Tag Archives: Branden Brough

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Authorization of the US 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act

The US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) was signed into existence by then US President Bill Clinton in 2000 (one of his last official acts while still in office) but it was then US President George W. Bush who signed the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act in 2003. My understanding is the act gave the NNI a more permanent status.

In any event it’s the 20th anniversary of the 2003 signing of the act as noted in a December 6, 2023 posting by : Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton on the National Law Review blog, Note: A link has been removed,

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) announced on December 4, 2023, a series of events to drive U.S. leadership in nanotechnology, in celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. The announcement notes that for the past two decades, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) “has worked with more than 20 departments and agencies to advance a vision to understand and control matter at the nanoscale, for the benefit of society.” …

A December 4, 2023 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) news release announced the 20th anniversary and celebrations, Note: Links have been removed,

In celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) are announcing a series of events to drive U.S. leadership in nanotechnology.

For the past two decades, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has worked with more than 20 departments and agencies to advance a vision to understand and control matter at the nanoscale, for the benefit of society. Coordination across the government has allowed Americans to safely enjoy the benefits of nanotechnology, which has led to revolutions in technology and industry, including faster microchips, powerful mRNA vaccines, and clean energy technologies. Meanwhile, carbon nanotubes have improved the power and lifecycle of batteries; quantum dots make flat screen TVs more vibrant; and nanoparticles allow for faster medical diagnostics.

“Over the years, the NNI has dynamically and responsibly responded to the needs of the country,” said Dr. Branden Brough, Director of NNCO, which coordinates the NNI. “The initiative is a model for collaborative and thoughtful technology development, while supporting the rapid development of other emerging fields by creating the infrastructure and workforce development programs that bolster these growing industries.”

The NNI community will host a symposium on March 5, 2024 [emphasis mine] at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C., to recognize the impact of research and development at the nanoscale and plan the NNI’s promising future. The event is open to the public. …

This week, as we celebrate the Act’s signing, the NNCO will release a series of reports and stories that illustrate the impact of the NNI. This includes readouts from the Nano4EARTH roundtable discussions [emphasis mine] about applying nanotechnology solutions to address climate change, such as surface technologies, new batteries and energy storage solutions, and greenhouse gas capture approaches. Also, the NNCO will highlight a new independent study [emphasis mine] about how the U.S. nanotechnology community contributes tens of billions of dollars—and potentially hundreds of billions of dollars—to the economy each year. And, to highlight the importance of this growing field, NNCO will feature the stories of early-career scientists who represent the promising future of nanotechnology.

Additional events will be held during the coming months, including science cafes across the country, activities at local museums, and podcasts and articles in the media. For more information about these activities, visit the NNI website.

The report/study

The independent study (Economic Impact Analysis: 20 Years of Nanotechnology Investments, 2002 – 2022) mentioned in the OSTP news release was launched on December 5, 2023 and highlighted here in a January 2, 2024 posting.

The symposium

Here’s a poster of the March 5, 2024 symposium celebrating the 20th anniversary of the act,

There’s a registration page where you can register for the in-person symposium and find more information about the speakers. I thought introduction and agenda from the registration page might be of interest, Note: A link has been removed,

Scientists and engineers across many fields and disciplines are united by their work at the nanoscale. Their diverse efforts have helped produce everything from faster microchips to powerful mRNA vaccines. The transformative impact of this work has been spurred by the coordination and focus on U.S. nanotechnology established by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act in 2003. Celebrating such a broad impact and envisioning the future can be quite challenging, but this event will bring together voices from across the emerging technology landscape. There will be experts who can speak on the importance of nanotechnology in quantum engineering, optics, EHS, plastics, DEIA, microelectronics, medicine, education, manufacturing, and more. We can’t predict what will emerge from this lively discussion between researchers, policymakers, members of industry, educators, and the public, but the conversation can only benefit from including more diverse perspectives – especially yours.


8:30-9:00   Coffee and refreshments

9:00-9:05   Welcome and Introduction

9:05-9:30   Policy Perspectives #1

9:30-10:15  Morning Keynote

10:15-10:45  Coffee Break

10:45-11:30  Panel: Responsible Development

11:30-12:15  Panel: Fundamental Research

12:15-1:15  Lunch, Poster Session, and Networking

1:15-1:45  Policy Perspectives #2

1:45-2:30  Keynote Panel: The Future of Nanotechnology

2:30-3:15  Panel: Workforce Development

3:15-3:45  Break

3:45-4:30  Panel: Infrastructure

4:30-5:15  Panel: Commercialization

5:15-6:00  Closing Keynote

6:00-7:00  Reception Sponsored by the Kavli Foundation

No details about exactly what is being discussed but it certainly seems like it will be a busy day.


I found the OSTP news release a little confusing with regard to the “readouts from the Nano4EARTH roundtable discussions” but here’s how the Nano4EARTH (Climate Change National Nanotechnology Challenge) webpage describes its upcoming workshop and roundtables,

Nano4EARTH Kick-off Workshop

Click here for information about the Nano4EARTH Kick-off hybrid workshop, to be held in Washington, DC and online on Jan. 24–25, 2023.

Nano4EARTH Roundtable Discussions

The Nano4EARTH roundtable discussions aim to identify fundamental knowledge gaps, needs, and opportunities to advance current energy efficiency, sustainable development, and climate change goals. By convening stakeholders from different sectors, backgrounds, and expertise, the goals of these roundtables are to identify applicable lessons across the spectrum of technologies, discuss system-specific needs, scalability and commercialization challenges, and potential paths forward.

