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

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

Researchers from MIT (including the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies), the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, the Rhode Island School of Design, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have designed an acoustic fabric that incorporates fibers that work like a microphone, converting sound into mechanical vibrations and then into electrical signals. The active layer of the fiber – a composite consisting of a piezoelectric polymer loaded with piezoelectric barium titanate nanoparticles – produces an electrical signal when the fiber is bent or mechanically deformed, providing a means for the fabric to convert sound vibrations into electrical signals.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University at Buffalo have developed and demonstrated a "self-driving lab" that uses artificial intelligence and fluidic systems to advance our understanding of metal halide perovskite nanocrystals. These nanocrystals are an emerging class of semiconductor materials that could be used in printed photonic devices and energy technologies. For example, the nanocrystals are efficient optically active materials and are under consideration for use in next-generation light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have advanced NASA technologies to develop a power suit for an electric car that is as strong as steel, lighter than aluminum and helps boosts the vehicle’s power capacity. The suit is made of a layered carbon composite material that works as an energy-storing supercapacitor-battery hybrid device due to its unique design at the nanoscale level. To construct the material, the researchers created positively and negatively charged carbon fiber layers that are stacked and attached in an alternating pattern. Nanoscale graphene sheets attached on the carbon fiber layers allow for increased charge-storing ability, while metal oxides deposited on attached electrodes enhance voltage and provide higher energy density.

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health)

A team of chemists and biologists at the University of Chicago has developed a nanodevice that can locate immune cells present in solid cancerous tumors and enable them to activate other immune cells so they can attack the tumors. The immune cells targeted by such nanodevices are called tumor-associated macrophages. The nanodevices enable these immune cells to display molecular structures, called antigens, on their surface, which tells other immune cells, called T cells, to attack the tumors. In tests with mice, the use of the nanodevices resulted in tumor regression.

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

A team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, and the Donostia International Physics Center in Spain has developed a technique that predicts and guides the ordered creation of strong, yet flexible, diamond nanothreads, which are one-dimensional nanomaterials composed of carbon chains. This innovation should make it easier for scientists to synthesize diamond nanothreads.

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

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have developed a new type of catalyst material, called a metal hydroxide-organic framework (MHOF), which is made of inexpensive and abundant components. The catalyst speeds up the electrochemical reaction that splits apart water molecules to produce oxygen, which is at the heart of multiple approaches aiming to produce alternative fuels for transportation. The researchers found that MHOFs can match or exceed the performance of conventional, more expensive catalysts; they also found that the number of accessible active on MHOFs is increased significantly by synthesizing them as ultrathin nanosheets. 

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

Researchers from Boston College, Boston University, and Giner Inc., in Newton, MA, have developed a penny-sized, multiplexed biosensor that is the first to detect opioid byproducts in wastewater. The novel device uses graphene-based field effect transistors that can detect four different synthetic and natural opioids at once, while shielding them from wastewater's harsh elements. When a specific opioid metabolite attaches to a molecular probe on the graphene, it changes the electrical charge on the graphene. These signals are easily read electronically for each probe attached to the device.

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

Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have created a nanofiber material that outperforms steel plates and strong synthetic fabric in protecting against high-speed projectile impacts. To create the material, the researchers mixed multi-walled carbon nanotubes with Kevlar nanofibers. The advance lays the groundwork for carbon nanotube use in lightweight, high-performance armor materials, such as bulletproof vests and shields around spacecraft that mitigate damage from flying high-speed microdebris.

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

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) has announced that it is partnering with the University of Mississippi (UM), Jackson State University (JSU), Rice University to explore graphene’s unique abilities in uses ranging from advanced materials-by-design to self-sensing infrastructure. This strategic ERDC partnership provides an opportunity to leverage expertise and state-of- the-art materials research from Rice University’s NanoCarbon Center and the UM Center for Graphene Research and Innovation (CGRI). 

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

Researchers at Arizona State University have shown that proteins can act as tiny, current-carrying wires. The researchers studied electron transport through proteins and established that over long distances, protein nanowires display better conductance properties than chemically synthesized nanowires specifically designed to be conductors. Synthetically designed protein nanowires could be used in nanoelectronics and in medical sensing and diagnostics.