Nanoscience and technology articles within Nature Communications

  • Article |

    Imaging and tracking the motion of single molecules on cell plasma membranes requires high spatial resolution in three dimensions. Honget al. develop a plasmonic ruler based on the fluorescence enhancement of carbon nanotubes on a gold plasmonic substrate, allowing the observation of nanotube endocytosis in three dimensions.

    • Guosong Hong
    • , Justin Z. Wu
    •  & Hongjie Dai
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Multicompartment micelles can be assembled from block copolymers but it is difficult to manipulate their hierarchical superstructures using straightforward concepts. Here, methods are developed that involve the pre-assembly of subunits for the structurally controlled production of micelles.

    • André H. Gröschel
    • , Felix H. Schacher
    •  & Axel H.E. Müller
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Minimising reflection from the interface between materials is an important goal for optical devices such as solar cells or photodetectors. Spinelliet al. show almost total loss of reflection over a broad spectral range from a silicon surface using periodic arrays of sub-wavelength silicon nanocylinders.

    • P. Spinelli
    • , M.A. Verschuuren
    •  & A. Polman
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Graphene's broad bandwidth makes it promising as a photodetector, but common electronics cannot analyse the currents at high frequencies. Here, using photocurrent measurements, laser-induced carrier generation effects in freely suspended graphene and at graphene–metal interfaces are clarified up to 1 THz.

    • Leonhard Prechtel
    • , Li Song
    •  & Alexander W. Holleitner
  • Article |

    A dual-contrast agent has been developed for combined ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging. This agent uses vaporization for ultrasound contrast enhancement and photoacoustic signal generation, providing significantly higher signals than thermal expansion, the most commonly used photoacoustic mechanism.

    • Katheryne Wilson
    • , Kimberly Homan
    •  & Stanislav Emelianov
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Fluctuations of the electrical current in nanoscale devices reveal important details of the physical processes occurring inside them. Using a quantum point contact placed in its vicinity, Ubbelohde et al. measure the electrical fluctuations in a single-electron transistor, and determine the dynamical features of the transport.

    • Niels Ubbelohde
    • , Christian Fricke
    •  & Rolf J. Haug
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Studying carrier multiplication in materials is important to understand their transport properties and interaction with light. Hiroriet al. show that intense terahertz pulses can generate electron-hole pairs in GaAs quantum wells that then emit infrared light, contrary to the effect with a DC field.

    • H. Hirori
    • , K. Shinokita
    •  & K. Tanaka
  • Article |

    Ferroelectric materials are characterized by a spontaneous polarization, which in practical applications is manipulated by an electric field. This study examines how defects affect the switching with atomic resolution, by usingin situaberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy.

    • Peng Gao
    • , Christopher T. Nelson
    •  & Xiaoqing Pan
  • Article |

    The unique band structure of topological insulators gives rise to insulating bulk and unusual metallic surface properties. By tuning the content of Sb in the ternary compound (Bi1–xSbx)2Te3, Wang and collaborators show it is possible to control the precise features of the band structure in a continuous fashion.

    • Jinsong Zhang
    • , Cui-Zu Chang
    •  & Yayu Wang
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Quantum objects are subject to decoherence effects due to the surrounding environment. This study demonstrates experimentally a counterintuitive example of anomalous decoherence, in which electron spins residing at nitrogen vacancy centres in diamond display longer coherence times under stronger noises.

    • Pu Huang
    • , Xi Kong
    •  & Jiangfeng Du
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Chiral liquid crystals of two-dimensional colloids have not been extensively investigated. Xu and Gao show that graphene oxide can form chiral liquid crystals, and demonstrate that they can be spun into macroscopic fibres, and that subsequent chemical reduction provides graphene fibres with high conductivity.

    • Zhen Xu
    •  & Chao Gao
  • Article |

    Among the wide range of potential applications of graphene, photodetection is believed to be among the most promising. By combining graphene with plasmonic nanostructures, Duan and colleagues observe dramatic improvements in the efficiency and spectral sensitivity of graphene-based photodetectors.

    • Yuan Liu
    • , Rui Cheng
    •  & Xiangfeng Duan
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Topological insulators are a unique class of materials characterized by exotic metallic states at their surface, while remaining insulated in the bulk. Sacépéet al. show how to manipulate normal and superconducting electronic transport at the surface of the topological insulator Bi2Se3, by tuning a gate-voltage to vary the electronic density.

