Publishable Final Report
Nanoscience and nanotechnology are broad domains of research representing a major field of activity at global level with great innovation potential in health, environment, energy and communication. Direct sensitivity to the atomic scale and to the fundamental time scale of the processes ruling the assembly of matter and the response of materials, as well as the direct exploitation of quantum phenomena, are requested for acquiring the knowledge to enable the design of new generation products and sustainable technologies.
Nanotechnology requires special infrastructures with “atomically clean environments” for the assembling of nanosystems, and nanoscience needs adequate probes that include radiation sources (Large Scale Facilities for fine analysis of matter, LSF) for the direct control of the functionalities at the relevant space and time scale of the fundamental processes. These infrastructures, which require substantial human and financial investments, are most often not co-located and not operated in close synergy. NFFA plans to construct a Distributed Research Infrastructure that will co-locate Nanoscience Centres with the LSFs, offering a unique integrated environment for advanced research open to the access of European and international scientists.
Key aspects of the NFFA strategy and instruments for its implementation outlined in the Design Study, are:
- A single portal for open access to up to six centres characterized by specific fields of interest and local synergies with complementary nearby Large Scale Facilities (LSFs) will be provided in the framework of an ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) with a central management based on a project oriented structure tailored by the scientific programme (instead of a competence driven one) but well suited to establish local relationships at national and regional level to satisfy both a European vision of modern research infrastructures as well as local needs and sustainability.
- A strategic access to LSFs to a wider nano-oriented community of users by raising the standard in sample definition. Advanced beamlines on radiation sources generally lack adequate levels of “time consuming” sample preparation and delivery tools, or atomic resolution microscopy. Co-locating advanced synthesis facilities equipped with controlled sample transfer, developing dedicated beamlines and full characterization lines, all of these connected by a well suited metrology, will overcome such a severe limitation to the optimal development of nanoscience and the consequent nanotechnologies and such a limiting factor of the full scientific return from the LSFs. In-operando experiments will be also developed and will provide a more reliable feedback to the assembly and functionalization protocols.
- A common platform of standards and metrology, to make synthesis protocols and analytical results obtained in complementary radiation sources, comparable and transferable. It will play a fundamental role to join nanofabrication and synthesis with fine analysis at the LSFs as well as to make the several NFFA centres to act as a single-site infrastructure with several virtual (in the frame of the reproducibility certified by the common standards) in-situ and in-operando capabilities. A quality management system approach has been planned to account for a reliable implementation of such a platform, including data and competence management achieved by a Technical Liaison activity: a piece of the staff, common practices and a development activity pointing to the full reproducibility and transferability of nanoscience results and nanotechnology products capable to face the challenge of atomic precision manufacturing.
- A first Data Repository of molecular data for functional and complex materials and protocols for the synthesis and the metrology of nanostructured systems so as to make nanoscience outcome promptly available to society. The format of the data (stored in file archives) and the metadata (the set of all the relevant information aiming to the reproducibility and the transferability of the data and that will be managed in a database using a set of keywords as well as the semantic search) will be so as to ensure full exploitation of emerging e-infrastructures and thus achieving high impact and capillarity..
- The indicative overall construction cost of NFFA for 3-6 centers is 200-400 M€ in case of green-field construction (co-located to LSF) and an operation cost of about 15% of the investment cost per year. The construction time is 3 years per center with several centers being built in parallel. Based on the DOE experience 5 years are necessary for full regime operation. These goals are pursued by involving national institutes and research agencies as well as the European Commission in a strategic planning. Whenever an update of the ESFRI Roadmap will be considered with inclusion of nanoscience and nanotechnology, NFFA could represent a valuable option.
- Since there is an urgent need of NFFA we have developed the concept of a NFFA demonstrator phase to be started quickly as an Integrating Activity (I3 programme FP7, WP2012) and with the initial support of all the Partner institutions of the NFFA Design Study, to be extended to other relevant institutions in the UE and Associated States. The NFFA Demonstrator Phase will enforce and develop the NFFA concept within a limited programme that will integrate the existing nanoscience infrastructures co-located to LSF for Fine Analysis that do have some infrastructural capacity for supporting a users programme if funded for the extra costs that are involved.
While the European offer of LSF is adequate, the availability of open access nanoscience centres is overall undersized, and the link to LSF is weak. NFFA can therefore play a key role in the construction of the European Research Area creating a unique environment to support leading research by users from academy and institutes, offering advanced training to young researchers and engineers, providing an effective support to innovation projects by diverse stakeholders.