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NSF-Wide Investment - Nanoscale Science & Engineering
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The image above shows
the computational work of Sokrates Pantelides and Massimiliano Di Ventra of Vanderbilt University, which involves solving quantum physics equations to examine a form of benzene as a two-terminal nano device.
Credit Mark Reed
Image - caption below

This is an image of electrons as they move within a nearly two-dimensional (flat) structure made of Ga, As, and Al atoms. In nature, most electrons exist as parts of atoms; in this image, they are flowing free in a low-temperature electron gas. A strong magnetic field created the flowing pattern, a result of the quantum Hall effect.
Credit: Dr. Raymond Ashoori, MIT

Image - caption below  

Image showing polystyrene nanoparticles dynamically deposited into Poly (dimethylsiloxane) grooves.
Credit: Dr. Gilbert Walker


Nanoscale Science and Engineering research promises a better understanding of nature, the development of novel products, improved efficiency in manufacturing, sustainable development, better healthcare and improved human performance.

A nanometer (one-billionth of a meter) is to an inch what an inch is to 400 miles. Novel materials, devices and systems--with their building blocks on the scale of nanometers--open up new directions in science, engineering and technology with potentially profound implications for society. With the capacity to manipulate matter at this scale, science, engineering and technology are realizing revolutionary advances in areas such as individualized pharmaceuticals, drug delivery systems, more resilient materials and fabrics, and faster computer chips. By playing a key role in the National Nanotechnology Initiative, NSF has been a pioneer among federal agencies in fostering this area.

Potential Impact

  • Improved human health (including individualized pharmaceuticals, novel drug delivery systems and enhanced gene therapy)
  • Novel nanoscale and nanostructured materials (i.e., more resilient materials and fabrics and biocompatible nanostructured materials for implantation)
  • New and improved approaches to environmental sustainability (e.g., material and energy conservation)
  • Next-generation instrumentation and infrastructure (including faster computer chips and novel nanoelectronics)

Example: Nanotech Yields New Emergency Response Tool
By effectively shrinking an operating room machine into a small, disposable tool that can be carried to a disaster site, researchers have created a tiny device that can monitor a victim's breathing in emergency situations. NSF-supported researchers at Nanomix, Inc., in Emeryville, California, have created a transistor that fuses carbon nanotubes, polymers and silicon into a capnography sensor--a human breathing monitor. This work by Alexander Star and colleagues at Nanomix and the University of California, Los Angeles, was featured on the cover of the journal Advanced Materials. Their study shows that carbon nanotube transistors fused with carbon dioxide-detecting polymers can determine carbon dioxide concentrations in both ambient and exhaled air.

Long-Term Goals

  • Build a foundation of fundamental research for understanding and applying novel principles and phenomena to nanoscale manufacturing and other areas of relevance
  • Ensure U.S. institutions access to a full range of nano-facilities
  • Inform the public about nanotechnology through informal education
  • Provide U.S. students access to nanotechnology education
  • Catalyze the creation of new commercial markets that depend on 3-Dimensional nanostructures

FY 2006 Areas of Emphasis

  • Understanding and controlling the assembly of nanoscale materials
  • Research enabling nanoscale as the most efficient manufacturing domain, including fabrication of nanostructured materials and catalysts
  • Nanobiotechnology and nanobiomedicine
  • Innovative nanotechnology solutions for explosives detection and protection
  • Understanding and potential application of quantum effects and other nanoscale phenomena
  • Nanoelectronics beyond complementary metal-oxide superconductors and nanophotonics
  • New instrumentation and standards development
  • Education and training regarding nanotechnology

Related Resources

NSF National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)

Nanoscale Science and Engineering in NSF FY 2006 Budget Request (pages 413-417)

Nanoscience Discoveries

Nanoscience News

National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN)

National Nanotechnology Initiative