Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS)

Exterior of the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS).

The CNMS integrates nanoscale science research with neutron science, synthesis science, and theory/modeling/stimulation.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee Location
2006 Start of Operations
811 (FY 2022) Number of Users


The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS), at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, began operations in 2006. The CNMS combines a vibrant research effort to understand and control the complexity of electronic, ionic, and molecular behavior at the nanoscale with a multi-disciplinary user environment. The building provides state-of-the-art clean rooms, general laboratories, wet and dry laboratories for sample preparation, fabrication, and analysis. Equipment to synthesize, manipulate, and characterize nanoscale materials and structures is included. The facility—which is collocated with the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) complex to exploit ORNL’s unique capabilities in neutron scattering—houses over 100 research scientists and an additional 100 students and postdoctoral fellows. Distinguishing capabilities include precision synthesis of macromolecular nanomaterials and inorganic nanostructures, band excitation scanning probe microscopy, He-ion and scanning transmission electron microscopies, atom probe and electron tomographies. Theoretical tools and expertise address emergent behavior in nanoscale systems. Nanofabrication capabilities include a wide range of tools with emphasis on integrating functionality in hard and soft materials. The CNMS’s major scientific thrusts are in nano-dimensioned soft materials, complex nanophase materials systems, and the crosscutting areas of interfaces and reduced dimensionality that become scientifically critical on the nanoscale.


Research at CNMS over the next decade will focus on understanding, designing and controlling the dynamics, spatial chemistry, and energetics of functionality and properties of nanoscale materials and architectures. Scientific themes will include:  (1) Origins of Functionality at the Nanoscale—this theme focuses on the development of instrumentation to image functionality and couples research to develop understanding of the new emerging physics and chemistry at the nanoscale with ORNL’s expertise in developing tools and techniques for forefront research with scanning probes, neutron scattering, electron microscopy, and related techniques; (2) Functional Polymer Architectures—this theme focuses on advancing our fundamental understanding and control of polymer structure, property and function that are controlled by weak forces and whose properties are largely dependent on interfacial phenomena. This theme is rooted in controlled synthesis of well-defined polymers and bio-inspired polymers, and in rigorous nanoscale characterization; and (3) Emergent Behavior in Nanoscale Systems—this theme builds on a strong theoretical effort, focusing on understanding the emergence of collective behavior at every scale from the electronic structure to the mesoscale and includes multiscale aspects of functionality in complex systems and assemblies of nanoscale materials such as oxides and bio-inspired nanomaterials.