NNI Program Component Areas


Program Component Areas (PCAs), which provide an organizational framework for categorizing the NNI's activities, are major subject areas under which related projects and activities are grouped. Progress in these areas is critical to achieving the NNI's goals and to realizing its vision.

While updating the 2014 NNI Strategic Plan, the NSET Subcommittee concluded that a significant revision of the PCAs was  needed to accommodate the maturation of the Initiative, the enhanced emphasis on applications, and the greater participation by agencies and communities that are not focused primarily on R&D. The new PCAs are more broadly strategic, fully inclusive, and consistent with Federal research categories. The investment for each PCA is reported in the annual NNI supplement to the President’s Budget.

 

The new PCAs are set out in the 2014 NNI Strategic Plan as follows: 

  1. Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives
    -Nanotechnology for Solar Energy Collection and Conversion
    -Sustainable Nanomanufacturing
    -Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond
    -Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure
    -Nanotechnology for Sensors and Sensors for Nanotechnology

  2. Foundational Research

  3. Nanotechnology-Enabled Applications, Devices, and Systems

  4. Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation

  5. Environment, Health, and Safety

PCA Definitions

These are the formal definitions of the PCAs as laid out in the 2014 NNI Strategic Plan.

1. Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives
NSIs serve to spotlight topical areas that exhibit particular promise, existing effort, and significant opportunity, and that bridge across multiple Federal agencies. They are intended to be dynamic, with topical areas rotating and evolving over time. This category includes foundational research and nanotechnology-enabled applications, devices, and systems within each NSI, as appropriate. Instrumentation that is specifically developed in support of a confined topical area covered by one of the NSIs is included here, but otherwise, the development or acquisition of more broadly applicable instrumentation (as well as resources devoted to facilities) falls under the separate PCA on Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation. Most research on Environment, Health, and Safety falls within the separate PCA described below, but activities directly pertinent to specific NSIs are reported in this section instead. Note that the NSIs are centered on focused thrust areas as described below, and that activity falling outside these areas is better characterized under other PCAs.  
  • Nanotechnology for Solar Energy Collection and Conversion: Contributing to Energy Solutions for the Future
    Enhancing understanding of energy conversion and storage phenomena at the nanoscale, improving nanoscale characterization of electronic properties relevant to solar energy, and utilization of the unique physical phenomena that occur on the nanoscale to help overcome current performance barriers and substantially improve the collection and conversion of solar energy. This NSI has three thrust areas: (1) improving photovoltaic solar electricity generation; (2) improving solar thermal energy generation and conversion; and (3) improving solar-to-fuel conversions.
  • Sustainable Nanomanufacturing: Creating the Industries of the Future  Establishing manufacturing technologies for economical and sustainable integration of nanoscale building blocks into complex, large-scale systems by supporting product, tool, and process design informed by and adhering to the overall constraints of safety, sustainability, and scalability. This NSI specifically focuses at this time on high-performance structural carbon-based nanomaterials, optical metamaterials, and cellulosic nanomaterials. The nanomanufacturing NSI has two thrust areas: (1) design of scalable and sustainable nanomaterials, components, devices, and processes;  and (2) nanomanufacturing measurement technologies.
  • Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond  Discovery and use of novel nanoscale fabrication processes and innovative concepts to produce revolutionary materials, devices, systems, and architectures to advance the field of nanoelectronics. The nanoelectronics NSI has five thrust areas: (1) exploring new or alternative “state variables” for computing; (2) merging nanophotonics with nanoelectronics; (3) exploring carbon-based nanoelectronics; (4) exploiting nanoscale processes and phenomena for quantum information science; and (5) expanding the national nanoelectronics research and manufacturing infrastructure network.
  • Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure (NKI): Enabling National Leadership in Sustainable Design This NSI has four thrust areas that focus efforts on cooperative interdependent development of (1) a diverse collaborative community; (2) an agile modeling network coupling experimental basic research, modeling, and applications development; (3) a sustainable cyber-toolbox for nanomaterials design; and (4) a robust digital nanotechnology data and information infrastructure.
  • Nanotechnology for Sensors and Sensors for Nanotechnology: Improving and Protecting Health, Safety, and the Environment The two thrust areas for this NSI are to: (1) develop and promote adoption of new technologies that employ nanoscale materials and features to overcome technical barriers associated with conventional sensors; and (2) develop methods and devices to detect and identify engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) across their life cycles in order to assess their potential impact on human health and the environment.
2. Foundational Research

Discovery and development of fundamental knowledge pertaining to new phenomena in the physical, biological, and engineering sciences that occur at the nanoscale. Elucidation of scientific and engineering principles related to nanoscale structures, processes, and mechanisms. Research aimed at discovery and synthesis of novel nanoscale and nanostructured materials and at a comprehensive understanding of the properties of nanomaterials ranging across length scales, and including interface interactions. Research directed at identifying and quantifying the broad implications of nanotechnology for society, including social, economic, ethical, and legal implications.

3. Nanotechnology-Enabled Applications, Devices, and Systems
R&D that applies the principles of nanoscale science and engineering to create novel devices and systems, or to improve existing ones. Includes the incorporation of nanoscale or nanostructured materials and the processes required to achieve improved performance or new functionality, including metrology, scale up, manufacturing technology, and nanoscale reference materials and standards. To meet this definition, the enabling science and technology must be at the nanoscale, but the applications, systems, and devices themselves are not restricted to that size.

4. Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation
Establishment and operation of user facilities and networks, acquisition of major instrumentation, workforce development, and other activities that develop, support, or enhance the Nation’s physical or human infrastructure for nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. Includes R&D pertaining to the tools needed to advance nanotechnology research and commercialization, including next generation instrumentation for characterization, measurement, synthesis, and design of materials, structures, devices, and systems. While student support to perform research is captured in other categories, dedicated educational and workforce efforts ranging from curriculum development to advanced training are included here as resources supporting the human infrastructure of the NNI.

5. Environment, Health, and Safety
R&D primarily directed at understanding the environmental, health, and safety impacts of nanotechnology development and corresponding risk assessment, risk management, and methods for risk mitigation.