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.
  • March 03, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation)

    An international team of scientists and engineers has discovered one-dimensional defects in a two-dimensional structure of porous material – a zeolite called MFI. By imaging the atomic structure of the MFI nanosheets at unprecedented detail, the researchers found that these one-dimensional defects resulted in a unique reinforced nanosheet structure that changed the filtration properties of the nanosheet. The discovery could improve efficiency in the production of gasoline, plastics, and biofuels.

  • March 03, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health)

    Through a technique known as DNA origami, scientists at Emory University have created the fastest, most persistent DNA nano motor yet. The new DNA motor is rod-shaped and uses RNA fuel to roll persistently in a straight line, without human intervention, at speeds up to 100 nanometers per minute. That's up to 10 times faster than previous DNA motors.

  • March 03, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

    Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have made and tested a superconducting nanowire device applicable to high-speed photon counting for nuclear physics experiments that were previously thought impossible. The device operates at temperatures near absolute zero in magnetic fields 40 times stronger than previous such devices and can detect low-energy photons and other fundamental particles.

  • February 27, 2020
    (Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

    Blood tests can measure levels of cortisol, often called the “stress hormone,” in the body. But a blood test can raise a person’s stress level itself, and it can’t be done frequently, nor without a medical professional. Now researchers at Caltech are reporting on the first noninvasive, wearable sensor that can detect changes in cortisol levels directly from sweat in the skin. It’s made of graphene, a layer of carbon only one layer thick that has tiny holes throughout. These holes contain cortisol antibodies that bind to the cortisol in sweat, and this can be detected electronically by the sensor.

  • February 27, 2020
    (Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

    Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine have designed and successfully tested an experimental, super-small package able to deliver molecular signals that tag implanted human cancer cells in mice and make them visible for destruction by the animals' immune systems. The team created polymer-based nanoparticles and injected them into the animals' tumors. Once inside a cancer cell, the water-soluble nanoparticle slowly degrades over a day and releases a ring of DNA that makes the cancer cell produce surface proteins that work like red flags to say, "I'm a cancer cell, activate defenses."

  • February 27, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

    Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have discovered that atomic forces thought to be "weak" can actually exert more control than has been understood. The researchers explored the formation of zinc oxide through a process in which individual nanoparticles act as building blocks that attach to each other to form a larger crystal. This discovery could help better predict and eventually control manufacturing of semiconductor materials used in electronics and other industrial applications.

  • February 27, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation)

    Engineers at the University of California San Diego and the University of California Berkeley have created light-based technology that can detect biological substances with a molecular mass more than 100 times smaller than previously possible. The researchers used plasmons, which are small fluids of electronic waves that can move back and forth in metallic nanostructures. The research could lead to the development of ultra-sensitive devices that can quickly detect pathogens in human blood and considerably reduce the time needed for patients to get results from blood tests.

  • February 27, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation)

    Researchers at Columbia University have discovered a new way to control the phase of light using 2D materials without changing its amplitude, at extremely low electrical power dissipation. The researchers demonstrated that by simply placing the thin material on top of passive silicon waveguides, they could change the phase of light as strongly as existing silicon phase modulators, but with much lower optical loss and power consumption.

  • February 24, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation)

    Metals get stronger as the size of the grains making up the metal gets smaller – up to a point. If the grains are smaller than 10 nanometers in diameter, the materials are weaker because, it was thought, they slide past each other like sand sliding down a dune. But researchers at Princeton University, the University of California, Berkeley, and at universities in China have shown that in samples of nickel with grain diameters as small as 3 nanometers, and under high pressures, the strength of the samples continued to increase with smaller grain sizes.

  • February 24, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Army Research Office, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health)

    Engineers at MIT have developed a small, mirrored chip that helps to produce dark-field images without dedicated expensive components. When placed on a microscope's stage, the chip emits a hollow cone of light that can be used to generate detailed dark-field images of algae, bacteria, and similarly translucent tiny objects. The middle layer of the optical chip functions as the chip's light source, made from a polymer infused with quantum dots—tiny nanoparticles that emit light when excited with fluorescent light. Over this light-generating layer, the researchers placed a structure made from alternating nanoscale layers of transparent materials, with different refractive indices.