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

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

A team led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry has designed and synthesized an effective catalyst for speeding up one of the limiting steps in extracting hydrogen from alcohols. The catalyst consists of 1.5-nanometer-diameter nickel clusters deposited onto a 2D substrate made of boron and nitrogen engineered to host a grid of atomic-scale dimples. The nickel clusters are evenly dispersed and securely anchored in the dimples -- an important feature that greatly improves the catalyst’s overall performance. This discovery could help make hydrogen a viable energy source for a wide range of applications, such as stationary power, portable power, and mobile vehicle industries.

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

Scientists at Rice University have extended their technique to produce graphene in a flash to tailor the properties of other 2D materials. The scientists have successfully “flashed” bulk amounts of 2D dichalcogenides, changing them from semiconductors to metallics. Such materials are valuable for electronics, catalysis, and as lubricants.

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

Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a battery anode based on a new nanostructured alloy that could revolutionize the way energy storage devices are designed and manufactured. The zinc- and manganese-based alloy further opens the door to replacing solvents commonly used in battery electrolytes with seawater, which is safer, inexpensive, and abundant.

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

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered that carbon nanotube membrane pores could enable ultra-rapid dialysis processes that would greatly reduce treatment time for hemodialysis patients. The researchers found that carbon nanotube pores might provide a solution to the permeability vs. selectivity tradeoff, which is well-known for synthetic membranes. When using a concentration gradient as a driving force, small ions were found to diffuse through these tiny pores more than an order of magnitude faster than when moving in bulk solution.

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

Chemists at Emory University, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, and Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland have developed a nanomaterial that can be triggered to shape-shift – from flat sheets to tubes and back to sheets again – in a controllable way. The nanomaterial holds potential for a range of biomedical applications, from controlled-release drug delivery to tissue engineering.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Michigan have developed a new technique for eliminating particularly tough blood clots by using engineered nanodroplets and an ultrasound "drill" to break up the clots from the inside out. The technique has not yet gone through clinical testing, but in vitro testing has shown promising results.

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

Researchers from Virginia Tech have gained insights into building stronger and tougher ceramics by studying the shells of bivalve mollusks. Normally, the presence of nanoscale structural defects means a site of potential failure. But the researchers have shown that the size, spacing, geometry, orientation, and distribution of these nanoscale defects within the biomineral is highly controlled, improving not only the structural strength but also the damage tolerance through controlled cracking and fracture.

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

Scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National laboratory have discovered that during a chemical reaction that often quickly degrades catalytic materials, a certain type of catalyst displays exceptionally high stability and durability. This type of catalyst is an alloy nanoparticle, made up of multiple metallic elements, such as cobalt, nickel, copper, and platinum. Alloy nanoparticles could have multiple practical applications, including water-splitting to generate hydrogen in fuel cells; reduction of carbon dioxide by capturing and converting it into useful materials like methanol; more efficient reactions in biosensors to detect substances in the body; and solar cells that produce heat, electricity, and fuel more effectively.

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

A research team led by chemists at Rice University has made hybrid particles that combine the light-harvesting properties of plasmonic nanoparticles with the flexibility of catalytic polymer coatings. Their work could help power long-pursued plasmonic applications in electronics, imaging, sensing, and medicine. Plasmons are the detectable ripples of energy created on the surface of some metals when excited by light.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Penn State, The University of Texas at Austin, Iowa State University, Dow Chemical Company, and DuPont Water Solutions have elucidated details of how membranes filter minerals from water. The team found that nanoscale variations in density of the membrane influenced water-filtration performance. This discovery could increase membrane efficiency by 30% to 40%.