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Chairman Terry: “Nanotech is a true science race between the nations, and we should be encouraging the transition from research breakthroughs to commercial development.”

WASHINGTON, DCThe Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today held a hearing on:

“Nanotechnology: Understanding How Small Solutions Drive Big Innovation.”




“Great Things from Small Things!” … We Couldn’t Agree More!



Subcommittee Examines Breakthrough Nanotechnology Opportunities for America

July 29, 2014

WASHINGTON, DCThe Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today held a hearing on “Nanotechnology: Understanding How Small Solutions Drive Big Innovation.” Nanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is approximately 1 to 100 nanometers (one nanometer is a billionth of a meter). This technology brings great opportunities to advance a broad range of industries, bolster our U.S. economy, and create new manufacturing jobs. Members heard from several nanotech industry leaders about the current state of nanotechnology and the direction that it is headed.UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO - New $5 million lab

“Just as electricity, telecommunications, and the combustion engine fundamentally altered American economics in the ‘second industrial revolution,’ nanotechnology is poised to drive the next surge of economic growth across all sectors,” said Chairman Terry.



Applications of Nanomaterials Chart Picture1

Dr. Christian Binek, Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, explained the potential of nanotechnology to transform a range of industries, stating, “Virtually all of the national and global challenges can at least in part be addressed by advances in nanotechnology. Although the boundary between science and fiction is blurry, it appears reasonable to predict that the transformative power of nanotechnology can rival the industrial revolution. Nanotechnology is expected to make major contributions in fields such as; information technology, medical applications, energy, water supply with strong correlation to the energy problem, smart materials, and manufacturing. It is perhaps one of the major transformative powers of nanotechnology that many of these traditionally separated fields will merge.”

Dr. James M. Tour at the Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University encouraged steps to help the U.S better compete with markets abroad. “The situation has become untenable. Not only are our best and brightest international students returning to their home countries upon graduation, taking our advanced technology expertise with them, but our top professors also are moving abroad in order to keep their programs funded,” said Tour. “This is an issue for Congress to explore further, working with industry, tax experts, and universities to design an effective incentive structure that will increase industry support for research and development – especially as it relates to nanotechnology. This is a win-win for all parties.”

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Professor Milan Mrksich of Northwestern University discussed the economic opportunities of nanotechnology, and obstacles to realizing these benefits. He explained, “Nanotechnology is a broad-based field that, unlike traditional disciplines, engages the entire scientific and engineering enterprise and that promises new technologies across these fields. … Current challenges to realizing the broader economic promise of the nanotechnology industry include the development of strategies to ensure the continued investment in fundamental research, to increase the fraction of these discoveries that are translated to technology companies, to have effective regulations on nanomaterials, to efficiently process and protect intellectual property to ensure that within the global landscape, the United States remains the leader in realizing the economic benefits of the nanotechnology industry.”

James Phillips, Chairman & CEO at NanoMech, Inc., added, “It’s time for America to lead. … We must capitalize immediately on our great University system, our National Labs, and tremendous agencies like the National Science Foundation, to be sure this unique and best in class innovation ecosystem, is organized in a way that promotes nanotechnology, tech transfer and commercialization in dramatic and laser focused ways so that we capture the best ideas into patents quickly, that are easily transferred into our capitalistic economy so that our nation’s best ideas and inventions are never left stranded, but instead accelerated to market at the speed of innovation so that we build good jobs and improve the quality of life and security for our citizens faster and better than any other country on our planet.”

Chairman Terry concluded, “Nanotech is a true science race between the nations, and we should be encouraging the transition from research breakthroughs to commercial development. I believe the U.S. should excel in this area.”

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Nanotech for Oil, Gas Applications – A “Smoother Flow”

Hawaii Nano hf_134212_articleA “smart coating” initially developed to help U.S. Navy ships ply through water more efficiently could help pipeline operators transport more crude oil without using costlier larger-diameter pipe or adding horsepower to pumps, according to the head of a Hawaii-based science, engineering and technology firm.

“The use of nanomaterials opens up a whole new dimension,” said Patrick Sullivan, founder and CEO of Oceanit. The company’s “Anhydra” coating technology manipulates the properties of a surface at the nanoscale –1,000 times smaller than a human hair, he noted.

“If you can control surfaces at that scale, you can create structures with specific performances that would otherwise be impossible,” continued Sullivan. “Being able to control something on that scale and then scaling it out creates tremendous efficiencies.” In the case of its original application as an antifouling coating to reduce drag on the hulls of naval vessels, Anhydra enables ships to go faster without expending extra energy for propulsion, Sullivan said.

Hawaii Nano hf_134212_article

Nanotech surface treatment could boost pipeline flow assurance, says exec.

