Shared research facilities located at our four core universities (Duke, Howard, Virginia Tech and Carnegie Mellon) and academic partners, include unique visualization facilities, controlled field sites (mesocosms), microcosm facilities and extensive analytical instrumentation and nanofabrication capabilities. Individually, these facilities are exceptional. As a combined resource, complemented by the capabilities present at government labs and user facilities we work with, they offer students and researchers unparalleled research opportunities for investigating the environmental implications of nanotechnology.

Field Mesocosms at Duke Forest and the Duke Wetland Center

CEINT has built 30 controlled release facilities - tightly controlled and highly instrumented ecosystems (aka mesocosms) that are located in the Duke Forest. The Duke Forest comprises over 7,000 acres of land adjacent to the Duke University campus. These mesocosms (1 m x 4 m) allow researchers to introduce various nanomaterials and track their fate and transport through the environment, as well as the material's impacts on plants, fish, bacteria and other elements within these contained ecosystems. The mesocosms serve as a unifying resource for experiments across all six CEINT's research thrusts. Thus far 30 mesocosms have been constructed and serve as a site for multiple ongoing experiments.

Conditions in the mesocosm (air and water temperature, redox potential, water level, air pressure and humidity) are continuously monitored and recorded through a sophisticated network of sensors that allow for real-time on-line data collection and analysis, available to CEINT researchers worldwide through a secure internet portal. The data logging (via a network of CR1000 and multiplexers Campbell) has been micro-coded and programmed for the acquisition of the large amount of probes and sensors implemented at the mesocosm site.

Aquatic Research Facility

The Aquatic Research Facility is located in the Duke Forest, approximately one mile from Duke's West Campus. It is comprised of approximately 1,500 square feet of AAALAC-approved space for holding and performing experiments with aquatic organisms.  The facility contains static and flow-through systems for both holding and exposing fish and is approved for research with hazardous chemicals and for research with radiolabeled (H-3 and C-14) compounds. The Duke University Wetland Center, headed by Professor Curtis Richardson, has offices and labs on the main campus at Duke University in the 300,000-sq. ft. Levine Science Research Center. The Wetland Center has chemical analysis labs, an ultra clean room, microbial labs with two laminar flow hoods, and dedicated radioisotope facilities. The lab maintains 2 full-time technicians and is an approved QA/QC lab. The Wetland Center’s Stream and Wetland Assessment Management Park (SWAMP) is a 14-ha site consisting of a stream-wetland lake complex that includes 2 ha of wetland research plots that can be used to assess hydrologic and biogeochemical interactions, and 6 (100m2) treatment wetland cells (macrocosms) that can be used to test for the effects of nanomaterials introduced into the environment. Each cell can be isolated. SWAMP was designed to contribute to development of future research by providing background data on soil, plant, macroinvertebrates, and fish and to assess changes in water quality by monitoring through the various stages of research activities. The site is fully instrumented with ISCO water samplers, YSI Sondes, Star flow meters, a weather station, calibrated input and output weirs, and series of automated RDS groundwater measuring units. These instruments provide real-time data for water quality, streamflow, lake and groundwater levels, and climate information with over five years of background data.


On Duke's main campus the Nicolas School of the Environment houses sixteen 4000-ml sealed microcosms, equipped with a pH combination electrode, a platinum Eh electrode and a thermocouple system for temperature regulation.  The probes and thermocouples are connected to a data acquisition system that allows the microcosm to be maintained at set points for pH and redox or allowed to vary with soil/water/organism interactions.  Redox potentials can be controlled by addition of pressurized air or nitrogen through a series of computer controlled solenoid valves.  An immersion bath system is used to regulate temperature.

Nano-characterization and fabrication facilities

student with opticsOur shared Instrumentation includes Duke's Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility (SMIF), the Duke NanoFabrication Facility, the Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Laboratory at Virginia Tech, Howard's Nanomaterials Characterization Science Center’s NNIN, CMU’s nanofabrication facility, PPG Industries Colloids, the Polymers and Surfaces Laboratory (CMU), x-ray scattering facility (CMU), and the Center for Molecular Analysis, and the electron microscopy facilities of CMU's MRSEC.  Through these resources, CEINT researchers have accesses to state-of the art instrumentation for nanotechnology research including SEM, TEM, XPS, NMR, NSOM, AFM and variations there-on (e.g., cryo-TEM, flow through AFM, etc.).  Each facility is operated as a service unit (recharge center) and is staffed with trained personnel. For example, SMIF is open to all trained students, staff, and faculty, and is used for both research and educational purposes. SMIF provides flexible, integrated class 1000 and class 100 clean rooms and characterization lab spaces.  A full listing of each unit’s equipment inventory is available on their web site and is too exhaustive to list in this appendix.  CEINT also recently acquired a CytoViva hyperspectral imaging system. This microscope-based imaging system includes a visible and near infrared (VINR) hyperspectral imaging system, and is already used for nano-bioresearch by multiple researchers within the Center. The microscope captures real-time, high-resolution dark-field based images as well as spectral profiles of the nano-bio samples for every pixel represented in the image. For example, nanoparticles interacting with bacteria and/or viruses can be detected in real-time in live cells and tissues and in organic and inorganic composites.

