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

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Northeastern University and the University of California, San Francisco, have developed a new type of nanosensor that allows scientists to image communication between the brain and the body in real time. The DNA-based nanosensor detects acetylcholine, a specific neurotransmitter that is released and picked up by target cells in living animals. Understanding how the brain and the body communicate with each other is particularly important when treating illnesses, such as Parkinson's disease, that are the result of the degeneration of nerve cells and the breakdown of communication between the brain and the body.

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

A clean energy future propelled by hydrogen fuel depends on figuring out how to reliably and efficiently split water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process that depends on a key—but often slow—step: the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). A study led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory illuminates a shape-shifting quality in perovskite oxides, a promising type of material for speeding up the OER. The study found that the perovskite oxide's surface evolved into a cobalt-rich amorphous film just a few nanometers thick. When iron was present in the electrolyte, the iron helped accelerate the OER, while the cobalt-rich film had a stabilizing effect on the iron, keeping it active at the surface.

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

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed an electrocatalyst that not only enables water and carbon dioxide to be split but also enables the recombined atoms to form higher-weight hydrocarbons for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The technology is a carbon nanospike catalyst that uses nanoparticles of a custom-designed alloy. The carbon nanospike catalyst was invented using a one-of-a-kind nanofabrication instrument and staff expertise at ORNL's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences.

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

In a finding that could help make artificial photosynthesis a practical method for producing hydrogen fuel, researchers from the University of Michigan and the U.S Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered why a water-splitting device made with cheap and abundant materials unexpectedly becomes more efficient during use. The new understanding of this mechanism could radically accelerate the commercialization of technologies that turn light and water into carbon-free hydrogen fuel. The device includes a forest of nanowires of gallium nitride, an inexpensive semiconductor that is widely used in everyday electronics.

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

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University, and the University of Florida have created stable nanosheets containing boron and hydrogen atoms, with potential applications in nanoelectronics and quantum information technology. The researchers grew borophene – a one-atom-thick sheet of boron – on a silver substrate, and then exposed it to hydrogen to form borophane, a sheet of boron and hydrogen a mere two atoms in thickness.

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers at MIT have developed a screening platform that combines machine learning with high-throughput experimentation to identify self-assembling nanoparticles that, when loaded with small-molecule drugs, could be used to treat cancer, asthma, malaria, and viral and fungal infections. These findings point to a strategy that solves both the complexity of producing nanoparticles and the difficulty of loading large amounts of drugs onto them.

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

A UCLA-led study reports on the first-ever determination of the 3D atomic structure of an amorphous solid—in this case, a material called metallic glass. Metallic glasses tend to be both stronger and more shapeable than standard crystalline metals, and they are used today in products ranging from electrical transformers to high-end golf clubs and the housings for Apple laptops, and other electronic devices. The researchers examined a sample of metallic glass about 8 nanometers in diameter, made of eight different metals.

(Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy)

Researchers from Penn State, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University, New York University, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated that a technique that mimics the ancient Japanese art of kirigami may offer an easier way to fabricate complex 3D nanostructures for use in electronics, manufacturing, and health care. 3D nanostructures are difficult to make because current nanofabrication processes are used to fabricate microelectronics, which rely on flat films. When cuts are introduced to a film and forces are applied in a certain direction, a structure pops up, similar to when a kirigami artist applies force to a cut paper. The geometry of the planar pattern of cuts determines the shape of the 3D architecture. 

(Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy)

Researchers from Penn State, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University, New York University, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated that a technique that mimics the ancient Japanese art of kirigami may offer an easier way to fabricate complex 3D nanostructures for use in electronics, manufacturing, and health care. 3D nanostructures are difficult to make because current nanofabrication processes are used to fabricate microelectronics, which rely on flat films. When cuts are introduced to a film and forces are applied in a certain direction, a structure pops up, similar to when a kirigami artist applies force to a cut paper. The geometry of the planar pattern of cuts determines the shape of the 3D architecture.

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

A team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, has developed an atomically thin sensor that can detect ultralow concentrations of nitrogen dioxide of at least 50 parts per billion. The sensor, which is constructed from a monolayer alloy of rhenium niobium disulfide, works at room temperature and consumes less power than conventional sensors. Also, unlike other 2D devices, the new sensor electrically responds selectively to nitrogen dioxide molecules, with minimal response to other toxic gases, such as ammonia and formaldehyde.