News from the NNI Community - Research Advances Funded by Agencies Participating in the NNI

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Oregon State University and Tiangong University in Tianjin, China, have identified a material known as a metal-organic framework that could completely remove and break down the common herbicide glyphosate. Metal-organic frameworks are crystalline, porous materials with tunable structural properties and nanosized pores. The metal-organic framework studied by the researchers is based on scandium and a carboxylate linker. "When exposed to light for just five minutes, [this metal-organic framework] eliminated 100% of glyphosate in water," said Kyriakos Stylianou, one of the scientists involved in this study.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Washington State University have discovered that bacteria can be tricked into sending death signals to stop the growth of biofilms, which are slimy, protective homes that lead to deadly infections. The researchers discovered that extracellular vesicles are key to managing the growth of the protective biofilm. The vesicles, tiny bubbles from 30 to 50 nanometers, shuttle molecules from cells, entering and then re-programming neighboring cells and acting as a cell-to-cell communications system. The researchers were able to harness the vesicles with the instructions to stop growing the biofilm and to use them to fool the bacteria into killing off the biofilm. 

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon Health and Science University, and EnterX Biosciences, Inc. in Portland, Ore., have developed a type of lipid nanoparticle that can reach the lungs and the eyes, an important step toward a genetic therapy for hereditary conditions like cystic fibrosis and inherited vision loss. "These nanoparticles filled with fatty lipids can encapsulate genetic medicines like mRNA and CRISPR-Cas9 gene editors, which can be used to treat and even cure rare genetic diseases," said Yulia Eygeris, one of the scientists involved in this study.

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

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, have examined the changes that occur in the structure of a specific nanomaterial as it changes from conducting an electrical current to not. The material, strontium cobalt oxide, easily switches between conducting and insulating phases. The researchers used a technique, called X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy, that can directly measure how fast the material fluctuates between these two phases at the atomic scale.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Aortic aneurysms are bulges in the aorta, the largest blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. "The soft tissues that make up blood vessels act essentially like rubber bands, and it's the elastic fibers within these tissues that allow them to stretch and snap back," said Prof. Anand Ramamurthi, from Lehigh University. Ramamurthi and colleagues are working on minimally invasive ways to regenerate and repair these elastic fibers using nanoparticles designed to release novel regenerative therapeutics. The innovative techniques could enable treatment soon after an aneurysm is detected and potentially slow, reverse, or even stop its growth.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati and Texas A&M University have demonstrated a new chemical process that grafts nanotubes to copper, aluminum, gold, and other metal surfaces to create a strong, consistent, conductive link. Through computational calculations, the researchers have shown that carbon atoms in the link actually bond with two copper atoms, creating an especially strong bond.

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

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Case Western Reserve University have developed an in situ method for rapid and efficient synthesis of degradable branched lipidoids, key components of lipid nanoparticles, which are used for delivery of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. The new method simplifies the manufacture of lipid nanoparticles and improves their ability to deliver mRNA to cells. The team tested the method for the treatment of obesity and genetic diseases. 

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

A team of researchers from Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, and the University of Rhode Island has developed a novel method for producing nanoparticles of diverse morphologies that can act as nanocarriers for delivering therapeutics to cells. The researchers used these nanocarriers to deliver a molecule that can boost the immune system to fight viral infections and a molecule that can slow melanoma tumor growth. The novel method is industrially scalable, and the diverse shapes and sizes of nanocarriers that can be produced may allow the delivery of distinct biomolecular cargos for therapeutic applications addressing a variety of diseases.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), using facilities at MIT and Harvard University’s Center for Nanoscale Systems (part of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure network), have demonstrated current-controlled, non-volatile magnetization switching in an atomically thin van der Waals magnetic material at room temperature. Magnets composed of atomically thin van der Waals materials can typically only be controlled at extremely cold temperatures, so the fact that the researchers were able to control these materials at room temperature is key. The researchers’ ultimate goal is to bring van der Waals magnets to commercial applications, including magnetic-based devices with unprecedented speed, efficiency, and scalability. 

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

Physicists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that when five sheets of graphene are stacked like steps on a staircase, the resulting structure provides the right conditions for electrons to pass through as fractions of their total charge, with no need for any external magnetic field. The results are the first evidence of the "fractional quantum anomalous Hall effect" (the term "anomalous" refers to the absence of a magnetic field) in crystalline graphene, a material that physicists did not expect to exhibit this effect.