News from the NNI Community - Research Advances Funded by Agencies Participating in the NNI

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

Researchers from Rice University and Florida State University have shown that changing the structure of the oxide layer that coats aluminum nanoparticles modifies their catalytic properties. The researchers elucidated the structure of the native oxide layer on aluminum nanoparticles and showed that heating the nanoparticles to temperatures of up to 500 degrees Celsius (932 degrees Fahrenheit) in different gases can change the structure of the aluminum oxide layer. One of the effects of this heating was to make the aluminum nanoparticles better at facilitating the conversion of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and water.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from Oregon State University and Tiangong University in Tianjin, China, have identified a material known as a metal-organic framework that could completely remove and break down the common herbicide glyphosate. Metal-organic frameworks are crystalline, porous materials with tunable structural properties and nanosized pores. The metal-organic framework studied by the researchers is based on scandium and a carboxylate linker. "When exposed to light for just five minutes, [this metal-organic framework] eliminated 100% of glyphosate in water," said Kyriakos Stylianou, one of the scientists involved in this study.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Washington State University have discovered that bacteria can be tricked into sending death signals to stop the growth of biofilms, which are slimy, protective homes that lead to deadly infections. The researchers discovered that extracellular vesicles are key to managing the growth of the protective biofilm. The vesicles, tiny bubbles from 30 to 50 nanometers, shuttle molecules from cells, entering and then re-programming neighboring cells and acting as a cell-to-cell communications system. The researchers were able to harness the vesicles with the instructions to stop growing the biofilm and to use them to fool the bacteria into killing off the biofilm. 

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon Health and Science University, and EnterX Biosciences, Inc. in Portland, Ore., have developed a type of lipid nanoparticle that can reach the lungs and the eyes, an important step toward a genetic therapy for hereditary conditions like cystic fibrosis and inherited vision loss. "These nanoparticles filled with fatty lipids can encapsulate genetic medicines like mRNA and CRISPR-Cas9 gene editors, which can be used to treat and even cure rare genetic diseases," said Yulia Eygeris, one of the scientists involved in this study.

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

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, have examined the changes that occur in the structure of a specific nanomaterial as it changes from conducting an electrical current to not. The material, strontium cobalt oxide, easily switches between conducting and insulating phases. The researchers used a technique, called X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy, that can directly measure how fast the material fluctuates between these two phases at the atomic scale.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Aortic aneurysms are bulges in the aorta, the largest blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. "The soft tissues that make up blood vessels act essentially like rubber bands, and it's the elastic fibers within these tissues that allow them to stretch and snap back," said Prof. Anand Ramamurthi, from Lehigh University. Ramamurthi and colleagues are working on minimally invasive ways to regenerate and repair these elastic fibers using nanoparticles designed to release novel regenerative therapeutics. The innovative techniques could enable treatment soon after an aneurysm is detected and potentially slow, reverse, or even stop its growth.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati and Texas A&M University have demonstrated a new chemical process that grafts nanotubes to copper, aluminum, gold, and other metal surfaces to create a strong, consistent, conductive link. Through computational calculations, the researchers have shown that carbon atoms in the link actually bond with two copper atoms, creating an especially strong bond.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Researchers from North Carolina State University, Arizona State University, Jeonbuk National University in South Korea, and Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea have discovered that liquid metal composites can spontaneously grow over four times in volume when exposed to water, while retaining metallic conductivity similar to their starting material. This growth occurs because water infiltration promotes oxidation reactions that generate porous gallium oxyhydroxide while freeing hydrogen gas. This gradually accumulating gas exerts internal pressure that expands the liquid metal composite further – much like bread dough rising from the byproducts of yeast fermentation.

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

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Case Western Reserve University have developed an in situ method for rapid and efficient synthesis of degradable branched lipidoids, key components of lipid nanoparticles, which are used for delivery of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. The new method simplifies the manufacture of lipid nanoparticles and improves their ability to deliver mRNA to cells. The team tested the method for the treatment of obesity and genetic diseases. 

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

A team of researchers from Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, and the University of Rhode Island has developed a novel method for producing nanoparticles of diverse morphologies that can act as nanocarriers for delivering therapeutics to cells. The researchers used these nanocarriers to deliver a molecule that can boost the immune system to fight viral infections and a molecule that can slow melanoma tumor growth. The novel method is industrially scalable, and the diverse shapes and sizes of nanocarriers that can be produced may allow the delivery of distinct biomolecular cargos for therapeutic applications addressing a variety of diseases.