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.

What Kind of Artificial Life is in our Future?

Schematic of a synthetic cell and its elements
Apr 05, 2019

Scientists are radically reengineering simple organisms and attempting to build new cells from scratch. What they are learning could revolutionize our relationship with the natural world. In this spotlight, The Kavli Foundation spoke to three pacesetters in this rapidly emerging field of artificial life: Jef Boeke, Marileen Dogterom and Pamela Silver.

2018 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience: A Conversation with Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna and Virginijus Šikšnys

CRISPR-alters the pattern on butterfly wings
Sep 10, 2018

The 2018 Kavli Prize laureates discuss the rapid rise of the CRISPR gene-editing technology and the impact of rewriting the genome on medicine, agriculture and our fundamental understanding of life.

Meet KIND's New Director: Chirlmin Joo

Chirlmin Joo
Aug 30, 2018

After eight extraordinary productive years, Cees Dekker will transfer the Directorship of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft (KIND) to his younger colleague Chirlmin Joo. Who is Dr. Joo?

The Chemistry of Nature, Reimagined

MOFs and COFs
Jan 05, 2017

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

DNA-based smiley faces
Jun 15, 2016

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.



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