Meet the New Director of the nanoMFG Node

nanoHUB had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Elif Ertekin, the new Director of nanoMFG, an NSF-funded nanomanufacturing node of the Network for Computational Nanotechnology. Dr. Ertekin succeeds Dr. Kimani Toussaint who had been the node's director since its beginning in 2017.

We thank Dr. Toussaint for all of his hard work and wish him the best at his new position with the School of Engineering at Brown University!

Elif Ertekin photo

Q: Dr. Ertekin, what is your background? What is your primary research area?

A: I have a mixed background in engineering science and mechanics, applied math, and materials science and engineering. My primary research area is in computational materials science, and my research is centered on developing and applying modeling and simulation to describe materials at different length and time scales across a couple of different application areas such as energy conversion materials, structural materials, and others.  In all cases, we try to link the structure of the material – from the atomic to micro scale – to its resulting properties and behavior.

Q: Can you give us a brief overview of the field of nanomanufacturing?

A: Nanomanufacturing is an exciting, emerging field that is centered on scalable production of any type of device or material that includes components with nanoscale feature sizes. These nanoscale components could be anything – powders that contain nanoparticles with carefully controlled size distributions, nanoelectronics that incorporate layered two-dimensional materials or nanotubes and nanowires, and other nanopatterned architectures. Many of the issues that need to be addressed in traditional manufacturing, such as scale up, quality control, process flow, and uncertainty quantification become more complex when working at the nanoscale.  Our node is focused on helping the community to overcome some key challenges to help push the field forward.

Q: What are the most impactful activities of the nanoMFG node so far? If you could recommend one simulation tool to the nanoHUB community, which one would it be?

A: There are two main activities that I think have been most impactful.  The first is our software development, and the second is related to engaging and growing the nanomanufacturing community.

We have been focusing on creating frameworks that enable community-scale integration of data from both experiments and from modeling and simulation to help consolidate knowledge and expertise around critical nanomanufacturing processes.  These frameworks are interconnected tools, hosted on nanoHUB, that bring to users access to experimental equipment, automated data capture and extraction, and process simulation tools towards the creation of distributed nanomanufacturing networks. Our Gr-ResQ (“graphene rescue”) tool suite, that we’re excited to introduce to the community, is based on this vision and should be coming online very soon. Our team at Berkeley, led by Prof.  Hayden Taylor, has also been developing some very exciting tools around the use of optical techniques to characterize manufactured nanoscale components.  For example, nanovisc is a tool that makes it possible to characterize rheological properties, like the viscosity, of nanoscale thin films by observing under an optical microscope how the films flow through a stamp.  Another tool is 2dreflect, which uses reflectance measurements to characterize the thickness of 2D stacks of materials.

In terms of engaging the nanomanufacturing community, last spring we held our first annual workshop on Data-Science Enabled Advances in Nanomanufacturing.  We brought together stakeholders from different sectors of nanomanufacturing community and discussed recent developments and continuing challenges.  Many of the presentations from this first workshop can be viewed on nanoHUB.  Additionally, we’ll be holding the second workshop later this coming spring.

Q: How do you interface with the nanomanufacturing community?

A: We use a few approaches for this. We try to involve a diverse community from industry, labs, academia, and non-profits in our work.  We regularly engage them through activities such as broad needs assessment surveys, focused interviews, and our annual nanomanufacturing workshop. Our node also sponsors seminars and visits for representatives from industry. We hope that by effectively working with the community to identify critical needs and barriers, and then developing simulation tools to address them, we can drive innovation in this area.

Q: How will nanoHUB help the nanoMFG node drive innovation in the domain of nanomanufacturing?

A: nanoHUB, as the platform that we use to host our tools, is instrumental for our work.  In addition to its visibility and large audience, nanoHUB is critical for the infrastructure that we are building around nanomanufacturing. For example, nanoHUB allows the community to access experimental and computational data relevant to nanomanufacturing processes, analyze data, and run simulation models all in one place which makes it easy for anyone to be a part of the Gr-ResQ community. This is the key to making it so that anyone around the world who wants to participate is able to do so – helping us to create a vibrant and interactive community.

Q: Who are the people who develop the tools?

A: One of the aspects of our program that I am most excited about is that our tool development is almost entirely student-driven and student-led.  We have an excellent software development group at NCSA at Illinois led by Darren Adams that oversees tool development, and our software is created, tested, and maintained by our nanoMFG node student team under his supervision and guidance. We work hard to ensure that the tool developers are trained in software development best practices, and use techniques such as software planning documents, version control, and issue tracking. They have been doing an excellent job on some very challenging tasks.

Q: What tools are currently in development?

A: We have a few exciting tools in the pipeline.  I mentioned the Gr-ResQ tool suite already, and some of the tools around optical characterization of nanoscale components.  In addition to this we are working on a tool that simulates ionic liquid exfoliation of layered, two-dimensional materials.  Alongside the exfoliation tool, we are also developing a related video game that will introduce younger learners to the field of nanotechnology. We are also working on contact mechanics tools that simulate nanoburnishing - the elastoplastic deformation of thin metal films, and a tool that analyzes patterns created during deep reactive ion etching.

Thank you, Dr. Ertekin. We look forward to working with you!