CUNY CAT, National Science Foundation Plan Center for Metamaterials

February 7, 2011 | news

The CUNY Center for Advanced Technology, which has a long history of collaborating with industry on cutting-edge research and development, is strengthening those ties by establishing a Center for Metamaterials.

Meta Materials Logo

NSF Logo

The Center for Metamaterials, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, will be a one-stop shop for the design, fabrication and testing of a range of metamaterials for use in spectral regions ranging from the microwave to the optical part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Metamaterials, patterned composite materials in which light behaves in unusual ways, are being used to develop new or higher-performing optical and electronics devices.

“Metamaterials have great potential for improving the performance of today’s optical and electronic devices and providing new capabilities important for the future,” says Myron Wecker, Ph.D., deputy director of the CUNY CAT. “Already, industry is developing new applications for them in energy harvesting, imaging, plasmonic circuits, cloaking materials, biological and chemical sensors, compact optical systems and enhanced radio frequency technologies.”

CUNY will be the lead institution at the Center for Metamaterials, which also includes, as university partners, Clarkson University’s Center for Advanced Materials Processing; the University of North Carolina-Charlotte’s Center for Optoelectronics and Optical Communications; and Western Carolina University’s Center for Rapid Product Realization.

“This is the first time that the CUNY CAT has set up a center to develop a formal collaboration with groups at other universities,” says Wecker, “and the active participation of industry ensures that we address real-world applications for the research we engage in.”

The Center for Metamaterials recently was awarded a planning grant from the National Science Foundation. The center will be sponsored by the foundation’s Industry/University Cooperative Research program and by member companies and government agencies, each of which pays a $40,000 annual membership fee. The members, which have access to researchers and resources from all four universities, will define the research projects.

“We will meet with members once or twice a year to set the research agenda and review results,” Wecker says. “These investigations are pre-competitive; the companies and agencies share the research results and intellectual capital, although each can then choose to fund proprietary, follow-on enhancement projects with individual center researchers and labs. Each university will have a minimum of four industry members, so for only $40,000 per year, each company reaps the benefits of the membership fees paid by all the members at all the universities. One or more members can provide additional funding to increase research on an existing project or an additional project that interests them. And once a project gets to the point where the results can be applied to product development, that IP can be protected to benefit the sponsoring member(s).”

The Center for Metamaterials, one of more than 50 National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers, will distinguish itself by focusing on fundamental research areas that have, up to now, limited the development of high-performing, practical devices.

“We’re interested in, among other things, loss mitigation; high-quality, low-cost fabrication; increasing bandwidth; and novel fabrication techniques,” Wecker says.

The CUNY CAT, in addition to providing research facilities and personnel, will administer the center and be the point of contact for the four university partners.

Wecker says the Center for Metamaterials is a winning proposition for all participants.

“This is an interesting opportunity for the CUNY CAT and for industry,” he says. “Researchers get insight into what companies see as challenges, and companies steer research thrusts into areas of interest, gain networking opportunities and can attend workshops and short courses. Plus, they get access to faculty and get to know highly qualified graduate and undergraduate students and post-docs starting out in their careers. Companies and government agencies have told us they have a keen interest in the students because this is how they will find their future scientists and engineers. And all participants get the benefit of National Science Foundation oversight and the chance to make breakthroughs in this exciting and vital field.”