Review Articles

  • Review Article |

    Nanoplasmonics have emerged as a promising technology for applications in life sciences and medicine. In this Review, we discuss the application of nanoplasmonic optical antennas for in vivo intracellular exploration, photonic gene delivery and regulation, and in vitro molecular diagnostics.

    • Hongbao Xin
    • , Bumseok Namgung
    •  & Luke P. Lee
  • Review Article |

    The stress that a material can sustain before fracture increases as the sample size decreases. This size effect is associated with the defects present in a material. In this Review, we explore this size effect in micro- and nanoscale materials from experimental and theoretical perspectives.

    • Alessandro Taloni
    • , Michele Vodret
    • , Giulio Costantini
    •  & Stefano Zapperi
  • Review Article |

    Point defects have a key role in determining the performance of photovoltaic materials. In this Review, we assess defect processes in a range of photovoltaic materials and outline how point defect engineering could be used to improve the efficiency of solar cells.

    • Ji Sang Park
    • , Sunghyun Kim
    • , Zijuan Xie
    •  & Aron Walsh
  • Review Article |

    Endogenous stem cells play a key role in the repair and remodelling of tissues and organs in the body. This Review discusses endogenous stem cell populations of different tissues and investigates regeneration approaches in combination with natural and synthetic biomaterials.

    • Huimin Xia
    • , Xin Li
    • , Weiwei Gao
    • , Xin Fu
    • , Ronnie H. Fang
    • , Liangfang Zhang
    •  & Kang Zhang
  • Review Article |

    In quantum materials, ultrashort light pulses can induce transitions between electronic phases, switch ferroic orders and unveil non-equilibrium emergent behaviours. Here, we review the use of femtosecond X-ray pulses in tracking the underlying dynamics of the structural, electronic and magnetic order in these systems.

    • Michele Buzzi
    • , Michael Först
    • , Roman Mankowsky
    •  & Andrea Cavalleri
  • Review Article |

    The extracellular matrix is nature’s template for an ideal biomaterial to guide tissue homeostasis and repair. In this Review, matrix-mimicking biomaterials and decellularized matrices are discussed for their potential to reconstruct and repair tissues in vitro and in vivo.

    • George S. Hussey
    • , Jenna L. Dziki
    •  & Stephen F. Badylak
  • Review Article |

    Soft robots have broad applications in medicine. In this Review, biomedical applications, including surgery, drug delivery, prostheses, wearable devices and artificial organs, are discussed in the context of materials, actuation strategies and challenges.

    • Matteo Cianchetti
    • , Cecilia Laschi
    • , Arianna Menciassi
    •  & Paolo Dario
  • Review Article |

    Hydrogel ionotronics employ hydrogels as stretchable, transparent, ionic conductors for the development of ionotronic devices, such as artificial muscles, skins and axons. This Review discusses the mechanical properties and chemistry of materials for hydrogel ionotronic devices and highlights possible applications.

    • Canhui Yang
    •  & Zhigang Suo
  • Review Article |

    Microrobots are envisioned to revolutionize microsurgery and targeted drug delivery. Their design, operation, locomotion and interaction with the environment are inspired by microorganisms. This Review highlights soft, responsive and active materials for the development of (semi-)autonomous microrobots.

    • Stefano Palagi
    •  & Peer Fischer
  • Review Article |

    Inspired by biological systems, engineers are exploring origami folding with smart material actuation to enable intrinsically actuated designs with complex functionalities and easy fabrication. This Review highlights recent advances in the design, fabrication and control of these origami robots.

    • Daniela Rus
    •  & Michael T. Tolley
  • Review Article |

    3D printing can be used to directly fabricate soft robots. This Review discusses advances in 3D printing technologies and soft materials for the fabrication of soft robotic systems with sophisticated capabilities, such as 3D movement and responsiveness to the environment.

    • T. J. Wallin
    • , J. Pikul
    •  & R. F. Shepherd
  • Review Article |

    Realizing topological superconductivity and Majorana zero modes in the laboratory is a major goal in condensed-matter physics. In this Review, the rapidly developing field is surveyed, with a focus on the realization of topological superconductivity in semiconductor–superconductor heterostructures.

    • R. M. Lutchyn
    • , E. P. A. M. Bakkers
    • , L. P. Kouwenhoven
    • , P. Krogstrup
    • , C. M. Marcus
    •  & Y. Oreg
  • Review Article |

    Atom-like quantum emitters in solids have emerged as promising building blocks for quantum information processing. In this Review, recent advances in three leading material platforms—diamond, silicon carbide and atomically thin semiconductors—are summarized, with a focus on applications in quantum networks

    • Mete Atatüre
    • , Dirk Englund
    • , Nick Vamivakas
    • , Sang-Yun Lee
    •  & Joerg Wrachtrup
  • Review Article |

    Biofabrication can be applied to replicate tissues and organs for regenerative medicine and for the creation of 3D in vitro tissue models. In this Review, the recent advances in biomaterials and biofabrication technologies are discussed, and challenges and opportunities are highlighted.

