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

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

Scientists from Rice University, Cornell University, the Army Research Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur mixed hexagonal boron nitride – a soft variety also known as "white graphite" – with cubic boron nitride – a material second to diamond in hardness – and found that the resulting nanocomposite interacted with light and heat in unexpected ways that could be useful in next-generation microchips and quantum devices. "What is fascinating about this study is that it opens up possibilities to tailor boron nitride materials with the right amounts of hexagonal and cubic structures, thus enabling a broad range of tailored mechanical, thermal, electrical, and optical properties in this material," said Pulickel Ajayan, one of the scientists involved in this study.

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

Engineers at Johns Hopkins University have developed nanoscale tattoos – dots and wires that stick to live cells, while flexing and conforming to the cells' wet and fluid outer structure. "If you imagine where this is all going in the future, we would like to have sensors to remotely monitor and control the state of individual cells and the environment surrounding those cells in real time," said David Gracias, the engineer who led the development of this technology. "If we had technologies to track the health of isolated cells, we could maybe diagnose and treat diseases much earlier and not wait until the entire organ is damaged."

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

By fusing DNA and glass, researchers have made an impressive material that, they say, is both stronger and lighter than steel. The researchers made use of a technique in which DNA self-assembles to form a chemical skeleton. Then, this DNA architecture is encased in a layer of a glass-like material only hundreds of atoms thick. "The ability to create designed 3D framework nanomaterials using DNA and mineralize them opens enormous opportunities for engineering mechanical properties," said Oleg Gang, a nanomaterials scientist at Columbia University who was involved in this study. The research used resources at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, a user facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

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

Researchers from Penn State, Western Michigan University, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have found that atomic-scale steps on sapphire substrates enable crystal alignment of 2D materials during semiconductor fabrication. They also discovered that manipulation of these materials during synthesis may reduce defects and improve electronic device performance.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a proof-of-concept model for delivering gene-editing tools to treat blood disorders. Their approach uses mRNA encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles as a technology platform to carry out in vivo cellular reprogramming, modifying diseased blood cells directly within the body. Use of this platform in clinical settings could expand access and reduce the cost of gene therapies for blood disorders, many of which currently require chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have shown that a type of engineered nanostructured surface can be used to trap micrometer and sub-micrometer particles within seconds. The researchers state that the enhanced absorption of light in the nanostructures helps in the transport of analytes to biosensing surfaces and could help in the detection of cancer.

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

Researchers from Columbia University, the University of Connecticut, and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have built a structure out of DNA and then coated it with glass, creating a very strong material with very low density. The glass coated only the strands of DNA, leaving a large part of the material volume as empty space, much like the rooms within a house or building. The DNA skeleton reinforced the thin, flawless coating of glass, making the material strong, and the voids constituting most of the material's volume made it lightweight. Such glass nanolattice structures have four times higher strength but five times lower density than steel. 

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

For nearly 20 years, scientists have known that some DNA-stabilized nanometer-sized clusters of silver atoms glow visibly in red and green, making them useful in a variety of chemical and biosensing applications. Now, researchers from the University of California, Irvine; the University of Jyväskylä in Finland; the University of Copenhagen in Denmark; and Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, are using machine learning to determine what part of the DNA sequence is correlated to the different fluorescence colors of the nanoclusters. In particular, they are looking for DNA-stabilized silver nanoclusters that would emit near-infrared light, enabling researchers to see through living cells and centimeters of biological tissue.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University have developed a drug delivery system that shows promise for greatly enhancing the efficacy of a medicine given to women with the life-threatening condition of #ectopic pregnancy. This condition, which is non-viable and is the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester, occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the lining of the uterus. The medicine, methotrexate, ends ectopic pregnancy by causing embryonic cells to stop dividing, but it comes with a number of side effects. The researchers used a mouse model to show that when methotrexate is administered via nanoparticles, called polymersomes, it can end pregnancy at a comparatively low dose – a step in the right direction for reducing side effects and increasing efficacy. 

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health)

Scientists from Binghamton University; Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Yizheng Hospital of the Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital Group in China; and Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany are researching the use of cell-derived nanovesicles to deliver therapeutic agents to the interior of cancer cells with better accuracy and efficiency. By identifying overexpressed or cancer-specific antigens that occur in malignant cells and targeting the nanovesicles, encapsulated drugs were injected into cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.