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

The following news releases describe the results of research activities that are funded by Federal agencies that participate in the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
  • May 14, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation)

    Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed bioelectronic ammonia gas sensors that are among the most sensitive ever made. The sensors use electric-charge-conducting protein nanowires derived from the bacterium Geobacter, which grows hair-like protein filaments that work as nanoscale "wires" to transfer charges for their nourishment and to communicate with other bacteria.

  • May 13, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation)

    Plastics are a popular 3-D printing material, but printed parts are mechanically weak—a flaw caused by the imperfect bonding between the individual printed layers that make up the 3-D part. Now, researchers at Texas A&M University, in collaboration with scientists in the company Essentium, Inc. have developed a technology that overcomes this flaw. By integrating plasma science and carbon nanotube technology into standard 3-D printing, the researchers welded adjacent printed layers more effectively, increasing the overall reliability of the final part.

  • May 08, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Army Research Office)

    In 2018, MIT scientists discovered that when two sheets of graphene are stacked together at a slightly offset "magic" angle, the new "twisted" graphene structure can become either an insulator or a superconductor. Now, the MIT scientists report that they and others have imaged and mapped an entire twisted graphene structure for the first time at a resolution fine enough that they are able to see slight variations in the local twist angle across the entire structure. The scientists also reported creating a new twisted graphene structure with not two, but four layers of graphene. They observed that the new four-layer magic-angle structure is more sensitive to certain electric and magnetic fields compared to its two-layer predecessor. 

  • May 07, 2020
    (Funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the U.S. Department of Energy)

    Researchers at Rice University have found evidence of piezoelectricity in lab-grown, two-dimensional flakes of molybdenum dioxide that are less than 10 nanometers thick. Piezoelectricity is a property of materials that respond to stress by generating an electric voltage across their surfaces or generate mechanical strain in response to an applied electric field. The researchers found that the surprise electrical properties are due to electrons trapped in defects throughout the material.

  • May 07, 2020
    (Funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy)

    A multi-institutional team of researchers led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has developed a smart, breathable fabric designed to protect the wearer against biological and chemical warfare agents. The fabric combines two key elements: a base membrane layer made of trillions of aligned carbon nanotube pores and a polymer layer grafted onto the membrane layer. The carbon nanotubes are able to easily transport water molecules through their interiors while also blocking biological agents.

  • May 07, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation)

    Researchers at Texas A&M University have made mats that are strong, stable, and capable of delivering antioxidant activity for prolonged periods of time. Each mat is made of an intertwined network of ultra-fine strands of a polymer and an antioxidant found in red wine. In past studies, antioxidants were blended into synthetic mats, but the researchers said these mats have lower functionality because the surface area for antioxidant activity is limited. To increase the surface area for antioxidant activity, the researchers created an antioxidant mesh made with nanofibers of polymer and tannic acid.

  • May 07, 2020
    (Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

    Researchers at the University of Virginia are pioneering the use of focused ultrasound to defy the brain's protective barrier, so that doctors could deliver treatments directly into the brain. The approach could revolutionize treatment for brain cancer by using the focused ultrasound to deliver gene therapy via "deep-penetrating nanoparticles." The nanoparticles are engineered to penetrate the tissue, and the focused sound waves are able to open spaces between cells in the tissue.

  • May 05, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense)

    To clean wastewater from munitions processing and demilitarization, engineers at the University of Delaware are testing a novel technology using iron nanoparticles. Instead of being corroded by oxygen in water, forming rust, the 25-nanometer iron particles are corroded by munitions compounds in wastewater. The nanoparticles donate electrons to munitions compounds and, through electron transfer, the dissolved munitions compounds break down. Iron nanoparticles have already been used to treat groundwater, but this is its first application to munitions wastewater.

  • May 05, 2020
    (Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

    By disabling a gene in specific mouse cells, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have prevented mice from becoming obese, even after the animals had been fed a high-fat diet. In one set of experiments, the research team deleted the ASXL2 gene in the macrophages of obese mice, and in a second set of experiments, they injected the animals with nanoparticles that interfered with the activity of the ASXL2 gene. In both cases, the researchers found that despite high-fat diets, the treated animals burned 45% more calories than their obese littermates.

  • May 04, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation)

    Researchers at Rice University have created an efficient, low-cost device that splits water to produce hydrogen fuel. The device integrates catalytic electrodes made with cobalt phosphide nanorods (about 100 nanometers in diameter) and perovskite solar cells, which are crystals that produce electricity when triggered by sunlight. When the device is dropped into water and placed in sunlight, it produces hydrogen with no further input.