The coating helps surfaces to behave differently and actually extends the service life of the material to which it is applied, he explained. Applications in Oil, Gas Oceanit is researching and developing new formulations of Anhydra for the military as well as the aerospace, healthcare and oil and gas industries. In the latter case, the company sees considerable potential for the technology to enhance and protect metallic surfaces exposed to a wide range of temperatures and pressures both offshore and onshore.

One potential application is an internal pipeline coating that repels crude oil – and the water and other constituents in it – in order to improve flow and prevent corrosion, Sullivan said. The technology’s “ice-phobic” properties could also prevent methane hydrates from accumulating in subsea pipelines, he added.

“In the oil and gas industry it’s a huge thing because if you can reduce the drag in a pipeline, that means for the same pump you get more distance or you can move material with the same amount of energy.” Aside from easing product movement inside pipelines, Oceanit’s nanotech coating could also protect the exterior surfaces of pipelines, offshore platforms and myriad other oil and gas infrastructure from corrosion, added Sullivan. Coatings could be designed to repair scratches and abrasions, protect a metallic surface from the elements and preempt the onset of corrosion, he explained.

Oceanit’s work on oil and gas applications of Anhydra has been limited to the laboratory, but the company has been actively courting industry players to partner in the critical step to scale up the technology. “We’ll develop the technology in a lab setting and then work collaboratively with an operator that will use it” in the field, Sullivan explained.

In addition to opening an office in the world’s energy capital Houston, Oceanit has stepped up its presence at major oil and gas events such as the recent Offshore Technology Conference and will be on-hand at International Association of Drilling Contractors and Society of Petroleum Engineers events this fall. The company’s outreach efforts to date have been fruitful, Sullivan noted.

“We’re in some discussions right now, we’re testing with some operators and and going to scale with some others,” he said, adding that Oceanit has been in “very preliminary” talks with manufacturers. “We’re always looking at how to go to scale because this industry is all about scale.” Oceanit also is in the process of deploying one of its high-performance coatings in the field, said Vinod Veedu, the company’s Houston-based director of strategic initiatives.

“We’ve quickly scaled up from the laboratory to the field in a matter of months,” Veedu concluded. “It’s an exciting time to be supporting this fast-moving industry.”

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Carbyne: Carbon-Atom Chain Goes from Metal to Semiconductor: Useful in Many Applications

Carbyne 140721124028-largeApplying just the right amount of tension to a chain of carbon atoms can turn it from a metallic conductor to an insulator, according to Rice University scientists.


Stretching the material known as carbyne — a hard-to-make, one-dimensional chain of carbon atoms — by just 3 percent can begin to change its properties in ways that engineers might find useful for mechanically activated nanoscale electronics and optics.

The finding by Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson and his colleagues appears in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

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Carbyne chains of carbon atoms can be either metallic or semiconducting, according to first-principle calculations by scientists at Rice University. Stretching the chain dimerizes the atoms, opening a band gap between the pairs.

Until recently, carbyne has existed mostly in theory, though experimentalists have made some headway in creating small samples of the finicky material. The carbon chain would theoretically be the strongest material ever, if only someone could make it reliably.

The first-principle calculations by Yakobson and his co-authors, Rice postdoctoral researcher Vasilii Artyukhov and graduate student Mingjie Liu, show that stretching carbon chains activates the transition from conductor to insulator by widening the material’s band gap. Band gaps, which free electrons must overcome to complete a circuit, give materials the semiconducting properties that make modern electronics possible.

In their previous work on carbyne, the researchers believed they saw hints of the transition, but they had to dig deeper to find that stretching would effectively turn the material into a switch.

Each carbon atom has four electrons available to form covalent bonds. In their relaxed state, the atoms in a carbyne chain would be more or less evenly spaced, with two bonds between them. But the atoms are never static, due to natural quantum uncertainty, which Yakobson said keeps them from slipping into a less-stable Peierls distortion.

“Peierls said one-dimensional metals are unstable and must become semiconductors or insulators,” Yakobson said. “But it’s not that simple, because there are two driving factors.”

One, the Peierls distortion, “wants to open the gap that makes it a semiconductor.” The other, called zero-point vibration (ZPV), “wants to maintain uniformity and the metal state.”

Yakobson explained that ZPV is a manifestation of quantum uncertainty, which says atoms are always in motion. “It’s more a blur than a vibration,” he said. “We can say carbyne represents the uncertainty principle in action, because when it’s relaxed, the bonds are constantly confused between 2-2 and 1-3, to the point where they average out and the chain remains metallic.”

But stretching the chain shifts the balance toward alternating long and short (1-3) bonds. That progressively opens a band gap beginning at about 3 percent tension, according to the computations. The Rice team created a phase diagram to illustrate the relationship of the band gap to strain and temperature.

