Insect wingA new material replicates the exceptional strength, toughness and versatility of one of nature's more extraordinary substances -- insect cuticle -- and could replace plastics in consumer products or  medical devices. (Credit: Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University)

Bionanoscience is the study of life and biology at the nanoscale level. From the production of proteins and cell division to photosynthesis and metabolism, the basic processes life all involve interactions at the cellular and molecular level. In many cases, at the nanoscale level, these interactions are more than just one chemical bonding with another. Instead, they are also mechanical, as when proteins migrate to the center of a cell and begin to constrict until they have divided the cell in half. To split open a strand of DNA, other proteins will “walk” down the length of the molecule, breaking chemical bonds until they come to a molecular roadblock that stops the process. At the nanoscale level, molecules may also interact directly with different types of energy. The microbe Sporomusa ovata, for example, absorbs electrons, while chlorophyll uses sunlight to produce electrons that it then transports to other parts of the plant for photosynthesis. A deeper understanding of how life functions at the nanoscale is enabling researchers to create new materials, machines and substances that can be to treat disease or protect the environment.

The Chemistry of Nature, Reimagined

Jan 05, 2017
MOFs and COFs

Nature uses complex molecules to perform miraculous feats, such as turning sunlight into sugars. A new class of crystals is making that kind of complexity accessible to humans. Three nanoscientists—Omar Yaghi, Joseph Hupp and Thomas Bein—discuss their truly transformational way of doing chemistry.

DNA Origami: Twisting the Basis of Life in New Directions

Jun 15, 2016
DNA-based smiley faces

A new generation of researchers is re-imagining DNA as a building block rather than the carrier of our genetic code. They call it DNA origami. In a roundtable discussion, Shawn Douglas, Paul Rothemund and William Shih discuss how they are using DNA to better understand proteins, craft new medicines, and even perform computations.

The Future of Nanoscience: Three Kavli Nanoscience Institute Directors Forecast the Field’s Future

Jan 09, 2015

The directors of three Kavli nanoscience institutes – Paul Alivisatos, Paul McEuen, and Nai-Chang Yeh – discuss what makes the nanoscale so important, the field’s grand challenges, safety challenges, and their thoughts on funding, training and the future.

North to the Future: The Merging of Bio and Nano

Apr 17, 2012

Seventeen prominent researchers gathered in Ilulissat, Greenland — a town where dogsleds are common and townspeople sail in a fjord filled with enormous icebergs — to discuss what would happen as nanoscience and biology blended together at the level of cells and molecules. 

Joanna Aizenberg Talks "Extreme Biomimetics" at TEDxBigApple

Mar 06, 2012

A TEDxBigApple video presentation of KIBST Co-Director Joanna Aizenberg, describing the full breadth of her bio-inspired research, which draws on the genius of nature to create the materials of the future.

Beyond Darwin: Ways to Evolve New Functions

Jun 02, 2011

At a recent Kavli Futures Symposium, nineteen experts from a diverse range of fields discussed the promise of using the lab to understand and exploit the evolution of organisms -- an advance that may one day be used to develop new vaccines or other biotechnology products.

Scaling Up: The Future of Nanoscience

Dec 16, 2010

In advance of the Kavli Futures Symposium, “Plenty of Room in the Middle: Nanoscience – The Next 50 Years,” four participants and extraordinary researchers -- David Awschalom, Angela Belcher, Don Eigler and Michael Roukes -- join in a roundtable discussion.


The Power of Protein Macinery

Oct 29, 2008

Nanoscience examines some of nature’s most remarkable engineering and nowhere is this engineering more exquisite than in the cell, where thousands of proteins work as tiny motors to power the processes of life. 

Nanoscience Made Easy

Apr 14, 2008

The advance of engineering at extremely small scales has led to marvels of manufacturing, producing tiny transistors and circuits so close-packed that palm-sized devices now have the computing power and memory once held by room-sized machines. 

Frontiers in Nanoscience

Jun 25, 2007
The molecular abacus. (Courtesy of Jim Gimzewski, University of California at Los Angeles)

In the 21st century, scientists will not only use molecules as building blocks for creating vital new technologies, but possibly as the basis for creating synthetic life.

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