Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN)

The Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) at Brookhaven National Laboratory photographed at dusk.

The CFN is one of the five Nanoscale Science Research Centers created by the Department of Energy to investigate, understand, and exploit the unique characteristics of materials and phenomena at the nanoscale.
Upton, New York Location
2008 Start of Operations
640 (FY 2022) Number of Users


The Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), at Brookhaven National Laboratory, began operations in April 2008, is an open hub of nanoscience research that is internationally renowned for its impact on society, from the discovery of novel phenomena at the nanoscale to their application in energy-related solutions. As a user-oriented research center, CFN has the dual mission of: 1) enabling external users to carry out top-quality nanoscience projects; and 2) conducting in-house research to discover, understand, and exploit energy-related nanomaterials. Crucial elements that help address the mission are the CFN’s synergy with National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), which delivers world-leading photon brightness and intensity, and the CFN’s essential role in BNL’s Integrated Centers for Energy Science initiative, which enhance impact and effectiveness by integration of resources across BNL. The CFN’s capabilities, organized into seven facilities, allow CFN users and staff to create, characterize, and understand nanomaterials with the most advanced tools and techniques. Two groups address nanomaterials preparation and processing (Materials Synthesis and Nanofabrication), and four focus on advanced characterization and probing, either with electrons (Proximal Probes and Electron Microscopy) or photons (Advanced Optical Spectroscopy and Microscopy and Advanced UV and X-ray Probes). The seventh facility, Theory and Computation, contributes to the elucidation of the structure and properties of nanomaterials.


The CFN’s in-house research program encompasses three broad scientific themes, which align well with the expertise of the CFN staff, underlie many of the CFN Users’ projects, and complement the CFN’s unique facilities.  Theme 1 emphasizes Nanomaterials in Operando Conditions. Although the importance of probing materials under operating conditions has long been recognized, interrogating them at the nanoscale to derive atomic-level information on chemical processes has become possible only recently. The CFN possesses a comprehensive suite of tools to provide in operando information on materials, such as catalysts and battery electrodes, which, in partnership with developing capabilities at NSLS-II, establish BNL as a world leader for in operando studies of nanomaterials. Theme 2 involves Nano-architectures for Energy Solutions. Large-area assembly of nanomaterials, while preserving the advantageous properties that are offered by their internal nanostructure, is essential for real world solutions. The CFN has notable expertise and capabilities for producing nanostructured materials by combining self-assembly (e.g., using block copolymers) with nanofabrication methods to create large-area nanostructured materials for energy applications, which are challenging to realize by other means. Theme 3, Self-Assembled Nanomaterials by Design, strives to discover the principles underlying by-design self-organization and the fabrication of functional organic-inorganic structures via self-assembly. The CFN’s expertise in self-organization of nanomaterials with soft matter molecules (e.g., DNA or polymers) is crucial to the development of novel approaches for self-assembly based on molecular recognition and the creation of new probes of assembly phenomena in situ, in real time, and across multiple spatial and temporal scales.