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

(Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology)

Since 2014, 37 budding engineers and technicians in the semiconductor industry have completed an internship program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s NanoFab facility, which provides researchers with rapid access to state-of-the-art nanoscale measurement and fabrication tools and methods, along with technical expertise. This article describes the experiences of four of these interns.

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

A new kind of solar panel, developed at the University of Michigan, has achieved 9% efficiency in converting water into hydrogen and oxygen – mimicking a crucial step in natural photosynthesis. Outdoors, it represents a major leap in the technology, nearly 10 times more efficient than solar water-splitting experiments of its kind. The outstanding result comes from two advances: the ability to concentrate the sunlight without destroying the semiconductor that harnesses the light, and the use of a semiconductor catalyst -- made of indium gallium nitride nanostructures, grown onto a silicon surface – that improves itself with use.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Duke University and Arizona State University have created tiny nanoscale structures shaped like vases, bowls, and hollow spheres by using threadlike molecules of DNA. These creations demonstrate the possibilities of a new open-source software program developed by the researchers that lets users take drawings or digital models of rounded shapes and turn them into 3D structures made of DNA. The software could also allow researchers to create tiny containers to deliver drugs, as well as molds for casting metal nanoparticles with specific shapes for solar cells and medical imaging.

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

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; and the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan have discovered that electrons play a surprising role in how energy is transferred between layers of two-dimensional semiconductor materials (tungsten diselenide and tungsten disulfide). Although the layers aren't tightly bonded to one another, electrons provide a bridge between them that facilitates rapid heat transfer.

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

To create hybrid nanomaterials, chemists marry nanocrystals of light-capturing semiconductors with "charge acceptor" molecules that act as ligands, attaching to the semiconductor's surface and transporting electrons away from the nanocrystals. A few published experiments have shown that electron transfer rates initially increase with ligand surface concentration and then fall if surface concentrations continue to rise. Now, chemists from Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin have confirmed that this is the case when the ligand molecule is an often-studied dye called perylene diimide.

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

Many thin films are made by using a technique called epitaxy, which consists of placing atoms of a material on a substrate, or a template of sorts, to create a thin sheet of material, one atomic layer at a time. However, most thin films created via epitaxy are "stuck" on their host substrate, limiting their uses. Now, a University of Minnesota Twin Cities-led team of scientists and engineers has found a new way to successfully create a membrane of a particular metal oxide (strontium titanate), and their method circumvents several issues that have plagued the synthesis of freestanding metal oxide films in the past.

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

A team of engineers and neuroscientists from the University of California San Diego, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Boston University, and Oslo University Hospital in Norway has demonstrated, for the first time, that human brain organoids implanted in mice have established functional connectivity to the animals’ cortex and responded to external sensory stimuli. The implanted organoids reacted to visual stimuli in the same way as surrounding tissues, an observation that researchers were able to make in real time over several months thanks to an innovative experimental setup that combines transparent graphene microelectrode arrays and two-photon imaging.

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

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a new nanoelectronics platform based on graphene – a single sheet of carbon atoms – that is compatible with conventional microelectronics manufacturing. To create the new nanoelectronics platform, the researchers created a modified form of epigraphene – a layer of graphene that can spontaneously form on top of silicon carbide crystal, a semiconductor used in high-power electronics. In collaboration with researchers at Tianjin University in China, they produced unique silicon carbide chips from electronics-grade silicon carbide crystals. Then, the researchers used electron beam lithography to carve the graphene nanostructures and weld their edges to the silicon carbide chips. 

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

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have created vertically aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes on metal foils. Vertically aligned carbon nanotubes have exceptional mechanical, electrical, and transport properties in addition to an aligned architecture, which is key for applications such as membrane separation, thermal management, fiber spinning, electronic interconnects, and energy storage.

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

Researchers at Penn State have discovered that a new type of active pixel sensors that use a novel two-dimensional (2D) material may both enable ultra-sharp cell phone photos and create a new class of extremely energy-efficient Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. The 2D material is molybdenum disulfide, a semiconductor that is sensitive to light.