    • Lorenzo Moroni
    • , Jason A. Burdick
    • , Christopher Highley
    • , Sang Jin Lee
    • , Yuya Morimoto
    • , Shoji Takeuchi
    •  & James J. Yoo
  • Review Article |

    Thermally activated delayed fluorescence (TADF) emitters are promising electroluminescent materials for next-generation organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). In this Review, the molecular design, photophysical characteristics and OLEDs composed of small-molecule, dendritic and polymeric TADF emitters are discussed.

    • Yuchao Liu
    • , Chensen Li
    • , Zhongjie Ren
    • , Shouke Yan
    •  & Martin R. Bryce
  • Review Article |

    Nanofibrils are abundant and critical structural components in nature that can be exploited for novel and sustainable materials. In this Review, hierarchical design strategies for cellulose, silk and chitin nanofibrils in nature and in materials engineering are discussed.

    • Shengjie Ling
    • , David L. Kaplan
    •  & Markus J. Buehler
  • Review Article |

    Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) have emerged as a revolutionary class of photovoltaic technology. Here, we review recent progress and challenges in scaling up PSCs towards commercialization. We discuss several areas, including device architectures, deposition methods, scalable deposition of perovskite and charge transport layers, device stability, module-level characterization and techno-economic analyses.

    • Zhen Li
    • , Talysa R. Klein
    • , Dong Hoe Kim
    • , Mengjin Yang
    • , Joseph J. Berry
    • , Maikel F. A. M. van Hest
    •  & Kai Zhu
  • Review Article |

    Carbon nanomaterials have greatly advanced non-volatile memory technology. In this Review, applications of various carbon nanomaterials as memory electrodes, interfacial engineering layers, memory selectors and resistive-switching media are discussed in the context of emerging non-volatile memory devices.

    • Ethan C. Ahn
    • , H.-S. Philip Wong
    •  & Eric Pop
  • Review Article |

    Experimental and computational studies reveal numerous aspects of the molecular and hierarchical structure of spider silk and of its molecular dynamics. In this Review, we discuss the structure–function relationships of spider silk that can be elucidated from these studies and how this knowledge may enable the reverse engineering of spider silk.

    • Jeffery L. Yarger
    • , Brian R. Cherry
    •  & Arjan van der Vaart
  • Review Article |

    Non-fullerene acceptors have been widely used in organic solar cells over the past 3 years. This Review focuses on the two most promising classes of non-fullerene acceptors — rylene diimide-based materials and fused-ring electron acceptors — and discusses structure–property relationships, donor– acceptor matching criteria and device physics, as well as future research directions for the field.

    • Cenqi Yan
    • , Stephen Barlow
    • , Zhaohui Wang
    • , He Yan
    • , Alex K.-Y. Jen
    • , Seth R. Marder
    •  & Xiaowei Zhan
  • Review Article |

    Material engineering offers the possibility to guide the fate of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). This Review highlights integrin–growth factor receptor crosstalk mechanisms in MSC growth and differentiation, and material design strategies to trigger the synergistic signalling of integrins and growth factor receptors.

    • Matthew J. Dalby
    • , Andrés J. García
    •  & Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez
  • Review Article |

    Epitaxial hybrid nanostructures can show different functionalities and superior performance in applications from those of the individual components. This Review discusses the methods of preparation and techniques for characterization of epitaxial hybrid nanostructures with various architectures, and examines the role of epitaxial growth in influencing the properties and application performance of hybrid nanostructures.

    • Chaoliang Tan
    • , Junze Chen
    • , Xue-Jun Wu
    •  & Hua Zhang
  • Review Article |

    Light can initiate chemistries with high spatial and temporal control. In this Review, photoresponsive biomaterials developed for controlled drug delivery and complex tissue engineering are investigated with a focus on photochemistries that provide dynamic precision.

    • Emily R. Ruskowitz
    •  & Cole A. DeForest
  • Review Article |

    Organic electrochemical transistors (OECTs) function as a result of ion injection from electrolytes into organic semiconductors. In this Review, the authors discuss OECT physics, organic materials and fabrication technologies, and the application of OECTs in circuits, bioelectronics and memory devices.

    • Jonathan Rivnay
    • , Sahika Inal
    • , Alberto Salleo
    • , Róisín M. Owens
    • , Magnus Berggren
    •  & George G. Malliaras
  • Review Article |

    The spin of the nitrogen-vacancy (NV) defect in diamond acts as a sensitive, atomic-sized magnetic field sensor that provides nanoscale access to the properties of condensed matter systems. This Review introduces NV magnetometry and discusses its application to the exploration of static and dynamic magnetism and electric current distributions.

