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

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have developed a new molecular detection platform to help researchers design more efficient and effective mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants. The platform works by tagging mRNA and lipid nanoparticle components with fluorescent signals of up to three colors and passing the sample through a detection plane. The data analysis tells the researchers how many mRNA copies are inside the lipid nanoparticles and the mRNA distribution in the sample.

(Funded in part by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from the University of Central Florida; North Carolina A&T University; Oakland University in Rochester, MI; CMC Materials in Aurora, IL; the University of Huddersfield, UK; and the University of Sheffield, UK, have designed cerium oxide nanoparticles that protect bones against damage from radiation. The researchers showed that these nanoparticles can also improve bone regeneration, reduce loss of blood cells, and help kill cancer cells.

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

Researchers from Drexel University and Poland's Warsaw Institute of Technology and Institute of Microelectronics and Photonics have developed a new way of looking at the atoms that make up two-dimensional materials called MXenes and their precursor materials by using a technique called secondary ion mass spectrometry. In doing so, the researchers discovered atoms in locations where they were not expected, as well as imperfections. The scientists also demonstrated the existence of an entirely new subfamily of MXenes, called oxycarbides, in which up to 30% of carbon atoms are replaced by oxygen atoms.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from the University of Central Florida have developed a nanomaterial-based disinfectant that can combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Zika virus, and the vesicular stomatitis virus, among other viruses. The disinfectant contains the nanomaterial yttrium silicate, which has antiviral properties that are activated by white light, such as sunlight or light-emitting diode (LED) lights. 

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

Researchers from Iowa State University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have developed a colloidal synthesis method for alkaline earth chalcogenides – semiconductors with a variety of possible applications, such as bioimaging, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), thermal sensors, and optical materials that convert light into energy. With this method, the scientists were able to control the size of the nanocrystals in the materials, study the surface chemistry of the nanocrystals, and assess the purity and optical properties of the materials.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers at Iowa State University have developed a new approach to making nanocarriers for drug delivery. Their approach features a soft, fat-like, liposome surrounded by a hard shell of gold nanoparticles. The researchers’ main goal is to use the hybrid nanocarriers to transport medicine for Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and other disorders across the body’s blood brain barrier, which is set up by the body to protect the brain from pathogens.

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

One of the most powerful tools for peering deep into the microscopic and nanoscopic realm is the scanning tunneling microscope. Rather than an optical lens, its powerful eye comes from an electrical current that passes between the tip of the microscope and the sample material. The tip scans across the sample and produces a signal that changes based on how atoms are arranged within a given material. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has added a twist to their scanning tunneling microscope by replacing the tip with a nanowire. 

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and North Carolina State University have discovered, for the first time, a unique property in complex nanostructures that has, so far, only been found in simple nanostructures. The property, called anelasticity, relates to how materials react to stresses over time. When the complex nanostructures were bent, tiny defects moved slowly in response to the stress gradient. When the stress was released, the tiny defects slowly returned to their initial positions, resulting in the anelastic behavior.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Cornell University and Yale University have demonstrated that nanomolding, a fabrication process in which a bulk polycrystalline feedstock is pressed into a nanostructured mold at an elevated temperature to form nanowires, offers several advantages over existing synthesis methods for nanomaterials. Nanomolding had previously been used for metallic material systems, but this research group is one of the first to expand its application to topological materials, which have different properties at their surfaces and edges than in their interiors.

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

Researchers at Duke University have developed a unique type of nanoparticle, called a nanorattle, that greatly enhances light emitted from within its outer shell. Loaded with light-scattering dyes that are commonly used to detect biomarkers of disease in organic samples, the approach can amplify and detect signals from separate types of nanoprobes without needing an expensive machine or medical professional to read the results. In a small proof-of-concept study, the nanorattles accurately identified head and neck cancers through an artificial intelligence-enabled point-of-care device.