How carbyne is attached to electrodes also matters, Artyukhov said. “Different bond connectivity patterns can affect the metallic/dielectric state balance and shift the transition point, potentially to where it may not be accessible anymore,” he said. “So one has to be extremely careful about making the contacts.”

“Carbyne’s structure is a conundrum,” he said. “Until this paper, everybody was convinced it was single-triple, with a long bond then a short bond, caused by Peierls instability.” He said the realization that quantum vibrations may quench Peierls, together with the team’s earlier finding that tension can increase the band gap and make carbyne more insulating, prompted the new study.

“Other researchers considered the role of ZPV in Peierls-active systems, even carbyne itself, before we did,” Artyukhov said. “However, in all previous studies only two possible answers were being considered: either ‘carbyne is semiconducting’ or ‘carbyne is metallic,’ and the conclusion, whichever one, was viewed as sort of a timeless mathematical truth, a static ‘ultimate verdict.’ What we realized here is that you can use tension to dynamically go from one regime to the other, which makes it useful on a completely different level.”

Yakobson noted the findings should encourage more research into the formation of stable carbyne chains and may apply equally to other one-dimensional chains subject to Peierls distortions, including conducting polymers and charge/spin density-wave materials.

The Robert Welch Foundation, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative supported the research. The researchers utilized the Data Analysis and Visualization Cyberinfrastructure (DAVinCI) supercomputer supported by the NSF and administered by Rice’s Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. The original article was written by Mike Williams. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Researchers Create Quantum Dots with Single-Atom Precision: Naval Research Center


Washington, DC | Posted on June 30th, 2014

single QD Naval R 49744Quantum dots are often regarded as artificial atoms because, like real atoms, they confine their electrons to quantized states with discrete energies. But the analogy breaks down quickly, because while real atoms are identical, quantum dots usually comprise hundreds or thousands of atoms – with unavoidable variations in their size and shape and, consequently, in their properties and behavior. External electrostatic gates can be used to reduce these variations. But the more ambitious goal of creating quantum dots with intrinsically perfect fidelity by completely eliminating statistical variations in their size, shape, and arrangement has long remained elusive.

Creating atomically precise quantum dots requires every atom to be placed in a precisely specified location without error. The team assembled the dots atom-by-atom, using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), and relied on an atomically precise surface template to define a lattice of allowed atom positions. The template was the surface of an InAs crystal, which has a regular pattern of indium vacancies and a low concentration of native indium adatoms adsorbed above the vacancy sites. The adatoms are ionized +1 donors and can be moved with the STM tip by vertical atom manipulation. The team assembled quantum dots consisting of linear chains of N = 6 to 25 indium atoms; the example shown here is a chain of 22 atoms.

single QD Naval R 49744
This image shows quantized electron states, for quantum numbers n = 1 to 6, of a linear quantum dot consisting of 22 indium atoms positioned on the surface of an InAs crystal.
Image: Stefan Fölsch/PDI

Stefan Fölsch, a physicist at the PDI who led the team, explained that “the ionized indium adatoms form a quantum dot by creating an electrostatic well that confines electrons normally associated with a surface state of the InAs crystal. The quantized states can then be probed and mapped by scanning tunneling spectroscopy measurements of the differential conductance.” These spectra show a series of resonances labeled by the principal quantum number n. Spatial maps reveal the wave functions of these quantized states, which have n lobes and n – 1 nodes along the chain, exactly as expected for a quantum-mechanical electron in a box. For the 22-atom chain example, the states up to n = 6 are shown.

Because the indium atoms are strictly confined to the regular lattice of vacancy sites, every quantum dot with N atoms is essentially identical, with no intrinsic variation in size, shape, or position. This means that quantum dot “molecules” consisting of several coupled chains will reflect the same invariance. Steve Erwin, a physicist at NRL and the team’s theorist, pointed out that “this greatly simplifies the task of creating, protecting, and controlling degenerate states in quantum dot molecules, which is an important prerequisite for many technologies.” In quantum computing, for example, qubits with doubly degenerate ground states offer protection against environmental decoherence.

By combining the invariance of quantum dot molecules with the intrinsic symmetry of the InAs vacancy lattice, the team created degenerate states that are surprisingly resistant to environmental perturbations by defects. In the example shown here, a molecule with perfect three-fold rotational symmetry was first created and its two-fold degenerate state demonstrated experimentally. By intentionally breaking the symmetry, the team found that the degeneracy was progressively removed, completing the demonstration.

The reproducibility and high fidelity offered by these quantum dots makes them excellent candidates for studying fundamental physics that is typically obscured by stochastic variations in size, shape, or position of the chains. Looking forward, the team also anticipates that the elimination of uncontrolled variations in quantum dot architectures will offer many benefits to a broad range of future quantum dot technologies in which fidelity is important.


About Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy’s full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of nearly 2,800 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today’s world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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