    • Francesco Casola
    • , Toeno van der Sar
    •  & Amir Yacoby
  • Review Article |

    Mechanical forces and electrical fields are crucial for cellular signalling and can be both inducers and indicators of disease. This Review highlights advances in nanoscale, in vivo, optical probes, discussing spatial and temporal resolution, stability and stimuli sensitivity in bioimaging.

    • Randy D. Mehlenbacher
    • , Rea Kolbl
    • , Alice Lay
    •  & Jennifer A. Dionne
  • Review Article |

    Designer materials and advanced fabrication technologies are transforming architecture, so that architects, engineers and materials scientists now work side by side to develop innovative architectural solutions. This Review follows these developments for different materials, in particular wood, ceramics, metals, concrete, glass, synthetic composites and polymers.

    • Martin Bechthold
    •  & James C. Weaver
  • Review Article |

    Nanomaterials derived from metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) show good performance in sensing, gas storage, catalysis and energy-related applications. In this Review, the influence of the morphology of MOF-derived nanostructures on their performance is elucidated, and the opportunities in this field are discussed.

    • Song Dang
    • , Qi-Long Zhu
    •  & Qiang Xu
  • Review Article |

    Advances in electronic devices have opened opportunities for extracting a variety of data from the human body, and for the treatment of diseases. In this Review, tissue properties affecting device integration are described and electronic systems interfacing with organs and engineered tissues are highlighted.

    • Ron Feiner
    •  & Tal Dvir
  • Review Article |

    The field of DNA nanotechnology takes the DNA molecule out of its biological context and uses its information to assemble structural motifs and connect these motifs together. In this Review, a historical account of the field and the approaches used to assemble DNA nanostructures are outlined, followed by a discussion of emerging applications.

    • Nadrian C. Seeman
    •  & Hanadi F. Sleiman
  • Review Article |

    Nanoscale semiconductor materials have large tolerance to lattice mismatches, which enables an almost arbitrary control of alloy composition and bandgap energy. In this Review, semiconductor alloy nanomaterials are examined, and their synthesis, properties and potential for applications — such as lasers, solid-state lighting and solar cells — are discussed.

    • Cun-Zheng Ning
    • , Letian Dou
    •  & Peidong Yang
  • Review Article |

    Mechanical metamaterials exhibit exotic properties that cannot be realized in conventional materials. In this Review, recently developed shape-morphing, topological and nonlinear metamaterials are discussed together with their functionalities and design principles, and future challenges for the field are outlined.

    • Katia Bertoldi
    • , Vincenzo Vitelli
    • , Johan Christensen
    •  & Martin van Hecke
  • Review Article |

    Coherent perfect absorbers (CPAs) are electromagnetic structures in which the absorption of electromagnetic energy is assisted by the interference of incident waves. This Review summarizes the fundamental principles, implementations and promising applications of CPAs for the linear control of light with light.

    • Denis G. Baranov
    • , Alex Krasnok
    • , Timur Shegai
    • , Andrea Alù
    •  & Yidong Chong
  • Review Article |

    Singlet exciton fission is a carrier multiplication process in organic semiconductors that could be used to enhance the efficiency of conventional inorganic solar cells and break the Shockley–Queisser limit of single-junction photovoltaics. In this Review, recent progress in the field is assessed, highlighting the key results and identifying the crucial challenges ahead.

    • Akshay Rao
    •  & Richard H. Friend
  • Review Article |

    Tuning the surface strain in multimetallic nanomaterials represents an effective strategy to improve their electrocatalytic properties. In this Review, using the oxygen reduction reaction as a model, the underlying relationship between surface strain and catalytic activity is discussed, along with the introduction, tuning and quantification of strain in nanocatalysts.

    • Mingchuan Luo
    •  & Shaojun Guo
  • Review Article |

    Picoscale engineering of bonds is a powerful method to tune materials properties. Transcending nanoscience, picoscience offers the ultimate length scale to manipulate materials through subtle bond distortions between individual atoms, as this Review discusses through several examples ranging from perovskites to superconductors and to topological materials.

    • Sohrab Ismail-Beigi
    • , Frederick J. Walker
    • , Ankit S. Disa
    • , Karin M. Rabe
    •  & Charles H. Ahn
  • Review Article |

    This Review summarizes recent advances in the field of mRNA therapeutics. The synthetic materials that encapsulate and deliver mRNA payloads are described, alongside an overview of commercial development of mRNA drugs.

