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

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

Researchers at Washington State University have developed a new technique that uses chemically sensitive “soft” X-rays and offers a simpler, non-disruptive way of gaining insight into "nanocarriers" for highly targeted drug delivery and environmental clean-up. Currently researchers have to rely on attaching fluorescent dyes or heavy metals to label parts of organic nanocarrier structures for investigation, often changing them in the process. The new X-ray method has been demonstrated on a smart drug delivery nanoparticle and a polysoap nanostructure intended to capture crude oil spilled in the ocean.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

Bioengineers at the University of California, Riverside, have developed a membrane made of nanofibers from a polymer commonly used in vascular sutures that can be loaded with therapeutic drugs and implanted in the body. Once this polymer is present in the body, mechanical forces activate its electric potential and slowly release the drugs. The engineers used a technique called electrospinning to produce the nanofibers, which are layered in a thin mat. The novel system could improve treatment of cancer and other chronic diseases.

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

Scientists at Rice University have discovered that ultrathin, highly aligned carbon nanotube films can make terahertz polarization rotation possible. This discovery means that polarized light from a laser can be manipulated in ways that were previously out of reach, making it completely visible or completely opaque with an extremely thin device. The unique optical rotation happens when linearly polarized pulses of light pass through the 45-nanometer film and hit the silicon surface on which it sits.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Cornell University, the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland, and the Leibniz Institute for Crystal Growth in Germany have built an electron microscope pixel array detector that sets a new world record by doubling the resolution of state-of-the-art electron microscopes. The detector will enable researchers to locate individual atoms in all three dimensions when they might be otherwise hidden using other imaging methods. This scientific advance could be helpful in imaging semiconductors, catalysts, and quantum materials – including those used in quantum computing.

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

Researchers at Caltech have created a material that can collect drinkable water from the air both day and night, combining two water-harvesting technologies into one. The material is part of a class of so-called “micro- and nano-architected materials,” whose shapes (controlled at each length scale, nanoscopic and microscopic) give them unusual and potentially useful properties. In this case, the material is a membrane of arrayed tiny spines that look like Christmas trees and are inspired by the shape of cactus spines.

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

An international, interdisciplinary team of researchers has found a way to replicate a natural process that moves water between cells, with a goal of improving how we filter out salt and other elements and molecules to create clean water while consuming less energy. This is the first instance of an artificial nanometer-sized channel that can truly emulate the key water transport features of these biological water channels. This water-transport channel could improve the ability of membranes to efficiently filter out unwanted molecules and elements, while speeding up water transport, making it cheaper to create a clean supply.

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

An international, interdisciplinary team of researchers has found a way to replicate a natural process that moves water between cells, with a goal of improving how we filter out salt and other elements and molecules to create clean water while consuming less energy. This is the first instance of an artificial nanometer-sized channel that can truly emulate the key water transport features of these biological water channels. This water-transport channel could improve the ability of membranes to efficiently filter out unwanted molecules and elements, while speeding up water transport, making it cheaper to create a clean supply.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

A promising class of therapeutics uses synthetic nucleic acids, called small interfering RNA (siRNA), to target and shut down specific, harmful genes and prevent viruses from spreading. Now, chemical engineering researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have created and analyzed different types of nanoparticles that deliver siRNA to their targets while protecting the siRNAs from the body's immune system.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Penn State, the Southwest University of Science and Technology in China, and neaspec GmbH in Germany have, for the first time, revealed the subsurface structural changes of silica glass due to nanoscale wear and damage, which may lead to improvements in glass products such as electronic displays and vehicle windshields. The researchers used a new instrumentation technique, known as hyperspectral near-field optical mapping, which enables scientists to see effects to the glass from scratching and to find structural changes that occur around nano-level indentations into the glass surface.

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

Researchers at the University of Connecticut have developed a way to protect large-biomolecule drugs by encasing them in a nanomaterial mimicking DNA. The nanomaterial is shaped like a bundle of sticks, where the sticks are tubes of DNA-like nanotubes. The researchers showed that this DNA-nanotube drug delivery can inhibit viral genes in infected human lung cells.