments will be used not just by materials scientists, but by others at UTK and the UT system with advanced electron microscopy needs, such as biologists and medical researchers. These new electron microscopes require large maintenance contracts and technician support and will require stable, long-term support; a plan is in place for contributions from the campus, the system and user fees.

JIAM also operated a Graduate Fellowship Program, which remains a cornerstone of the organization. These $10K student stipend supplements aid eligible departments in recruiting top talent for their doctoral programs in advanced materials research. The JIAM Program Advisory Committee also developed and adopted a new set of procedures for identifying and offering new fellowships that will make the process more flexible and increase the utility of the fellowships as a recruiting tool for high quality graduate applicants. To date, students in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering have benefited from the fellowships.

Thus, substantial groundwork has begun for JIAM to become an interdisciplinary center of excellence in materials, and a key facilitator in the planning, operation and maintenance of shared core user facilities for UTK and the UT system.


George Pharr, Chancellor’s Professor, McKamey Professor of Engineering, MSE Department Head, and UT-ORNL Joint Faculty

Director, Joint Institute for Advanced Materials Department of Materials Science and Engineering
University of Tennessee
425 Dougherty Engineering Bldg.
Knoxville, TN 37996-2200

Phone: (865) 974-8202

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