    • Khalid A. Hajj
    •  & Kathryn A. Whitehead
  • Review Article |

    Tetradymite-type materials, such as Bi2Te3, have for decades been of interest as excellent thermoelectrics near ambient temperature and have recently enabled many seminal studies on topological insulators. In this Review, we discuss the recent progress in optimizing the properties of bulk and thin-film tetradymites for such studies.

    • Joseph P. Heremans
    • , Robert J. Cava
    •  & Nitin Samarth
  • Review Article |

    Inorganic oxide materials are used in semiconductor electronics, ion exchange, catalysis, coatings, gas sensors and as separation materials. In this Review, we explain how polyoxometalate clusters are amenable to molecular control and can be assembled into inorganic frameworks owing to the molecular nature of their building blocks.

    • Laia Vilà-Nadal
    •  & Leroy Cronin
  • Review Article |

    The discovery of new thermoelectric materials is challenging owing to the diversity of the chemical space and to the serial nature of experimental work. This Review highlights the recent progress in computationally guided discovery of thermoelectric materials and identifies the key outstanding challenges.

    • Prashun Gorai
    • , Vladan Stevanović
    •  & Eric S. Toberer
  • Review Article |

    Graphene and its macroscopic assemblies and composites are currently enabling a range of high-performance ‘smart’ materials that are responsive to various stimuli. In this Review, different graphene-based smart materials are described, along with their potential applications in actuators, chemical or strain sensors, self-healing materials, photothermal therapy and controlled drug delivery.

    • Xiaowen Yu
    • , Huhu Cheng
    • , Miao Zhang
    • , Yang Zhao
    • , Liangti Qu
    •  & Gaoquan Shi
  • Review Article |

    Overall water splitting using powdered photocatalysts is a promising approach to large-scale solar hydrogen production. This Review details recent developments in particulate photocatalysts for overall water splitting based on one- and two-step photoexcitation systems.

    • Shanshan Chen
    • , Tsuyoshi Takata
    •  & Kazunari Domen
  • Review Article |

    Low-bandgap (<1.6 eV) polymers enable polymer solar cells to form effective tandem structures for harvesting near-infrared solar energy as well as reducing thermal loss. This Review summarizes recent progress and provides a perspective on various low-bandgap polymer-containing tandem solar cells; namely, pure polymer–polymer tandem, hybrid polymer–amorphous silicon tandem and unconventional perovskite–polymer tandem solar cells.

    • Gang Li
    • , Wei-Hsuan Chang
    •  & Yang Yang
  • Review Article |

    This Review details the structural and chemical features of state-of-the-art metal–organic frameworks for their application in the entire carbon cycle of capturing, purifying and transforming CO2 into valuable products.

    • Christopher A. Trickett
    • , Aasif Helal
    • , Bassem A. Al-Maythalony
    • , Zain H. Yamani
    • , Kyle E. Cordova
    •  & Omar M. Yaghi
  • Review Article |

    The field of active matter studies how internally driven motile components self-organize into large-scale dynamical states and patterns. This Review discusses how active matter concepts are important for understanding cell biology, and how the use of biochemical components enables the creation of new inherently non-equilibrium materials with unique properties that have so far been mostly restricted to living organisms.

    • Daniel Needleman
    •  & Zvonimir Dogic
  • Review Article |

    Asymmetric chiroplasmonic structures comprising nanoparticles or nanorods can be assembled using DNA scaffolds by a range of methods. In this Review, these assembly methods, the chiroplasmonic properties of static and dynamically reconfigurable systems, theoretical modelling of the chiroplasmonic structures, their applications for sensing and information processing, and future perspectives are discussed.

    • Alessandro Cecconello
    • , Lucas V. Besteiro
    • , Alexander O. Govorov
    •  & Itamar Willner
  • Review Article |

    The discovery of nanoporous materials is now being propelled by the analysis of big data combined with traditional computational thermodynamics calculations. In this Review, we analyse the current state of the art, with a focus on the generation of computational databases and results from large-scale screening for gas separations.

    • Peter G. Boyd
    • , Yongjin Lee
    •  & Berend Smit
  • Review Article |

    Studying nature to reveal the mechanisms of special wetting phenomena in biological systems can effectively inspire the design and fabrication of functional interfacial materials with superwettability. In this Review, the historical development, new phenomena and emerging applications of superwettability systems are discussed.

    • Mingjie Liu
    • , Shutao Wang
    •  & Lei Jiang
  • Review Article |

    Magnetic skyrmions are topologically protected spin whirls that hold promise for applications because they can be controllably moved, created and annihilated. In this Review, the underlying physics of the stabilization of skyrmions at room temperature and their prospective use for spintronic applications are discussed.

    • Albert Fert
    • , Nicolas Reyren
    •  & Vincent Cros