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

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Superconductors – materials that conduct electricity without resistance – provide a macroscopic glimpse into quantum phenomena, which are usually observable only at the atomic level. Superconductors are also found in medical imaging, quantum computers, and cameras used with telescopes. But superconducting devices are expensive to manufacture and are prone to err, due to environmental noise. That could change, thanks to research from engineers at MIT, who are developing a superconducting nanowire, which could enable more efficient superconducting electronics.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Percutaneous coronary intervention, commonly known as angioplasty with a stent, opens clogged arteries and saves lives. Despite its benefit in treating atherosclerosis, this procedure still poses severe complications for some patients. Focused on tackling this treatment complication, researchers at the University of South Florida Health have recently developed a next-generation nanotherapy that consists of a nontoxic peptide and a synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA). The peptide and the mRNA spontaneously self-assemble into compacted nanoparticles that specifically target the injured regions of the arteries in mouse models mimicking angioplasty. The nanoparticles can also contain a microRNA switch, which can be added to the mRNA. The nanoparticles were injected into mice with arteries mimicking post-angioplasty vessel injury every three days for two weeks. Mice treated with the nanoparticles containing the microRNA switch completely restored endothelial cell growth in the injured artery, compared to animals treated with nanoparticles containing mRNA without the microRNA switch.

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

Rice University researchers have created a "defective" nanoparticle-based catalyst that simplifies the generation of hydrogen peroxide from oxygen. The process shows promise to replace the complex anthraquinone-based production method that requires expensive catalysts and generates toxic organic byproducts and large amounts of wastewater. Hydrogen peroxide is widely used as a disinfectant, as well as in wastewater treatment, in the paper and pulp industries and for chemical oxidation.

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

Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have developed the first 3D-printable "bottlebrush" elastomer. The new material results in printed objects that have unusual softness and elasticity – mechanical properties that closely resemble those of human tissue. The key discovery involves the self-assembly of bottlebrush polymers (which have additional polymers attached to the linear backbone) at the nanometer length scale, which causes a solid-to-liquid transition in response to applied pressure.

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

Researchers at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering and the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute have created the exact replica of a bone by using a system that pairs biothermal imaging with a heated "nano-chisel." The researchers sculpted, in a biocompatible material, the exact structure of the bone tissue, with features as small as a few nanometers. They used a nanofabrication method that takes a "photograph" of the bone tissue and then uses the photograph to produce a bona fide replica of it.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have shown that a new nanoparticle-based drug can boost the body's innate immune system and can make it more effective at fighting off tumors. This study is the first to successfully target the immune molecule STING with nanoparticles that can switch on and off immune activity in response to their physiological environment.

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

In 2018, scientists discovered that when an ultrathin layer of carbon, called graphene, is stacked and twisted to a "magic angle" on top of another layer of graphene, the double-layered structure converts into a superconductor, allowing electricity to flow without resistance or energy waste. Now, scientists at Harvard University have expanded on that superconducting system by adding a third layer and rotating it. The work could lead to superconductors that operate at higher or even close to room temperature, unlike most superconductors today (including the double layered graphene structure), which work only at ultracold temperatures.

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

A study led by researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens announces the successful use of a new nanoimaging technique that will allow researchers to test and identify 2D materials in a comprehensive way at the nanoscale for the first time. The researchers created a one-atom thick sheet of two kinds of semiconductors stitched together, similar to assembling an atomic Lego, with properties not found in traditional thick materials.

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

Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Virginia Tech have found that solvents can spontaneously react with metal nanoparticles to form reactive complexes that can improve the catalytic performance of the solvent and the nanoparticles and simultaneously reduce the environmental impact of chemical manufacturing. This work may have implications for reducing the amounts of solvent used and waste generated in the chemical industry.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) have developed a technique that programs 2D materials to transform into complex 3D shapes. The goal of the work is to create synthetic materials that can mimic how living organisms expand and contract soft tissues and, as a result, achieve complex 3D movements and functions. Programming thin sheets, or 2D materials, to morph into 3D shapes can enable new technologies for soft robotics, deployable systems, and biomimetic manufacturing.