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A new collaboration between the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Lab will support the development of new materials for a wide spectrum of applications. (PNNL via YouTube)

The University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are joining forces on a new research venture that spans 200 miles to advance the frontiers of materials science.

The venture — known as the Northwest Institute for Materials Physics, Chemistry and Technology, or NW IMPACT — will be co-located at UW’s campus in Seattle and PNNL’s campus in Richland, Wash. Eventually, NW IMPACT will involve at least 20 joint UW-PNNL appointments for existing researchers, and at least 20 UW graduate students in UW-PNNL collaborations.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce and PNNL Director Steven Ashby formally launched the program on Wednesday during a ceremony at the Richland campus.

“This partnership holds enormous potential for innovations in materials science that could lead to major changes in our lives and the world,” said Cauce.

Ashby said “the science of making new materials is vital to a wide range of advancements, many of which we have yet to imagine.”

The institute’s co-leaders are UW chemist David Ginger, chief scientist at the university’s Clean Energy Institute; and Jim De Yoreo, PNNL’s chief scientist for materials synthesis and simulation across scales. Eventually, a permanent institute director will be hired.

NW IMPACT will provide two-year seed grants to institute-affiliated researchers in a range of focus areas, including:

  • Materials for energy conversion and storage, which can be applied to more efficient solar cells, batteries and power storage systems for wearable electronics, implantable medical devices and other applications.
  • Quantum materials, such as ultrathin semiconductors or other materials that can harness the rules of quantum mechanics at subatomic-level precision for applications in quantum computing, telecommunications and beyond.
  • Materials for water separation and utilization, which include processes to make water purification and ocean desalination methods faster, cheaper and more energy-efficient.
  • Biomimetic materials, which are synthetic materials inspired by the structures and design principles of biological molecules and materials within our cells — including proteins and DNA. These materials could be applicable in medical settings for implantable devices or tissue engineering, and for self-assembled protein-like scaffolds in industrial settings.

The deadline for receiving the first round of research proposals is Feb. 26.

Although UW and PNNL are geographically separated, they have a long history of collaboration on programs such as PNNL’s Materials Synthesis and Simulations Across Scales Initiative, the PNNL-led Battery 500 consortium and the UW-based Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

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