• Health and Life Sciences: The human body, and human diseases like cancer, operate at the nanoscale. Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, works at that same scale, developing new drugs, devices, and diagnostics to fight cancer. Here, targeted cancer-fighting nanoparticles enter and change the cytoskeleton of a cancer cell. “I believe these new approaches have the power to transform cancer from a death sentence to a treatable condition,” Langer says.

    Courtesy of the researchers

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  • Energy Systems: Imagine printing a solar cell as easily as printing a photo on an inkjet. Karen Gleason, MIT’s associate provost and the Alexander and I. Michael Kasser Professor of Chemical Engineering, has developed lightweight, durable photovoltaics that can be printed onto everyday materials such as paper or cloth. “This technology could significantly reduce the cost of solar installations and make them more feasible for locations in the developing world,” Gleason says.

    Courtesy of the researchers

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  • Computing and Communications: Chips made with “extreme materials” such as gallium nitride (shown here) will make chips that can handle 10 times as much voltage as silicon. “Nanotechnology is opening up the door to a new domain of electronic materials and devices,” says Tomás Palacios, the Emmanuel E. Landsman Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, adding that it “makes this the most exciting time for electronics in the last 30 years.”

    Courtesy of the researchers

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  • Manufacturing: Nanotechnology is remaking the concept of making. For example, Gregory Rutledge, the Lammot du Pont Professor of Chemical Engineering, is using electrospinning to produce nanofibers that are 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. Rutledge says the applications for these nanofibers are many, including “sensors, drug delivery, air filtration, water purification, energy storage, protective clothing, and tissue engineering.”

    Courtesy of the researchers

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  • Sustainable Futures: Jeff Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering, is experimenting with graphene — a sheet of graphite just one atom thick — for an energy-efficient approach to water desalination. “If we want to make significant progress on issues like energy and clean water,” Grossman says, “we need to invent completely new materials. Not just materials that are incrementally better, but real game-changers.”

    Courtesy of the researchers

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  • Materials and Structures: Quantum dots — tiny particles of semiconductor materials that can be tuned to emit an array of glowing colors — have been the focus of Moungi Bawendi’s research for more than 20 years. Today quantum dots have large-scale applications from electronic displays to biomedical imaging. Bawendi, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Chemistry, says: “We are now at the time when transformational technologies are poised to emerge from the discoveries that have been made in the last decades.”

    Photo: Felice Frankel

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Welcome to the nano age

MIT.nano will help researchers apply the power of nanotechnology to solve big problems.

Press Contact

Kimberly Allen
Email: allenkc@mit.edu
Phone: 617-253-2702
MIT News Office

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A search to understand how materials behave at the nanoscale — a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter — has been under way for decades. Researchers now have the ability to manipulate and construct materials at the scale of individual atoms or molecules.

At MIT, faculty from many disciplines are applying the potential of nanoscience and nanotechnology to tackle today’s urgent challenges in health, energy, computing, manufacturing, improving the health of our planet, and more.

Nanotechnology is being applied to a vast array of innovations, including faster and more energy-efficient chips; nanoparticle drug delivery; printable photovoltaic solar cells; high-performing lithium-air batteries; heat-transferring nanofluids for cooling systems and electronics; nanoparticles that magnetically separate oil and water; new stronger metal alloys built with nanocrystals; and nanoscale coating materials that could help implants better adhere to a patient’s bone.

The slide show above shows a sampling of the ways in which MIT scientists and engineers are solving big problems one atom and one molecule at a time.

“If you have your hands on the right tools,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif, “we believe even big problems have answers.” And, he adds, “A state-of-the-art nano facility is the highest priority for MIT, because nanoscience and nanotechnology are omnipresent in innovation today.”

Topics: Nanoscience and nanotechnology, Research, MIT.nano


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