ThINC: The Core Facility of the Advance Energy Research and Technology Center Providing Access to World Class Instrumentation for Better Research
The idea of including a core facility for advanced studies at nanoscale appeared when the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC), located at the Research & Development Park at Stony Brook University, was still in the planning stages. T he Thermomechanical & Imaging Nanoscale Characterization (ThINC) is a natural fit to support the AERTC’s mission: offering collaborative R&D services to industry, start-ups and academia alike. ThINC harnesses a team of experienced Ph.D. scientists to provide sample preparation, thermo-mechanical characterization and multiscale imaging services for innovation and research in pharmaceuticals, materials design & manufacturing, medical devices, agtech and life sciences. The facility is committed to offer holistic solutions to materials and nanoscience problems by providing access to world class instrumentation, expert personnel, and expanding its services based on user needs by establishing partnerships between Stony Brook University and government, university and/or industrial laboratories.
ThINC was conceived in 2012, but it took two years to fully install the major instruments, and the official grand opening was held in 2014. Since its inception, ThINC has continually grown its instrumentation capabilities, as well as the scientific expertise available through professional development of facility personnel, to ensure the most skilled and up to date service will be provided.
For almost seven years, ThINC has been providing its users access to the state-of-the-art instruments for advancing their research in drug discovery, nanotechnology, life sciences and materials design through chemical, crystallographic, mechanical, morphological, optical, and thermal characterization. More recently, the ThINC team has started building a collaborative network with other characterization facilities both at Stony Brook and outside the university to provide access to instruments that ThINC does not yet offer. ThINC is not just about high-end instrumentation, but also providing a collaborative problem solving mindset to provide the best solution to the problems, either inhouse or by collaborating with external experts and facilities.
ThINC users are diverse in terms of sector focus as well as organizational origins. They come from start-ups, industry, research labs, as well as other universities, and are from a very broad range of fields such as pharmaceuticals, engineering, chemistry, physical and life sciences, and agtech. In the fiscal year 2019-2020, ThINC has assisted over 100 researchers. About 80% of users were from Stony Brook University, Stony Brook Medicine and Stony Brook Dental School, while the other users were from local industry and startup companies.
Among the local institutions and start-ups using the ThINC facility are enterprises such as Bettergy Corp., an energy materials and nanotechnology company developing advanced battery and nanopore engineered membrane technologies; and SPOT SIZE, a startup company that provides high-quality carbon film coated TEM grids for the TEM community. Both companies have benefited in the development of their products by utilizing ThINC capabilities and obtaining useful insights in their research by working closely with the experienced staff. By providing access to expensive but crucial instrumentation as well as experienced staff scientists committed to help the users, ThINC removes a major roadblock for small businesses and thrusts their R&D efforts.
ThINC has also assisted several Research Groups. One such research group, led by Dr. Miriam Rafailovich has been conducting a wide range of research, including nanoscale materials engineering, photovoltaic polymers, nanocomposites, flame retardant materials, biodegradable polymers, tissue engineering, 3D printing and biomedical additive manufacturing. Another research group, led by Dr. Benjamin Hsiao, has utilized services of the facility for developing new nanofiber technologies, based on electrospun nanofibers and natural nanostructured cellulose materials, for health, environmental, and energy applications. The data acquired by both groups has been published in high-Impact peer-reviewed journals such as Macromolecules, ACS Applied Nano Materials, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, etc. as well as presented at many national and international conferences.
ThINC kept its doors closed during the early days of the pandemic, but has been able to reopen while following all safety measures for protection of its users and staff, and advancing its mission to provide guidance and research opportunities to new and existing users.
ThINC’s team of experts consists of Dr. Chung-Chueh (Simon) Chang, Project Director and Instrumentation Scientist, Dr. Yuan Xue, Staff Scientist and Dr. Shruti Sharma, Program Manager and Researcher. While typical users send in their samples and the staff scientists take the measurements for them, the facility is also equipped to train users who wish to engage In long term research activities, allowing them to utilize the facilities independently once trained and authorized.
ThINC prospective users are welcome to contact the team directly for inquiries through email (email@example.com) or phone (631-216-7412). More information on available facilities and instrument capabilities can be found on ThINC website: stonybrook.edu/commcms/thinc