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

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

For the first time, a research group at the University of Maryland, in collaboration with other researchers from the United States and Canada, has created multi-elemental ordered intermetallic nanoparticles, with up to eight different metals. These nanoparticles, which are between 4 and 5 nanometers in diameter, are composed of metals in definite proportions, as opposed to alloys, which have metals in variable proportions. Also, the properties and crystal structure of these nanoparticles are different from the properties and crystal structures of their constituents.

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

An international team of researchers has discovered that Schwann cells – which are abundant in the peripheral nervous system and create a protective sheath around nerve fibers – play an essential role in migraine pain. The researchers successfully blocked pain evoked by a protein in the nervous system, called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), by using nanoparticles containing a small molecule drug that binds to and blocks CGRP receptors. In Schwann cells, the nanoparticles carried the drug inside the cells and blocked CGRP receptors, which strongly inhibited migraine pain.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers at Georgia State University have developed an influenza vaccine made with nanoparticles that can be administered through the nose. This intranasal vaccine contributed to multifaceted immune responses, leading to robust cross protection against influenza in mice. These comprehensive immune responses and cross protection were long lasting, exhibiting defense from influenza virus over six months after immunization.

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

Researchers at Louisiana State University have revealed how carbohydrates interact with the aromatic polymer lignin to form plant biomass. The researchers examined the nanoscale assembly of lignocellulosic components in multiple plant species, including grasses, hardwood species, and softwood species. This new information could help advance the development of better technology to use biomass for energy and materials.

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

Scientists at Rice University are using machine-learning techniques to streamline the process of synthesizing graphene from waste through flash Joule, which consists of blasting a jolt of high energy through the source material to eliminate all but graphene. The researchers used these techniques to improve graphene crystallization from four starting materials ­­– carbon black, plastic pyrolysis ash, pyrolyzed rubber tires and coke ­­– over 173 trials, using Raman spectroscopy to characterize the starting materials and graphene products.

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

Using a novel polymerization process, chemical engineers at MIT have created a new material that is stronger than steel and as light as plastic and can be easily manufactured in large quantities. The new material is a two-dimensional polymer that self-assembles into sheets, which form one-dimensional, spaghetti-like chains. Until now, scientists had believed it was impossible to induce polymers to form 2D sheets. Such a material could be used as a lightweight, durable coating for car parts or cell phones, or as a building material for bridges.

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

Researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Washington, Seattle, have developed a novel method for detecting viruses. The technique is a clever twist on conventional high-accuracy tests relying on complex testing protocols and expensive readout systems. It involves in-solution nanosensors that detect disease antigens in a sample by simple mixing.

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

Researchers at MIT have used ultrathin materials to build superconducting qubits that are at least one-hundredth the size of conventional designs and suffer from less interference between neighboring qubits. This advance could improve the performance of quantum computers and enable the development of smaller quantum devices.

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

A team of researchers at Penn State has developed a novel and better approach to detect non-uniformities in the optical properties of two-dimensional (2D) materials, which could potentially open the door to new uses for these materials, such as drug detection. The researchers conducted experiments using a heterostructure material made of graphene and the inorganic compound molybdenum disulfide. Molybdenum disulfide gives a photoluminescence signal that detects the amount of charge transfer between the graphene and the molybdenum disulfide layers, and therefore can detect changes due to an analyte, such as a cancer drug, that can affect the charge.

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

Researchers at Caltech have created a nano-architected material that exhibits a property that, until now, was only theoretically possible: It can refract light backward, regardless of the angle at which light strikes the material. This property is known as negative refraction, meaning that the refractive index is negative across a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum at all angles. The new material achieves its unusual property through a combination of organization at the nano- and microscale and the addition of a coating of a thin germanium film. The current work is a step toward demonstrating optical properties that would be required to enable 3D photonic circuits.