    • Benjamin Sacépé
    • , Jeroen B. Oostinga
    •  & Alberto F. Morpurgo
  • Article |

    X-ray ptychography has been used to extend the field of view in high-resolution quantitative imaging. Godardet al. develop Bragg-mode ptychography to reconstruct, in three dimensions, a crystalline specimen that is too large to be studied as a single object with a coherence-limited X-ray beam.

    • P. Godard
    • , G. Carbone
    •  & V. Chamard
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The propagation of magnetic domain walls in nanowires offers promise as the basis of future memory storage technologies. Muñoz and Prieto show that the random pinning of domain walls to structural defects in the nanowires can be suppressed at low fields, thus improving the reliability of the transmission of the domain walls substantially.

    • Manuel Muñoz
    •  & José L. Prieto
  • Article |

    The controllable modification of graphene by chemical functionalization can modulate its optical and electronic properties. Sunet al. devise a functionalisation-based method to pattern graphane/graphene superlattices within a single sheet of graphene.

    • Zhengzong Sun
    • , Cary L. Pint
    •  & James M. Tour
  • Article |

    Charge density waves in the structure and electron density of layered materials are closely linked to superconductivity. Using scanning tunnelling techniques, Rahnejatet al. demonstrate the occurrence of such waves in the doped graphene sheets of the superconductor CaC6.

    • K.C. Rahnejat
    • , C.A. Howard
    •  & M. Ellerby
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Tunnelling transitions triggered by microwave irradiation between coupled quantum dots have generally been assumed to be spin-conserving. This study shows that this condition is violated in the presence of spin–orbit coupling, thus opening new possibilities for manipulating a two–spin qubit system by microwave irradiation.

    • L.R. Schreiber
    • , F.R. Braakman
    •  & L.M.K. Vandersypen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    External electric fields have been used to control the motion of small objects through electrostatic repulsion. Here, electric fields are used to polarize conducting objects, triggering their movement by spatially separated electrochemical reactions leading to directionally controlled bubble evolution.

    • Gabriel Loget
    •  & Alexander Kuhn
  • Article |

    DNA nanotubes could be used to transport nano-cargo and incorporated into nano-devices. In this study, rolling circle amplification is used to generate DNA subunits, and their thermodynamic growth results in the formation of nanotubes with a controlled diameter.

    • Ofer I. Wilner
    • , Ron Orbach
    •  & Itamar Willner
  • Article |

    The miniaturization of optical devices is crucial for their on-chip integration with a variety of technological applications. Here, Liuet al. present an ultracompact beam splitter to control the direction of light through the generation of surface plasmon polaritons.

    • John S.Q. Liu
    • , Ragip A. Pala
    •  & Mark L. Brongersma
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Controlling the magnetic properties of nanoparticles is important to enable their widespread use in applications. Antoniaket al. combine X-ray absorption spectroscopy and density functional theory calculations to uncover the origin of these properties in order to appropriately tailor nanoparticle design.

    • Carolin Antoniak
    • , Markus E. Gruner
    •  & Heiko Wende
  • Article |

    Graphene may be used in nanoscale electronics and devices, but the ability to synthesise uniform graphene with well-controlled layer numbers is necessary for these applications. Using a Ni–Mo alloy, this study demonstrates single-layer graphene growth with 100% surface coverage and tolerance to variations in growth conditions.

    • Boya Dai
    • , Lei Fu
    •  & Zhongfan Liu
  • Article |

    Nanofluidic diodes are utilized for the rectification of ionic transport, but their rectifying properties cannot be altered after the devices are made. Here, a field-effect reconfigurable nanofluidic diode is reported in which the forward direction and the degree of rectification can be modulated by a gate voltage.

    • Weihua Guan
    • , Rong Fan
    •  & Mark A. Reed
  • Article |

    The ability to control the charge and spin of single molecules at metal interfaces underpins the concept of molecular electronics. Mugarzaet al. examine these properties using scanning tunnelling microscopy, and uncover their influence on the magnetism and transport properties of the molecule/metal systems.

    • Aitor Mugarza
    • , Cornelius Krull
    •  & Pietro Gambardella
  • Article |

    Simple routes to self-assembling magnetic materials are elusive. Tew and colleagues produce copolymers containing cobalt complexes, which phase separate to give ferromagnetic properties at room temperature following heat treatment.

