JSNN Researchers Use Nanotechnology to Contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2000, following the establishment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a U.S. Government research and development (R&D) enterprise, it was envisioned that nanotechnology would offer sustainable innovations toward society’s most challenging problems. The field of nanotechnology has emerged and is offering efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly innovations that are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Because of its integration of science, technology and engineering to converge knowledge, nanotechnology offers strategies for end-users to adopt solutions for an improved quality of life.

The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN), a collaboration between North Carolina A&T State University and UNC Greensboro, is leading nanotechnology-based efforts in sustainability research and education. JSNN researchers have enabled technologies that have the potential to transform lifestyles. Its faculty and students have contributed to developing materials for water purification, clean energy technologies, management of greenhouse gases, and the detection and decontamination of toxic pollutants. 

Professor Jianjun Wei, in the Department of Nanoscience was recently issued an international patent, NO: WO2020041575, titled “Compositions and Methods for Enhancing Electrocatalytic Efficiencies” which was issued on March 31, 2021. This patent was awarded for an invention focused on development new materials for clean energy technologies. 

Furthermore, Dr. Hemali Rathnayake, Associate Professor of Nanoscience, along with UNCG Alumnus, Dr. Sheeba Dawood, together were issued an International Patent No: WO 2021/071624 A1, titled “Synthesis of Nanoporous polyphenol-based coordination polymer frameworks and methods of use thereof,” on April 15, 2021. This patent focuses on developing strategies for lithium recovery, which is essential for developing affordable and clean energy. 

JSNN faculty are also involved in new initiatives funded by the National Science Foundation. In 2021, JSNN partnered with Duke University, Carnegie Mellon University and Appalachian State to establish a program titled “The International Network for Researching, Advancing, and Assessing Materials for Environmental Sustainability (INFRAMES)”. The purpose of this program is to educate students and engage faculty in research focused on sustainable environmental nanotechnology. The program assembles the substantial investments in US and EU networks into a coordinated international community of researchers dedicated to assessing the sustainability of the materials our society produces.

JSNN also contributes to a recent National Science Foundation Center for Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability. This $25M center led by North Carolina State University, aims to develop solutions that minimize the mining of phosphorus, an essential element for life. Instead, researchers will develop sustainable solutions to recover, recycle and reuse phosphorus from the environment.  

Through support from the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure, JSNN not only has faculty conducting this important research, but it also offers state-of-the-art facilities that enables this research. From advanced laboratories and cleanrooms to high-tech analytical instrumentation and microscopes, JSNN provides access to researchers to advanced science and engineering research, with an eye toward making the world a better and more sustainable for future generations. 

Dr. Sherine Obare, Dean of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering