One of the most exciting topics in modern engineering research,
nanotechnology gives us the ability to measure, control,
and manipulate matter at the molecular level to create
materials and devices with fundamentally new properties
and functions. The systematic control of matter at the
nanoscale has the potential to yield revolutionary technologies
for electronics, medicine, aeronautics, the environment,
manufacturing, and homeland security. Because nanotechnology
is expected to bring profound economic and social impacts
over the coming decade, leadership in nanotechnology
development will be crucial to future U.S. competitiveness
in the global economy.
NSF plays a critical role in U.S. efforts to advance nanoscale science and engineering. The agency launched the National Nanotechnology Initiative and provides the largest contribution to this interagency effort, with primary responsibility for investments in fundamental research, education, and provision of research infrastructure. Within NSF, the Directorate for Engineering has lead responsibility for nanotechnology.
NSF-ENG supports a wide range of nanotechnology research, including efforts to develop near-term commercial applications through the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). For example, NanoScale Materials, Inc. has received SBIR support to devise commercial-scale methods for manufacturing NanoActive™ materials, a technology emerging from the Kansas State University lab of Kenneth Klabunde.
These advanced nanocrystalline materials have enhanced surface area and chemical reactivity, which gives them unparalleled ability to capture and neutralize a wide range of toxic chemicals as well as the capacity to destroy chemical warfare agents. The company recently introduced FAST-ACT™ (First Applied Sorbent Treatment Against Chemical Threats), a family of products designed to expand the capabilities of first responders, hazmat teams, and other emergency personnel in their efforts to counteract and clean up chemical hazards.
researchers Arun Majumdar and Peidong Yang of the University
of California at Berkeley are using nanoscale engineering
techniques to revive the decades-long, once elusive search
for a material that is both superinsulating for heat and
a strong conductor of electricity. They have developed
a composite material featuring silicon-germanium nanowires
embedded in plastic tape, which is attracting global interest
for its potential role in enabling flexible, off-grid
electric power generation using any available fuel.
electron micrograph of NanoActive™ Magnesium Oxide
Plus. The large surface area of NanoActive™ materials
gives them the ability to capture and destroy toxic chemicals.
Just 25 grams of the material (a little less than 1 ounce)
has the surface area of nearly three NFL football fields.