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Explorations in Science and Technology

Working Small, Thinking Big


The prefix nano signifies a billionth: A billionth of a second is a nanosecond, a billionth of a meter is a nanometer. At Pitt, researchers are revolutionizing science through nanotechnology.  

In chemistry, professor Alexander Star turns nanotubes (cylindrical carbon molecules) into chemical and biological sensors. His research group recently used tubes with diameters 100,000 times smaller than a human hair to develop a sensor that can warn asthma sufferers of an impending attack.

Physics professor Jeremy Levy and Hrvoje Petek, chemistry professor and codirector of Pitt’s Petersen Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering (PINSE), work at the intersection of nanoscience and computing. Levy recently received a grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research to develop a transistor roughly 1,000 times smaller than those in today’s computers. Petek works to make computer processors faster and more energy efficient by combining conventional electronics with light.

Engineering professor Di Gao's research is particularly important for drivers in northern climates as he investigates how nanoparticles can prevent ice buildup on road surfaces as well as on airplane wings and power lines.