Nanotechnology Initiative

UAlberta/National Research Council collaboration

UAlberta and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) have a long standing nanotechnology research partnership. In 2017, our collaboration was renewed and renamed the NRC/UAlberta Nanotechnology Initiative. The collaboration is a unique nanotech hub designed to expand Canadian nanotechnology capacity and foster breakthrough research. The collaboration includes a $10M investment over 3 years for 9 projects aligned with such NRC strategic priorities. Projects re listed below. NRC's Nanotechnology Research Centre is located on UAlberta's main campus.

Current projects

  1. 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 to targeting prions. They will test this 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.
  2. When physics strengthen 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.
  3. 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. This project's primary objective is real-time observation and monitoring the asphaltene aggregation process and the consequent changes of the thin film rheology at the length scales of in-situ water-in-crude oil emulsions.
  4. Hybrid optical and electron spectroscopy of diamond for nanophotonic extreme-ultraviolet radiation sources: The project will investigate 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.
  5. Graphene in all-new nanodevice technologies (GIANNT): This 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.