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

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

Researchers at MIT, the Ragon Institute of MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard University are working on strategies for designing a universal flu vaccine that could work against any flu strain. In a new study, they describe a vaccine that triggers an immune response against an influenza protein segment that rarely mutates but is normally not targeted by the immune system. The vaccine consists of nanoparticles coated with flu proteins that train the immune system to create the desired antibodies.

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

A research team led by the University of Washington, Seattle, has reported that carefully constructed stacks of graphene can exhibit highly correlated electron properties. The team also has found evidence that this type of collective behavior likely relates to the emergence of exotic magnetic states.

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

Engineers from Rutgers University and Binghamton University have invented a way to spray nanowires made of a plant-based material that could be used in N95 mask filters, devices that harvest energy for electricity, and potentially for the creation of human organs. The method involves spraying methylcellulose, a renewable plastic material derived from plant cellulose, on 3D-printed and other objects ranging from electronics to plants.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

Reverse osmosis, which uses membranes to remove unwanted salts, has been the gold standard for desalination and wastewater reuse. But the material that best filters out impurities—polyamide—is highly susceptible to chlorine, which is typically used to clean membranes and can degrade membranes made from polyamide. Scientists at Yale University and Nanjing University of Science and Technology have created a chlorine-resistant membrane that could meet global water supply challenges. The new approach uses polyester layers on top of a conventional nanofiltration membrane, creating a more robust reverse-osmosis membrane.

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

Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered a new, rapid method for fabricating nanoparticles from a simple, self-assembling polymer. Using a polymer net that collapses into nanoscale hydrogels (or nanogels), the novel method efficiently captures over 95% of proteins, DNA, or small molecule drugs. This method presents new possibilities for water purification, diagnostics, and rapidly generating vaccine formulations.

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health)

Using specialized nanoparticles, engineers at MIT have developed a way to turn off specific genes in cells of the bone marrow, which play an important role in producing blood cells. This type of genetic therapy, known as RNA interference, is usually difficult to target to organs other than the liver, where nanoparticles tend to accumulate. The MIT researchers were able to modify their particles in such a way that they would accumulate in the cells found in the bone marrow. In a study of mice, the researchers showed that they could use this approach to improve recovery after a heart attack by inhibiting the release of bone marrow blood cells that promote inflammation and contribute to heart disease.

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

Six innovative battery manufacturing projects led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory were recently awarded funding through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The projects, which span a range of essential components for energy storage, are among 13 battery manufacturing research efforts at national laboratories that earned combined funding of almost $15 million over three years. One of these projects will bring the synthesis of graphene monoxide for next-generation lithium-ion battery anodes out of the academic lab and into a pre-commercial scaled-up process.

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

Researchers at the University of Houston have designed and produced a smart electronic skin and a medical robotic hand that can assess vital diagnostic data by using a newly invented rubbery semiconductor with high carrier mobility. Previous stretchable semiconductors have had drawbacks, including low carrier mobility — the speed at which charge carriers can move through a material. According to the researchers, adding minute amounts of metallic carbon nanotubes to the rubbery semiconductor improved carrier mobility.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense)

Researchers at the University of Chicago have demonstrated the use of charged nanoscale metal-organic frameworks for generating free radicals using X-rays within tumor tissue to kill cancer cells directly. The nanoscale metal-organic frameworks also can deliver immune signaling molecules to activate the immune response against tumor cells. By combining these two approaches into one easily administered "vaccine," this new technology may provide better treatment of difficult-to-treat cancers.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Physicists at the University of Arkansas have developed a circuit that can capture graphene's thermal motion and convert it into an electrical current, an achievement thought to be impossible. The physicists also discovered that their design increased the amount of power delivered and that the relatively slow motion of graphene induces current in the circuit at low frequencies, which is important from a technological perspective because electronics function more efficiently at lower frequencies.