California Institute of Technology

Kavli Nanoscience Institute

Kavli Nanoscience InstituteThe Kavli Nanoscience Institute at the California Institute of Technology (KNI) transcends traditional disciplines and works at the frontiers of science and engineering. Building on Caltech’s history as a pioneering institution in research at the nanoscale, KNI studies the potential application of nanoscience to fields such as biotechnology and photonics. In all its areas of focus, it looks beyond individual nanoscale structures and devices toward the goal of integrating them into nanosystems.

Co-led by Nai-Chang Yeh and Oskar Painter, KNI conducts research in three broad categories:

  • Nanobiotechnology. This field unites state-of-the-art engineered nanodevices with the evolved “machinery” of living systems. KNI is exploring the potential of extremely small-scale technology to analyze biological processes such as gene and protein expression. It also focuses on systems biology, the study of the enormously complex biochemical networks underlying all life. It is developing tools to help scientists observe and understand the processes of these networks in real time, at the level of individual cells.
  • Nanophotonics. As the technology of light-based communication advances into ever-smaller realms, KNI is at the forefront with its research into nanoscale photonic structures and devices. Of particular interest are new “mesophotonic” materials and photonic crystals. Engineered at scales down to a wavelength of light, such nanostructures offer the potential of chip-sized systems that will greatly boost the power of computers and telecommunications. KNI is using precise lithography and fabrication methods to develop early prototypes for these next-generation optical circuits.
  • Integration. The main thrust of nanoscience so far has been downward in scale -- toward discovering and exploiting the properties of individual devices and structures. But KNI believes that this discrete nanotechnology will not reach its full potential without large-scale integration. The institute aims to developing a new tools and techniques, not commonly found in a university research setting, to advance the new science of nanosystems.

KNI faculty roster includes more than two dozen Caltech scientists representing a wide range of disciplines, from biology and physics to mathematics, chemical engineering and computation and neural systems. The Institute sponsors workshops, post-doctoral fellowships, and holds frequent colloquia that feature distinguished visiting scientists. A new state-of the-art nano fabrication facility for the KNI is being built in Steele Laboratory with generous support from the Moore Foundation. In addition, a Microfludic Foundry provides multilayer soft lithography (MSL) fabrication services for the academic community, both inside and outside Caltech.

Additional Institute Resources / Information

3-D rendering
KNI Website

Men in lab
Up Close and Individual: single-cell analysis on
a chip