In addition, extensive instrumentation is available in the labs of individual CEINT researchers ranging from advanced multi-angle dynamic light scattering, ellipsometers, and electrokinetic and surface area analyzers for nanomaterial characterization to PCR, Real-Time PCR, DGGE, Gel-Doc, confocal scanning laser microscopes and IMARIS and COMSTAT software to analyze and quantify confocal microscope images, and related equipment for molecular microbiology work. We also have substantial access to X-ray and synchrotron facilities at DOE labs including SSRL/SLAC, PAS/ANL, ALS/LBNL, and EMSL/PNNL and associated sample preparation instrumentation at each facility.

Complete list of nanomaterial characterization tools available to CEINT researchers

Additional Facilities

Hauck Environmental Engineering Laboratories

The Hauck Environmental Engineering Laboratories at CMU include a water chemistry lab, a microbiology lab, an instrument lab, a trace element analysis lab, an ion chromatography lab and sample preparation area, and a geo-environmental lab.  Major instrumentation includes:  a Dionex ion chromatography unit with conductivity and UV detectors; an O-I Corp. TOC analyzer (solids and liquids); a GBC atomic absorption spectrophotometer equipped for both flame and furnace analyses; two Hewlett Packard gas chromatography units with ECD, FID, and MS detectors; a Hewlett Packard liquid chromatography unit with UV and fluorescence detectors, an Agilent Technologies Capillary Electrophoresis unit, a Cary 300 UV spectrophotometer, a Nova 2200e BET surface area analyzer.  The microbiology laboratory houses additional specialized equipment – water baths and shakers, bioreactors, cell culture refrigerators, incubators, autoclave, spectrophotometer, automatic media and plate preparation equipment, PCR, Real-Time PCR, DGGE, Gel-Doc and related equipment for molecular microbiology.

Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies (CAPS)

The Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies (CAPS) at CMU houses an air quality laboratory with state of the art nanoparticle generation, measurement, and analysis equipment, and a smog chamber with associated equipment to introduce nanoparticles and observe their transformations. Major equipment includes an aerosol carbon analyzer (Sunset EC/OC Analyzer) for analysis of airborne concentrations of elemental carbon and organic carbon, an aethelometer for measurement of elemental carbon concentrations, two Scanning Mobility Particle Sizers  that can measure particle concentrations and sizes from a few nanometers to tens of microns, a Differential Mobility Analyzer to measure concentration and diameter in the nanoparticle size range, a Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometer  for measurement of volatile organic compounds, a Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance for measurement of particle size distributions by mass for diameters greater than roughly 100 nm, and an Aerosol Mass Spectrometer for determining simultaneously the size and chemical composition of volatile and semi-volatile particles.

Duke Immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE)

CEINT has access to the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE), a fully immersive 6-sided CAVE-like virtual reality chamber that can be used for educational as well as scientific visualization applications. Currently there are multiple scientific visualization and educational applications of molecular and atomic level interactions available in the DiVE that allow students and researchers to step into a three-dimensional interactive virtual world where atoms and molecules are visualized at the same size and on the same planes as the researchers themselves.  Future funding would allow development of software for use in the DiVE to model nanoparticle/molecular interactions that would allow, for example, researchers to move a nanoparticle into contact with a DNA molecule and observe the interaction, or to explore the conformation of macromolecules interacting with nanoparticle aggregates.  The DiVE is one of only nine 6-sided CAVE-like systems in the world. It is a 3m x 3m x 3m stereoscopic rear projected virtual reality chamber with head and hand tracking and real time computer graphics. All six surfaces – the four walls, the ceiling and the floor – are used as screens onto which computer graphics are displayed. For virtual worlds designed for this system, it is a fully immersive room in which the individual (researcher, educator, etc) literally walks into the world, is surrounded by the display and is capable of interacting with virtual objects in the world. Stereo glasses provide depth perception, and a handheld “wand” controls navigation and input to into the world for manipulating virtual objects.