RTNN Staff Selected as 2023 NNCI Award Winners

Our congratulations go out to Amar Kumbhar and Emily Moreno-Hernandez for winning national awards from the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) in these award categories: User Support (Kumbhar, T and Education and Outreach (Moreno-Hernandez).

Amar, currently a Research Associate in the Chapel Hill Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory (CHANL), he has provided exceptional technical support for 15 years. This support includes training and maintenance on SEM, TEM, FIB and AFM, as well as preparing samples for electron microscopy analysis. Despite being the only staff member in CHANL that manages these tools, Amar is able to provide exceptional services to a broad range of users. His broad knowledge of characterization techniques, material types, and specimen preparation techniques has enables him to interface with and provide exceptional support to a wide range of institutions and departments, thereby facilitating convergence in the RTNN. For instance, he has worked with 11 departments at UNC, including some unconventional departments such as anthropology, dentistry, geology, and dentistry. In the last four years, he has provided technical support to 16 other universities and 25 companies. In this time frame, he has supported 384 users, including 295 internal, 50 external academic, and 39 industry. In many cases, his support for users has led to co-authorship in research collaborations where he has used his expertise in electron microscopy techniques to study unique materials systems.

Emily is a Program Coordinator at Duke University’s Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility. Using her lived experience as a former science teacher, Emily has significantly enhanced our communication with and outreach to local schools. Emily’s exceptional leadership and contributions to the Duke and RTNN Outreach team over this past year has led to significant growth in the number of outreach activities and participating students, educators, and researchers. This past year Emily coordinated and participated in 62 outreach events that served over 3600 students and educators, including 26 group visits to the Duke SMIF facility, 24 visits of the SMIF Outreach team to regional schools, libraries and community centers, and 12 live virtual events. Emily manages and operates our portable SEM, used for both in-house demonstrations and off-site, to bring nanotechnology equipment directly to the public, particularly aimed at serving underrepresented, low income, and rural populations.

Keep up the good work!

Congratulations to our 2023 RTNN Image Contest Winners!

A big thank you to everyone who submitted an image in the 2023 RTNN Image Competition. We are excited to announce the winners. These images were submitted as part of the annual  NNCI Image Contest, There’s Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom

These images will be submitted to the next level to compete at the national level of submissions across all of the NNCI. Please make sure to go to the NNCI website and vote for your favorites! Voting closes October 17, 2023.

Vote here: https://nnci.net/plenty-beauty-bottom

Most Stunning

Perovskite Crop Circles
Alicia Bryan, UNC-Chapel Hill

Methylammonium lead iodide (MAPbI3) perovskite deposited on a mica substrate via chemical vapor deposition, demonstrating epitaxial rod-like structures and pyramidal crystallites. Image taken on FEI Helios 600 Nanolab Dual Beam System with a surface tilt of 45 degrees.


Most Whimsical

Giant Cabbage
Jack Almeter and James Loveless, NC State University

This image depicts an overhead view of an attempt to epitaxially coalesce AlGaN over GaN ridges. Coalescence was not complete, resulting in trenches reminiscent of furrowed farmland. Rogue nucleation has occurred at one point, perhaps due to contamination or an irregularity in the pattern. This large crystallite has an organic shape, here imagined as a giant cabbage worthy of the NC State Fair. A pair of farmers, taken from “Farmer with a Pitchfork” and “Song of the Lark” by 19th century American painter Winslow Homer, marvel at the vegetable in the foreground.

Most Unique Capability

A Witness of Evolution
Kyle Pan, Duke University

This plastic sheet, with its futuristic look, is now a living canvas of our soft morphing robots’ evolution. Its journey commenced as a mere glass cover sheet in the electron beam evaporation process, during the fabrication of our soft robot’s sensing functionalities. As the design progressed, we embraced an air-pocket design, and this sheet transformed into a photolithography mask, resulting in its various patterns on the sheet. Now, as we further improved in the soft robot fabrication, this resilient sheet stands as a laser-cut mask for oxidized liquid metal, capturing the essence of progress in our research.

Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom 2023 Image Contest

In honor of National Nanotechnology Day, the RTNN and NNCI are supporting the second annual “Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom” image contest. Do you have an image that you think could win most stunning, most unique, or most whimsical? If so, learn more and submit your image at the Image Contest Website. The deadline for image submission has been extended to September 1, 2023. Check out last year’s winners here.

Congratulations to our 2022 Image Contest Winners!

A big thank you to everyone who submitted an image in the 2021 Image Competition. We are excited to announce the winners. These images were submitted as part of the annual  NNCI Image Contest, There’s Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom

Most Stunning

Beautiful Mistake
Aaron Bell and Jin Nakashima, NC State University

This was a negative stain that went wrong (but “oh so right”). We’re guessing that there was something in the buffer that made the uranyl acetate precipitate into these amazing shapes. The specimen itself was unusable for scientific purposes but the images themselves were quite striking.

Most Whimsical

Tree Under Night Sky
Sreekiran Pillai, NC State University

Image captured from the edge of a glass slide coated with icephobic material. The ice grows on the uncoated edge and propagates away from the surface, in a shape of which is identical to pine forests.

Most Unique Capability

Sunlit Nanowires
Samuel Bottum, UNC Chapel-Hill

This image depicts a device fabricated to measure the photovoltaic properties of single multijunction silicon nanowires. This process involves making metal contacts (purple) to silicon nanowires (red) on a marker pattern (grey numbers), which are etched into the substrate. Each device holds ~20 nanowires with two contacts to each wire. The process to make this device involves many CHANL capabilities, including e-beam lithography, e-beam evaporation, DRIE, and SEM.

RTNN User Spotlight: Baiyu Zhang

About Baiyu: My name is Baiyu Zhang and I’m a 2nd-year Ph.D. student from the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University under advisement from Professor Aaron Franklin.  My research focuses on high-performance field-effect transistors using two-dimensional nanomaterials. Using nanomaterials to replace silicon as transistor channel material has shown a lot of promise, but progress is still limited by challenges related to the fabrication, performance, and reproducibility of devices. My current project studies the influence of different transistor geometries on the ultimate performance of the devices, including an effect know as contact scaling. During my free time, I enjoy reading, traveling, hiking, and cooking. I also like learning different languages and am often thrilled to find out the correlation between languages and cultures.

Testing a finished device using vacuum probe station in Franklin Lab.

What RTNN facilities or instruments are you using in your research, and how do they help you? I spend the majority of my lab time in the Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility (SMiF) at Duke. For fabricating nanoscale devices in my projects, I use electron-beam lithography, electron-beam evaporation, atomic layer deposition, reactive ion etching and so forth. Then I also use various analytical tools such as scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and Raman spectroscopy.


What about your research makes you excited about its impact? Transistors are the heart of all computing technology, so advancements in transistors can push forward virtually all areas of science and technology. Having the opportunity to study in such a pivotal field is simply an exciting privilege.

What is your favorite thing about using RTNN facilities? SMiF staff members at Duke are exceptional. Everyone is so kind and responsible. They are always helping us with their knowledge and endless patience. Their help has made our research work in SMiF feasible and efficient.