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 20, 2020
    (Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

    Using a new approach for "click" chemistry, a collaboration of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, the Max Planck Institute, the Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials, RWTH Aachen University, and Freie Universität Berlin have designed self-organizing nanovesicles that can have their surfaces decorated with similar sugar molecules as viruses, bacteria, or living cells. This work provides a new tool for studying how certain pathogens use these sugar molecules to evade detection by a host's immune system.

  • May 18, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation)

    Researchers from Penn State, the University of Virginia, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in collaboration with industry partners Solvay and Oshkosh, have found a way to strengthen carbon fibers, which are widely used in the airline industry but are typically very expensive. Using a mix of computer simulations and laboratory experiments, the team found that adding small amounts of graphene to the production process not only strengthens the fibers, but also reduces their production cost, which may one day pave the way for higher-strength, cost-effective car materials.

  • May 18, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

    By using powerful X-rays at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, a team of researchers from Singapore and Ireland looked at the wing casings of two fossilized weevils (a species of small beetle) from the late Pleistocene era. They found that the photonic nanostructures of crystal-like material that scatter or diffract light on the weevils’ wings were perfectly preserved, indicating that the blue and green structural colors of these weevils has not changed in 13,000 years.

  • May 15, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation)

    Scientists at Rice University have shown that a two-dimensional Janus compound could be an effective and universal platform for improving the detection of biomolecules via surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Using glucose to test the material proved its ability to boost its Raman enhancement factor by more than 100,000 times, which the researchers say is comparable to the highest-reported enhancement factor for 2D substrates. SERS is an established technique that enables the detection and identification of small concentrations of molecules that get close to or adsorbed by metallic surfaces, including nanoparticles.

  • May 15, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation)

    A team of researchers co-led by the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has observed long-lived plasmons in a new class of conducting transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) called quasi 2D crystals. The researchers developed sophisticated new algorithms to compute the material's electronic properties, including plasmon oscillations with long wavelengths. To the researchers' surprise, the results from their calculations revealed that plasmons in quasi 2D crystals are more stable – for as long as approximately 2 trillionths of a second – than previously thought.

  • 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.