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

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

A research project at Binghamton University has won a three-year, $609,436 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate a new method of producing electronic circuits below 10 nanometers. The researchers use the same technique as an atomic force microscope, which scans samples down to fractions of a nanometer by using a mechanical probe to "feel" a sample and translate the data into images. But this time, instead of "feeling" the surface, the researchers used carbon nanotubes that are around 3.1 nanometers wide to etch the desired circuit patterns onto a material.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

A team of researchers has demonstrated for the first time a single-molecule electret – a device that could be critical to molecular computers. In an electret, all the dipoles – pairs of opposite electric charges – spontaneously line up in the same direction. By applying an electric field, their directions can be reversed. The researchers inserted an atom of gadolinium inside a 32-sided molecule called a buckyball and put this construct in a transistor-type structure. They observed single-electron transport and discovered that an electric field could be used to switch the structure’s energy state from one stable state to another.

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

A multi-institutional team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory has developed a first-of-its-kind catalyst that can process polyolefin plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene, which are widely used in plastic grocery bags, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, toys, and food containers. The unique process relies on nanoparticle technology: The scientists designed a mesoporous silica nanoparticle consisting of a core of platinum with catalytic active sites, surrounded by long silica pores, or channels, through which the long polymer chains in polyolefin plastics thread through to the catalyst.

(Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Researchers at Caltech have developed a new way to power wireless wearable sensors by harvesting kinetic energy that is produced by people as they move around. The energy is harvested by a nanogenerator, which contains a thin sandwich of materials (Teflon, copper, and polyimide) that is attached to a person's skin. As the person moves, these sheets of material rub against a sliding layer made of copper and polyimide and generate small amounts of electricity.

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

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and General Motors have increased the conductivity of copper wire by about 5%. Higher conductivity means that less copper is needed for the same efficiency, which can reduce the weight and volume of various components that are expected to power our future electric vehicles. The increase in conductivity was achieved by adding graphene—a highly conductive, nano-thin sheet of carbon atoms – to copper and the produced wire.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

An international team of researchers has printed sensors directly on human skin without the use of heat. The researchers had previously developed flexible printed circuit boards for use in wearable sensors, but printing directly on skin has been hindered by the bonding process for the metallic components in the sensor. Called sintering, this process typically requires temperatures of around 572 degrees Fahrenheit (300 degrees Celsius) to bond the sensor's silver nanoparticles together. But in the presence of a novel layer (made of polyvinyl alcohol paste and calcium carbonate) and by changing the printing material, the nanoparticles can now bond at room temperature, so the sensor can be printed directly on skin.

(Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology)

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are in the early stages of a massive undertaking to design and build a fleet of tiny ultra-sensitive thermometers. If they succeed, their system will be the first to make real-time measurements of temperature on the microscopic scale in an opaque 3D volume — which could include medical implants, refrigerators, and even the human body. The project will work by using nanometer-sized objects whose magnetic signals change with temperature.

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

A team of researchers at Columbia University and the University of Washington has discovered that a variety of exotic electronic states, including a rare form of magnetism, can arise in a three-layer graphene structure. The work was inspired by recent studies of twisted monolayers or twisted bilayers of graphene, comprising either two or four total sheets. These materials were found to host an array of unusual electronic states driven by strong interactions between electrons.

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

Researchers from the University of Delaware and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute in Newark have created new drug-delivery systems with the potential to improve treatment for diseases that affect connective tissues, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers devised cargo-carrying nanoparticles and are working to program these nanoparticles to selectively bind to degrading collagen in the body. When collagen degrades, as a result of disease or injury, the nanoparticles attach and remain at the injury site longer than many current treatment options. This allows for the possibility of delivering site-specific medicines over longer periods of time – from days to weeks.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

While gene editing is remarkably precise in finding and altering genes, there is still no way to target treatment to specific locations in the body. The treatments tested so far involve removing blood stem cells or immune system T cells from the body to modify them, and then infusing them back into a patient. Now, researchers at Tufts University have, for the first time, devised a way to directly deliver gene-editing packages efficiently across the blood brain barrier and into specific regions of the brain, into immune system cells, or to specific tissues and organs in mouse models. The researchers used lipid nanoparticles – tiny "bubbles" of lipid molecules that can envelop the editing enzymes and carry them to specific cells, tissues, or organs.