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 from Michigan State University and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Germany have repurposed bacterial microcompartments (each about 40 nanometers in diameter) and programmed them to produce valuable chemicals from inexpensive starting ingredients. The researchers engineered the microcompartments to turn the simple and inexpensive compounds formate and acetate into pyruvate, bringing enzymes and these compounds together in the same, smaller space, rather than having them spread out throughout a bacterial cell.

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

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and three German universities (Technische Universitat Bergakademie Freiberg, Universitat Hamburg, and Technische Universitat Munchen) have found a way to track electrons along their round trip from molecules to nanoparticles in materials that convert sunlight into electricity or fuels. The scientists found that a common nanoparticle material, zinc oxide, first stalls the electrons for a while and then lets the electrons move along the surface of the nanoparticles. This makes it likely that the charges can get lost or can damage the nanoparticle material. The ability to reveal these bottlenecks for electron travel will help researchers design better materials for turning sunlight into other forms of energy. 

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

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California, Berkeley, Cornell University, and Rutgers University have discovered layered two-dimensional (2D) materials that can host unique magnetic features and remain stable at room temperature. Atomic-scale images of the material reveal the precise chemical and structural characteristics that are responsible for these features and their stability.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Asylum Research, the University of Strasbourg in France, the University of Luxemburg, and East China Normal University in Shanghai have demonstrated that a 2D material, called molybdenum disulfide, has a long-theorized property that could help computers, phones, and other microelectronics save both power and their electrical states, even after being turned off. In the wake of this study, molybdenum disulfide now joins a handful of materials that have high-yet-controllable conductivity and easily switchable polarization.

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

Researchers at Washington State University have demonstrated the idea of incorporating old masks into a cement mixture to create stronger, more durable concrete. The researchers mixed microfibers from the masks into a solution of graphene oxide before adding the mixture to cement paste. The graphene oxide provides ultrathin layers that strongly adhere to the fiber surfaces. The researchers showed that the mixture using mask materials was 47% stronger than commonly used cement after a month of curing. 

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

A Cornell University-led project has created synthetic nanoclusters that can mimic the type of hierarchical self-assembly found in DNA molecules and photonic crystals all the way from the nanometer to the centimeter scale. The resulting synthetic thin films could serve as a model system for exploring biomimetic hierarchical systems and future advanced functions.

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

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a key experimental device for future quantum physics-based technologies that borrows a page from current, everyday mechanical devices. The researchers coupled nanomechanical oscillators with a type of circuit that can store and process energy in the form of a qubit, or quantum "bit" of information. Using the device's qubit, the researchers can manipulate the quantum state of mechanical oscillators, generating the kinds of quantum mechanical effects that could someday empower advanced computing and ultraprecise sensing systems. 

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

Researchers at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) have analyzed the need for increased resilience in nanotechnology supply chains. The researchers examined how to assess the impacts of nanotechnology supply chain disruptions on the manufacturing bottom line, how to mitigate disruption to these supply chains, and how to increase the ability of these supply chains to recover.

(Funded in part by the National Institute of Standards and Technology)

Inspired by the eyes of trilobites, creatures that were distant cousins of horseshoe crabs, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed a miniature camera featuring a bifocal lens with a record-setting depth of field—the distance over which the camera can produce sharp images in a single photo. The camera is composed of an array of tiny lenses, called metalenses, that are ultrathin films etched or imprinted with groupings of nanoscale pillars tailored to manipulate light in specific ways. To design the metalenses, the researchers studded a flat surface of glass with millions of tiny, rectangular nanometer-scale pillars. 

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

Using nanotechnology, scientists at Georgia State University have created a newly designed neuromorphic electronic device that endows microrobotics with colorful vision. The newly designed artificial vision device could have far-reaching applications for the fields of medicine, artificial intelligence, and microrobotics.