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

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

Scientists at Rice University have discovered that ultrathin, highly aligned carbon nanotube films can make terahertz polarization rotation possible. This discovery means that polarized light from a laser can be manipulated in ways that were previously out of reach, making it completely visible or completely opaque with an extremely thin device. The unique optical rotation happens when linearly polarized pulses of light pass through the 45-nanometer film and hit the silicon surface on which it sits.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Cornell University, the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland, and the Leibniz Institute for Crystal Growth in Germany have built an electron microscope pixel array detector that sets a new world record by doubling the resolution of state-of-the-art electron microscopes. The detector will enable researchers to locate individual atoms in all three dimensions when they might be otherwise hidden using other imaging methods. This scientific advance could be helpful in imaging semiconductors, catalysts, and quantum materials – including those used in quantum computing.

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

Researchers at Caltech have created a material that can collect drinkable water from the air both day and night, combining two water-harvesting technologies into one. The material is part of a class of so-called “micro- and nano-architected materials,” whose shapes (controlled at each length scale, nanoscopic and microscopic) give them unusual and potentially useful properties. In this case, the material is a membrane of arrayed tiny spines that look like Christmas trees and are inspired by the shape of cactus spines.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health)

An international, interdisciplinary team of researchers has found a way to replicate a natural process that moves water between cells, with a goal of improving how we filter out salt and other elements and molecules to create clean water while consuming less energy. This is the first instance of an artificial nanometer-sized channel that can truly emulate the key water transport features of these biological water channels. This water-transport channel could improve the ability of membranes to efficiently filter out unwanted molecules and elements, while speeding up water transport, making it cheaper to create a clean supply.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health)

An international, interdisciplinary team of researchers has found a way to replicate a natural process that moves water between cells, with a goal of improving how we filter out salt and other elements and molecules to create clean water while consuming less energy. This is the first instance of an artificial nanometer-sized channel that can truly emulate the key water transport features of these biological water channels. This water-transport channel could improve the ability of membranes to efficiently filter out unwanted molecules and elements, while speeding up water transport, making it cheaper to create a clean supply.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

A promising class of therapeutics uses synthetic nucleic acids, called small interfering RNA (siRNA), to target and shut down specific, harmful genes and prevent viruses from spreading. Now, chemical engineering researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have created and analyzed different types of nanoparticles that deliver siRNA to their targets while protecting the siRNAs from the body's immune system.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Penn State, the Southwest University of Science and Technology in China, and neaspec GmbH in Germany have, for the first time, revealed the subsurface structural changes of silica glass due to nanoscale wear and damage, which may lead to improvements in glass products such as electronic displays and vehicle windshields. The researchers used a new instrumentation technique, known as hyperspectral near-field optical mapping, which enables scientists to see effects to the glass from scratching and to find structural changes that occur around nano-level indentations into the glass surface.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation)

Researchers at the University of Connecticut have developed a way to protect large-biomolecule drugs by encasing them in a nanomaterial mimicking DNA. The nanomaterial is shaped like a bundle of sticks, where the sticks are tubes of DNA-like nanotubes. The researchers showed that this DNA-nanotube drug delivery can inhibit viral genes in infected human lung cells.

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

Inspired by nature, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, along with collaborators from Washington State University, have created a novel material that provides a highly efficient artificial light-harvesting system, with potential applications in photovoltaics and bioimaging. The material combines the programmability of a protein-like synthetic molecule with the complexity of a silicate-based nanocluster, to create a new class of highly robust nanocrystals.

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

Researchers at MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, and elsewhere have found a new way of making electrical connections between electronic components and 2D materials, which could help unleash the potential of 2D materials and further the miniaturization of electronic components. The 2D material used in this study consists of a thin sheet just one or a few atoms thick of molybdenum disulfide.