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

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

An international team of scientists has shown that extremely small arrays of magnets can order themselves by increasing entropy, or the tendency of physical systems to disorder, a behavior that appears to contradict standard thermodynamics. The system examined in this work, called tetris spin ice, is composed of two-dimensional arrays of very small magnets that are “frustrated,” that is, they remain disordered, even though the system retains some order. 

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Texas A&M University have developed water-stable, 2D covalent organic framework (COF) nanoparticles that can direct the differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells into bone cells. Until now, the difficulty of processing COFs into nanosized materials – along with their poor stability – has limited their application in regenerative medicine. The researchers state that to the best of their knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating the ability of COFs to direct stem cells toward bone tissue.

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

The Rice University laboratory of chemist James Tour has modified its flash Joule heating process to produce doped graphene that tailors its structures and electronic states to make them more suitable for optical and electronic nanodevices. The doping process adds other elements – a single element, pairs of elements, or trios of elements – to graphene’s 2D carbon matrix. The process takes about one second, is both catalyst- and solvent-free and is entirely dependent on “flashing” a powder that combines the dopant elements with carbon.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed a new method to measure changes that occur in materials, such as glasses, at the nanoscale. The researchers extended an imaging technique used for scanning electron microscopes so it can also be used for transmission electron microscopes. The technique, called digital image correlation, takes a series of images and compares one image to the next in order to map what is happening in a material over time. 

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

Researchers from MIT, Columbia University, and the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan, have engineered a new property into a well-known family of semiconductors, called transition metal dichalcogenides, by manipulating ultrathin sheets of the materials only a few atomic layers thick. The researchers showed that when two single sheets of a transition metal dichalcogenide are stacked parallel to each other, the material becomes ferroelectric. In a ferroelectric material, positive and negative charges spontaneously head to different sides. 

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

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington have successfully designed a bio-inspired molecule that can direct gold atoms to form perfect nanoscale stars. The work is a step toward understanding and controlling the shapes of metal nanoparticles and creating advanced materials with tunable properties

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

A team of U.S. researchers from various academic and research institutions has developed a new additive material that can make an inexpensive iron-nitrogen-carbon fuel cell catalyst more durable. In particular, the additive material, which is composed of tantalum-titanium oxide nanoparticles, scavenged and deactivated unstable atoms, molecules, or ions called free radicals. The researchers showed that when the nanoparticle material was added to the reactions of fuel cell systems, hydrogen peroxide yield was suppressed to less than 2% – a 51% reduction – and current density decay of fuel cells was reduced from 33% to 3%.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers at Brown University have carried out a study investigating superconductivity in magic-angle trilayer graphene to better understand the unusual superconducting behavior observed in this material. The results from this study are similar to results from another study the researchers performed on magic-angle bilayer graphene, which suggests that superconducting phases in these two materials (magic-angle bilayer and magic-angle trilayer graphene) have a common origin. Both materials consist of sheets of graphene stacked together with a rotational misalignment of approximately 1.5 degrees.

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

With billions of transistors in a single computer chip, their manufacturing tools now operate at the molecular level.  Typically, these tools involve using stencils to selectively pattern or remove materials with high fidelity to form nanoscale electronic devices. As chips fit more and more components to keep up with the digital world's growing computational demands, these nanopatterning stencils are becoming smaller and more precise. Now, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Konstanz in Germany have demonstrated how "multiblock" copolymers can produce exceptionally ordered patterns in thin films, achieving spacings smaller than three nanometers.

(Funded in part by the National Science Foundation)

An international team of researchers has developed a wireless, biodegradable sensor that could offer doctors a way to monitor changes in brain chemistry without requiring a second operation to remove the implant. As a proof of concept, the researchers inserted the device into the deep brain region of a mouse, and the device collected data on levels of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter, as well as pH levels, temperature, and electrophysiology, before dissolving back into the body. The implant is composed of two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides, which are considered an emerging class of materials that are increasingly used in nanoelectronics and nanophotonics applications.