NRC-University of Alberta Nanotechnology Initiative


Overview of the Nanotechnology Initiative

The National Research Council of Canada and the University of Alberta have a long-standing nanotechnology research partnership in Edmonton where they have created a hub to expand Canadian nanotechnology capacity and foster breakthrough research. The collaboration took on a new name and format starting in 2017 and is now referred to as the Nanotechnology Initiative. The goal of the initiative is mutual benefits gained through cooperation in the area of nanotechnology research.

Nanotechnology Initiative round 1 projects

Round 1 of the Nanotechnology Initiative involves a joint investment of $10M over the span of 3 years starting on April 1, 2018, for 9 projects aligned with strategic priorities such as immunotherapy, energy harvesting and storage, photonics, electronics and nanodevices.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE)-based immunotherapy strategies for prion disease

The project researchers contend that a single type of antibody, IgG, is not the most effective type of antibody for targeting prions. They will test their hypothesis by creating novel anti-prion IgEs, verifying their interaction with normal cell-surface glycoprotein and misfolded prion proteins (scrapie isoform of the prion protein) and testing their ability to trigger clearance of infectious prion proteins in-vitro in-cell cultures. This work will provide proof-of-principle for the feasibility of new immunotherapeutic approaches for prion disease.

When physics strengthens chemistry: Designing molecular junctions with novel electronic functions

The project combines expertise in theory, experiments, and commercial applications in molecular electronics, which represents a new class of electronic components with distinct characteristics from conventional semiconductors. The key objective of the collaboration is "rational design" of molecular electronic devices with behaviours and functions difficult or impossible with existing electronics.

Nanofluidics to study emulsion stability

Emulsions pose serious engineering challenges in the petroleum industry. Crude oils always contain some water, most of which is in form of large droplets that can be easily removed. The primary objective of this project is to observe and monitor in real time the process of asphaltene aggregation and the consequent changes of the thin film rheology at the length scales of in-situ water-in-crude oil emulsions.

Hybrid optical and electron spectroscopy of diamond for nanophotonic extreme-ultraviolet radiation sources

The project researchers are investigating physics that may lead to extreme-ultraviolet coherent light sources (EUV). They use momentum-resolved electron energy spectroscopy in a transmission electron microscope to understand materials properties that are essential for fabrication of nanostructures needed for such EUV sources.

Graphene in all-new nanodevice technologies

The graphene in all-new nanodevice technologies (GIANNT) project will investigate graphene-based nanodevices augmented by plasmonics. In particular, the project goal is to find methods to integrate nanostructured plasmonic gratings or other nanoscale architectures directly onto nanoscale electronic structures (e.g., graphene field-effect transistors) to obtain new materials and devices that capitalize on the emerging and novel properties of graphene.

Nano-optomechanical devices for ultrasensitivity and quantum information

The epitome of modern chemical analysis is mass spectrometry. Imagine this analytical power lifted from the lab bench and placed in your hand, able to analyze your breath for disease, for example. Nano-optomechanical devices could enable this vision, once they reach ambient sensing at the level of a single Dalton (one atomic mass unit). To get there, the project researchers will leverage the ultrahigh power density of quantum-enabling-diamond nano-optomechanical systems while exploiting an incredible recent discovery that sensitivity improves with higher damping.

Adaptive self-assembled materials for manipulating mast cells

Mast cells play a distinct and central role in the innate immune response and are characterized by their rapid release of a myriad of proinflammatory mediators in response to stimulation. Previously, the project researchers showed that a self-assembling peptide matrix could be used to activate human mast cells in skin in vivo through direct contact. In this next phase, they will design a smart material that will respond to mast cell activation by releasing mast cell modifying drugs in a controlled manner. In this way, they will create a material that communicates with and responds to immune cells in a site-specific and chronological manner.

In-operando characterization of nanostructured energy storage materials

Nanostructured electrodes are critical to improved electrical energy storage but are challenging to characterize. Here, researchers build on existing strengths at the NRC and the University of Alberta by developing and integrating a suite of in-situ characterization tools and then measuring, correlating, and explaining changes in nanomaterial properties during device performance. The project's aim is to identify and isolate technique (preparation and measurement)-dependent properties from fundamental material properties in support of in-silico research and commercial development of energy storage technologies.

Organic and hybrid photovoltaics: Computation- and machine learning-driven discovery and optimization

Organic and hybrid perovskite solar cells are of enormous interest due to the high potential for low-cost manufacturing of these devices. Both families of devices have great promise for solar cell applications, but face challenges related to materials choice and optimization, longevity, scale-up, processing, and device integration. In this project, researchers combine machine learning and the predictive power of the suite of modern computational methods developed at the NRC with experimental design and device assembly to rapidly arrive at idealized photovoltaic architectures and compositions that can be promptly synthesized and tested.

Plans for round 2 of the Nanotechnology Initiative

The Nanotechnology Initiative is entering a second phase (round 2), where we will look for collaborations in areas that align with the University of Alberta's research focus and connect with the NRC's nanotechnology strategy in 3 broad supporting areas:

  • Biomedical nanotechnologies
  • Detection and automations (especially nanosensors)
  • Developmental and analytical microscopy

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