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Press Releases: Research Funded by Agencies Participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative

(Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed an electrocatalyst that not only enables water and carbon dioxide to be split but also enables the recombined atoms to form higher-weight hydrocarbons for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The technology is a carbon nanospike catalyst that uses nanoparticles of a custom-designed alloy. The carbon nanospike catalyst was invented using a one-of-a-kind nanofabrication instrument and staff expertise at ORNL's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences.

(Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

In a finding that could help make artificial photosynthesis a practical method for producing hydrogen fuel, researchers from the University of Michigan and the U.S Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered why a water-splitting device made with cheap and abundant materials unexpectedly becomes more efficient during use. The new understanding of this mechanism could radically accelerate the commercialization of technologies that turn light and water into carbon-free hydrogen fuel. The device includes a forest of nanowires of gallium nitride, an inexpensive semiconductor that is widely used in everyday electronics.

(Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation)

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University, and the University of Florida have created stable nanosheets containing boron and hydrogen atoms, with potential applications in nanoelectronics and quantum information technology. The researchers grew borophene – a one-atom-thick sheet of boron – on a silver substrate, and then exposed it to hydrogen to form borophane, a sheet of boron and hydrogen a mere two atoms in thickness.

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers at MIT have developed a screening platform that combines machine learning with high-throughput experimentation to identify self-assembling nanoparticles that, when loaded with small-molecule drugs, could be used to treat cancer, asthma, malaria, and viral and fungal infections. These findings point to a strategy that solves both the complexity of producing nanoparticles and the difficulty of loading large amounts of drugs onto them.

(Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation)

A UCLA-led study reports on the first-ever determination of the 3D atomic structure of an amorphous solid—in this case, a material called metallic glass. Metallic glasses tend to be both stronger and more shapeable than standard crystalline metals, and they are used today in products ranging from electrical transformers to high-end golf clubs and the housings for Apple laptops, and other electronic devices. The researchers examined a sample of metallic glass about 8 nanometers in diameter, made of eight different metals.

(Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy)

Researchers from Penn State, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University, New York University, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated that a technique that mimics the ancient Japanese art of kirigami may offer an easier way to fabricate complex 3D nanostructures for use in electronics, manufacturing, and health care. 3D nanostructures are difficult to make because current nanofabrication processes are used to fabricate microelectronics, which rely on flat films. When cuts are introduced to a film and forces are applied in a certain direction, a structure pops up, similar to when a kirigami artist applies force to a cut paper. The geometry of the planar pattern of cuts determines the shape of the 3D architecture. 

(Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy)

Researchers from Penn State, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University, New York University, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated that a technique that mimics the ancient Japanese art of kirigami may offer an easier way to fabricate complex 3D nanostructures for use in electronics, manufacturing, and health care. 3D nanostructures are difficult to make because current nanofabrication processes are used to fabricate microelectronics, which rely on flat films. When cuts are introduced to a film and forces are applied in a certain direction, a structure pops up, similar to when a kirigami artist applies force to a cut paper. The geometry of the planar pattern of cuts determines the shape of the 3D architecture.

(Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation)

A team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, has developed an atomically thin sensor that can detect ultralow concentrations of nitrogen dioxide of at least 50 parts per billion. The sensor, which is constructed from a monolayer alloy of rhenium niobium disulfide, works at room temperature and consumes less power than conventional sensors. Also, unlike other 2D devices, the new sensor electrically responds selectively to nitrogen dioxide molecules, with minimal response to other toxic gases, such as ammonia and formaldehyde. 

(Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy)

Scientists at Rice University have optimized a process to convert waste from rubber tires into graphene, which can be used to strengthen concrete. The process was introduced in 2020 by the same scientists and has been used to convert food waste and plastic into graphene by exposing them to a jolt of electricity, which removes everything but carbon atoms from the sample. Those atoms then reassemble into graphene. This time, the scientists applied the process to tire-derived carbon black and found that about 70% of the material converted to graphene.

(Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy)

A team of U.S. and European researchers has developed an elegant method for producing individual, continuous chains of palladium ions. The process is based on self-organized assembly of a special palladium complex and single-stranded DNA molecules (which are becoming an important tool for nanoscience and nanotechnology). The incorporation of metals in DNA structures can give them properties such as conductivity, catalytic activity, magnetism, and photoactivity. But organizing metal ions in DNA molecules is not easy. So, the researchers used a specially constructed palladium complex that can form base pairs with natural adenine bases in a strand of DNA.