    • Zoha M. AL-Badri
    • , Raghavendra R. Maddikeri
    •  & Gregory N. Tew
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Nanocrystals are used in light-emitting diodes and solar cells, but their charge transport in films is unclear. Here, the study of PbS nanocrystal films reveals the role of mid-gap states in their charge transport, suggesting different design needs for devices operated in dark (transistors) versus light (solar cells) conditions.

    • Prashant Nagpal
    •  & Victor I. Klimov
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Plasmon resonances occur as collective excitations of surface electrons in noble metal nanoparticles. This study presents a new way of manipulating their behaviour by creating bimetallic dimers which, as a result of their asymmetric composition, give rise to unusual optical properties.

    • Timur Shegai
    • , Si Chen
    •  & Mikael Käll
  • Article |

    Quasi-three-dimensional plasmonic crystals have potential uses in miniaturized photonics. In this study, a method is described to enhance plasmonic resonance in the crystals by coupling them to optical modes of Fabry–Perot type cavities, with possible applications in photonic and sensor components.

    • Debashis Chanda
    • , Kazuki Shigeta
    •  & John A. Rogers
  • Article |

    The manipulation of electrons forms the basis of modern technology, whereas electrical signalling processes in nature are based on ions and protons. Rolandi and colleagues present a proton transistor based on polysaccharide nanofibres, which can control the flow of protonic currents.

    • Chao Zhong
    • , Yingxin Deng
    •  & Marco Rolandi
  • Article |

    Plasmonic nanostructures can be used to manipulate objects larger than the wavelength of light but create thermal heating. In this work, the trapping and controlled rotation of nanoparticles is demonstrated using a plasmonic nanotweezer with a heat sink, predicting a reduction in heating compared with previous designs.

    • Kai Wang
    • , Ethan Schonbrun
    •  & Kenneth B. Crozier
  • Article |

    Protein microarrays are useful both in basic research and also in disease monitoring and diagnosis, but their dynamic range is limited. By using plasmonic gold substrates with near-infrared fluorescent enhancement, Tabakman et al. demonstrate a multiplexed protein array with improved detection limits and dynamic range.

    • Scott M. Tabakman
    • , Lana Lau
    •  & Hongjie Dai
  • Article |

    Hydrogels have a variety of applications including tissue engineering and controlled drug delivery. Here, liquid-crystal hydrogels are developed which transform into a fluid solution upon cooling; cells can be encapsulated in the gel at room temperature, then released at physiological temperatures.

    • Zhegang Huang
    • , Hyojin Lee
    •  & Myongsoo Lee
  • Article |

    Property coupling by heteroepitaxy is severely limited in material combinations with highly dissimilar bonding. This report presents a chemical boundary condition methodology to actively engineer two-dimensional film growth in such systems that otherwise collapse into island formation and rough morphologies.

    • Elizabeth A. Paisley
    • , Mark. D. Losego
    •  & Jon-Paul Maria
  • Article |

    Photodetection is believed to be among the most promising potential applications for graphene. Here, by combining graphene with plasmonic nanostructures, the efficiency of graphene-based photodetectors is increased by up to two orders of magnitude.

    • T.J. Echtermeyer
    • , L. Britnell
    •  & K.S. Novoselov
  • Article
    | Open Access

    High-power mechanical energy harvesting could be an alternative to batteries, but efficient energy conversion technology has been missing. Here, a novel mechanical-to-electrical energy conversion method is described that is based on reverse electrowetting and is uniquely suited for high-power energy harvesting.

    • Tom Krupenkin
    •  & J. Ashley Taylor
  • Article |

    Composites of carbon nanotubes and superconductors provide technologically important new, or improved, functionalities. Here, with a chemical solution approach, well-aligned carbon nanotube forests embedded in a superconducting NbC matrix are shown to effectively enhance the superconducting properties of NbC.

    • G.F. Zou
    • , H.M. Luo
    •  & Q.X. Jia
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Being able to determine the wetting properties of individual nanoparticles would aid the preparation of particles with controlled surface properties. Isaet al. develop an in situ freeze-fracture shadow-casting method and use this to determine structural and thermodynamic properties of various 10 nm particles at fluid interfaces.

    • Lucio Isa
    • , Falk Lucas
    •  & Erik Reimhult
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Chemical manipulation of fullerenes has allowed the production of heptagon-containing fullerenes, but they have not been synthesised using bottom-up approaches. Here, a heptagon-containing fullerene[68] is obtained as C68Cl6from a carbon arc plasma.

    • Yuan-Zhi Tan
    • , Rui-Ting Chen
    •  & Lan-Sun Zheng