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.
  • June 02, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research)

    Scientists at Rice University have confirmed, for the first time, that Brownian motion of boron nitride nanotubes in solution is the same as for carbon nanotubes. Brownian motion is the random way particles move in a fluid, like dust in air. This discovery means that boron nitride nanotubes can be used in liquid-phase processing for the large-scale production of films, fibers, and composites.

  • June 02, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation)

    The performance of magnetic storage and memory devices depends on the magnetization dynamics of nanometer-scale magnetic elements called nanomagnets. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz have developed a new optical technique that enables efficient analysis of single nanomagnets as small as 75 nanometers in diameter, which enabled the researchers to extract critical information for optimizing device performance.

  • June 01, 2020
    (Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory)

    Researchers at MIT have demonstrated that carbon nanotube field-effect transistors can be made swiftly in commercial facilities with the same equipment used to manufacture the silicon-based transistors that are the backbone of today's computing industry. Carbon nanotube field-effect transistors are more energy-efficient than silicon field-effect transistors and could be used to build new types of three-dimensional microprocessors. After analyzing the deposition technique used to make carbon nanotube field-effect transistors, the researchers made some changes to speed up the fabrication process by more than 1,100 times compared to the conventional method, while also reducing the cost of production.

  • May 28, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation)

    A Northwestern University-led team has developed a highly porous smart sponge that selectively soaks up oil in water. With an ability to absorb more than 30 times its weight in oil, the sponge could be used to clean up oil spills inexpensively and efficiently without harming marine life. The secret lies in a nanocomposite coating of magnetic nanostructures and a carbon-based substrate that is oleophilic (attracts oil), hydrophobic (resists water), and magnetic. The nanocomposite's nanoporous 3D structure selectively interacts with and binds to the oil molecules, capturing and storing the oil until it is squeezed out.  

  • May 28, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health)

    Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a new method to conduct spectroscopic nanoscopy, which enables imaging of objects at the nanoscale and could help researchers understand complicated biomolecular interactions and characterize cells and diseases at the single-molecule level. While current spectroscopic single-molecule localization microscopy techniques achieve super-resolution imaging and single-molecule spectroscopy simultaneously, current designs suffer from reduced imaging resolution and spectral precision. When compared to existing techniques using the same number of photons, the researchers found that the new system improved the spatial precision by 42% and spectral precision by 10%.

  • May 27, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Army Research Office)

    Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Lille in France have developed a radio-frequency switch that is more than 50 times more energy efficient than what is used today. This is the first switch that can function across the spectrum – from the low-end gigahertz frequencies to high-end terahertz frequencies. The switch uses hexagonal boron nitride, a rapidly emerging nanomaterial and the thinnest known insulator.

     

  • May 26, 2020
    (Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy)

    Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, in collaboration with the University of Picardie in France and the Southern Federal University in Russia, have discovered the presence of a Hopfion structure in ferroelectric nanoparticles. A Hopfion structure, first proposed by Austrian mathematician Heinz Hopf in 1931, emerges in a wide range of physical constructs, and one of its defining characteristics is that any two lines within the Hopfion structure must be linked, constituting knots ranging in complexity from a few interconnected rings to a mathematical rat’s nest. According to the current study, the polarization structure in a spherical ferroelectric nanoparticle takes on this same knotted swirl.  

  • May 26, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health)

    Researchers at the University of California, Davis have made a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The new research is based on a phenomenon called magnetic resonance tuning, which occurs between two nanoscale magnetic elements. One acts to enhance the signal, and the other quenches it. The researchers created a probe that generates two magnetic resonance signals that suppress each other until they reach the target, at which point they both increase contrast between the tumor and surrounding tissue. Combined with specially developed imaging analysis software, the double signal enabled researchers to pick out brain tumors in a mouse model with greatly increased sensitivity.

  • May 22, 2020
    (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation)

    Scientists at Texas A&M University have developed a highly printable bioink as a platform to generate anatomical-scale functional tissues. Bioprinting is an emerging additive manufacturing approach that takes biomaterials such as hydrogels and combines them with cells and growth factors, which are then printed to create tissue-like structures that imitate natural tissues. The researchers developed advanced bioinks that contain nanosilicates – nanoparticles that are 1–2 nm in thickness and 20–50 nm in diameter – and provide more effective reinforcement, which results in stronger structures. 

  • May 21, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

    Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have determined how negatively charged ions squeeze through a carbon nanotube. Determining which of these ions are permeable to the nanotube pore can be critical to many separation processes, including desalination, which turns seawater into fresh water by removing the salt ions.