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

The following news releases describe the results of research activities that are funded by Federal agencies that participate in the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
  • April 17, 2020
    (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy)

    Scientists at the University of South Florida have reached a milestone in the development of two-dimensional supramolecules – large molecular structures that are made up of individual molecules. The scientists were able to build a 20-nm-wide metallo-supramolecular hexagonal grid by combining intra- and intermolecular self-assembly processes. This work will advance further understanding of the design principles governing these molecular formations and could one day lead to the development of new materials with yet-to-be-discovered functions and properties.

  • April 16, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy)

    A research team led by Northwestern University has designed and synthesized new materials with ultrahigh porosity and surface area for the storage of hydrogen and methane for fuel cell-powered vehicles. These gases are attractive clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Thanks to its nanoscopic pores, a one-gram sample of the Northwestern material, a type of a metal-organic framework, has a surface area that would cover 1.3 football fields.

  • April 16, 2020
    (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation)

    A UCLA-led team of researchers has described how a nanomachine produced by a common bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, recognizes and kills other bacteria, and has imaged the nanomachine at atomic resolution. The nanomachine is a protein complex, called a pyocin, released by P. aeruginosa as a way of sabotaging microbes that compete with it for resources. When a pyocin identifies a rival bacterium, it kills it by punching a hole in its cell membrane. The scientists also engineered their own versions of the nanomachine, which could eventually lead to new types of antibiotics that would home in on specific species of microbes.

  • April 15, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation)

    A collaboration of scientists from the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory—Yale University, and Arizona State University has designed and tested a new two-dimensional catalyst that can be used to improve water purification using hydrogen peroxide. So far, scientists have struggled to improve the efficiency of the process through catalysis because each part of the reaction needs its own catalyst—called a co-catalyst—and the co-catalysts can’t be next to each other. The team presented the design for the new two-dimensional catalyst, in which two co-catalysts are in two different locations on a thin nanosheet. One of the co-catalysts—a single cobalt atom—sits in the center of the sheet, whereas the other one, a molecule called anthraquinone, is placed around the edges.

  • April 15, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

    MIT engineers have developed a way to closely track how plants respond to stresses – such as injury, infection, and light damage – using sensors made of carbon nanotubes. These sensors can be embedded in plant leaves, where they report on hydrogen peroxide signaling waves. Plants use hydrogen peroxide to communicate within their leaves, sending out a distress signal that stimulates leaf cells to produce compounds that help them repair damage or fend off insects.

  • April 14, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

    Researchers have shown that the chemical compounds that coat cicada wings contribute to their ability to repel water and kill microbes. Previous studies have shown that cicadas have a highly ordered pattern of tiny pillars, called nanopillars, on their wings. The new study revealed that cicada wings are coated in hydrocarbons, fatty acids, and oxygen-containing molecules. The oxygen-containing molecules were most abundant deep in the nanopillars, while hydrocarbons and fatty acids made up more of the outermost nanopillar layers. The study also revealed that altering these surface chemicals changed the nanopillar structure and the wings' wettability and anti-microbial characteristics.

  • April 14, 2020
    (Funded by the Army Research Laboratory and the Air Force Research Laboratory Supercomputing Resource Center)

    Researchers have shown that polymers filled with carbon nanotubes could potentially improve how unmanned vehicles dissipate energy.

  • April 13, 2020
    (Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research)

    Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions have architecturally designed nanometer-sized carbon structures called plate nanolattices that are stronger than diamonds (as a ratio of strength to density). The researchers showed that their design improved the average performance of cylindrical beam-based architectures by up to 639 percent in strength and 522 percent in rigidity. Nanolattices hold great promise for structural engineers, particularly in aerospace, because it is hoped that their combination of strength and low mass density will greatly enhance aircraft and spacecraft performance.

  • April 13, 2020
    (Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation)

    Abnormal levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are linked to a variety of mental health disorders, including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MIT researchers have now devised a way to remotely control the release of these hormones from the adrenal gland, using magnetic nanoparticles. The researchers plan to use this approach to study how hormone release affects PTSD and other disorders, and they say that it could be adapted for treating such disorders.

  • April 09, 2020
    (Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

    Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in collaboration with the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea, Monash University in Australia, and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a technique that produces atomic-scale 3D images of nanoparticles tumbling in liquid between sheets of graphene, the thinnest material possible. The technique uses one of the world’s most powerful microscopes at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, a national user facility for nanoscale science serving hundreds of academic, industrial, and government scientists around the world each year.