The Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM)

Monday, Mar 5, 2012

Advancing the study of the materials that make today's technology possible

It is all too easy to take them for granted: materials, the stuff that makes up the world around us. Yet innovative materials are at the heart of today's technologies, from the silicon chip inside a laptop computer to the durable touch-sensitive plastic screen of a cell phone. The modern devices that we've come to rely on would not be possible without major discoveries in the science of materials.

The study of materials and their uses is the focus of the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM). Spanning the traditional science and engineering disciplines, the Institute brings together academia and industry to advance material science research with applications in the areas of health, energy, security and information.

 PRISM.PRISM brings together top faculty and students united by their interdisciplinary approach to fundamental technological challenges. The Institute promotes interactions and collaborations with industry, government laboratories and other academic institutions as a means for advancing basic innovations into products that can benefit people's lives and stimulate the economy. The Institute engages in joint development agreements and long-term partnerships that foster the exchange of ideas, personnel and scientific methods. The PRISM Affiliates Program enables outside organizations to access PRISM facilities, courses and staff expertise.

An essential component of PRISM is its shared-use laboratory facilities: the Micro/Nano Fabrication Laboratory (MNFL) and the Imaging and Analysis Center (IAC). The MNFL provides facilities and equipment for working with a variety of materials to fabricate devices and structures for electronics, photonics, micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) and biological applications. The IAC offers a suite of high-end, state-of-the-art instrumentation and expertise for imaging and analysis of materials. These facilities are also available to outside institutions and corporations, and play a key role in establishing partnerships with the external community.

The main research areas in PRISM include:

  • Quantum Materials Science: Exploring near-atomic scale structures exhibiting quantum processes that can lead to fundamental new properties
  • Scalable Structures: Developing materials with complex properties and functions from the nanoscale to the large-area macroscale for a diverse set of applications
  • Photons and Light-Matter Interactions: Enabling new limits in materials processing, imaging and sensing
  • Bio-Nano Intersection: Using small and highly parallel structures to learn about biology on the level of a single cell through new clinical tools and probes
  • Theory and Computation: Understanding the relationship between the macroscopic behavior of complex materials and their microstructures through analytic and numerical approaches.

PRISM oversees several Princeton-based research centers:

High resolution, high magnification image of micron-sized silicon pillar structures fabricated at PRISM's Micro/Nano Fabrication Laboratory. Photo credit: PRISM.

Princeton Center for Complex Materials (PCCM): A National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Princeton University that brings together over thirty faculty from six departments in the natural sciences and engineering to conduct materials research and reach out to industrial collaborators as well as students in elementary, middle and high schools.

Mid-InfraRed Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE): An NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) led by Princeton University with partners City College New York, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.  MIRTHE develops mid-infrared sensing systems based on new technologies such as quantum cascade lasers or quartz enhanced photo-acoustic spectroscopy.

Princeton Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (PPS-OC): One of 12 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded centers established to engage trans-disciplinary scientific teams from the fields of physics, biology, chemistry and engineering to examine non-traditional approaches to cancer research. 

Combustion Energy Frontier Research Center (CEFRC): Sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) to focus on the science underlying the development of non-petroleum-based fuels, including carbon-neutral biofuels and their optimal use in transportation.

Center for Networks, Science, and Applications (CNSA): A collaboration between academia, industry and government dedicated to research on next generation communications networks.

"Materials research transcends the traditional disciplines and exciting new advances tend to appear at the interfaces between these fields," said Craig Arnold, acting director of PRISM and associate professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. "By bringing together a broad cross-section of scholars with different backgrounds and interests, PRISM is able to provide truly novel and innovative research at the forefront of today’s scientific and technological advances."