The topics of the roundtables were identified at the Nano4EARTH Kick-off Workshop as particularly promising areas that could have an impact in a short time frame (four years or less). 


Coatings, Lubricants, Membranes, and Other Interface Technologies

Roundtable Information, Discussion Summary

Batteries and Energy Storage

Roundtable Information, Discussion Summary

Capture, Storage, and Use of Greenhouse Gases

Roundtable Information, Discussion Summary

Nano4EARTH Roundtable Discussion on Catalysts (January 24, 2024)

Roundtable Information

Other celebrations around the country

There’s this December 11, 2023 notice from the “Celebrating nanotechnology around the country” webpage on the NNI website,

In celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the signing of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, which codified the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office is showing its appreciation for the many organizations across the country that have put together engagement events with the general public to raise awareness about nanotechnology.

Such events (compiled by the National Informal STEM Education (NISE) Network) include:

Nanotechnology Day Activities in Arizona

Family Science Nights in Greensboro, NC

Celebrating 45 Years of Nanoscale Research at the Cornell Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility

Twenty Years of Nanotechnology! Opportunity to engage your community with NanoDays activities

The end

Chad Mirkin at Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois, US) who’s a pretty big deal in the nanomedicine field wrote an October 29, 2021 introductory essay for Scientific American,

A Big Bet on Nanotechnology Has Paid Off

The National Nanotechnology Initiative promised a lot. It has delivered more

We’re now more than two decades out from the initial announcement of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a federal program from President Bill Clinton founded in 2000 to support nanotechnology research and development in universities, government agencies and industry laboratories across the United States. It was a significant financial bet on a field that was better known among the general public for science fiction than scientific achievement. Today it’s clear that the NNI did more than influence the direction of research in the U.S. It catalyzed a worldwide effort and spurred an explosion of creativity in the scientific community. And we’re reaping the rewards not just in medicine, but also clean energy, environmental remediation and beyond.

Before the NNI, there were people who thought nanotechnology was a gimmick. I began my research career in chemistry, but it seemed to me that nanotechnology was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the opening of a new field that crossed scientific disciplines. In the wake of the NNI, my university, Northwestern University, made the strategic decision to establish the International Institute for Nanotechnology, which now represents more than $1 billion in pure nanotechnology research, educational programs and supporting infrastructure. Other universities across the U.S. made similar investments, creating new institutes and interdisciplinary partnerships.

He’s a little euphoric but his perspective and the information he offers is worth knowing about.

Nano4EARTH workshop recordings available online

Announced in October 2022, the US government’s Nano4EARTH is the Biden-Harris {President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris] Administration’s first national nanotechnology challenge. (You can find out more about the challenge in my November 28, 2022 posting.)

More recently, JD Supra’s February 22, 2023 news item notes Nano4EARTH’s kick-off workshop (Note: Links have been removed),

The kickoff workshop for Nano4EARTH was held January 24-25, 2023. Nano4EARTH will leverage recent investments in understanding and controlling matter at the nanoscale to develop technologies, industries, and training opportunities that address climate change. On January 26, 2023, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a press release summarizing the workshop. According to OSTP, more than 400 people across sectors, with diverse expertise and perspectives, participated in the workshop. OSTP states that discussions focused on identifying nanotechnologies that will have an impact on climate change in four years or less, in addition to sharing resources to address barriers to entrepreneurship and technology adoption. Workshop participants identified goals and metrics to maintain momentum throughout the challenge. New connections and networks spanning federal agencies, non-federal organizations, and industry were created and several examples of collaborations and events centered on nanotechnology and climate change developed organically between participants.

A January 26, 2023 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) press release, which originated the news item on JD Supra, described some common workshop themes,

  • Battery technology has seen increased adoption in personal vehicles and long-term energy storage solutions, but further advances in Li-ion, as well as new chemistries and architectures, show tremendous and broad potential. It is critical that research directions are well matched with particular use cases.
  • Catalysts leveraging new understandings of nanoscale materials and phenomena could optimize many high-greenhouse gas emitting industrial processes, minimize the need for rare-earth metals, and serve as a precursor for alternative energy sources such as green hydrogen and electrofuels. 
  • Coatings and other material innovations are likely to increase the overall efficiency of nearly any industrial process and lead to more resilient structures and devices, especially in changing and harsh environments. Examples include reflective coatings, corrosion protection, heat management in computing, lubricants and other additives, and membranes for separations. Drop-in solutions would have a more near-term impact.
  • Capture of greenhouse gasses through advanced materials and sorbents (e.g., metal organic frameworks) and nature mimicking processes (e.g., artificial photosynthesis), especially deployed at the point of production, could be impactful but deploying at scale has significant challenges. In the near term, renewable energy production and efficient transmission is worthy of increased attention.

In the months to come, the NNCO will convene a series of roundtable discussions that focus on some of the highest potential nanotechnologies identified at the kick-off workshop. Subject matter experts and federal partners will be asked to match nanotechnology opportunities to urgent climate change needs, with strong consideration of the broader societal needs and impacts. Feedback from the kick-off workshop will also inform additional activities and events to facilitate conversations and collaborations across this growing community.

The US National Nanotechnology Initiative-hosted Nano4EARTH Kick-off Workshop page features the meeting agenda where there are links to video recordings of each session.

US and Nano4EARTH

After such a long time (a couple of years at least), it was nice to come across this update on the US government’s national nanotechnology efforts. From a October 7, 2022 (US) White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) news release (h/t JD Supra October 17, 2022 legal news update),

Today [October 7, 2022], to mark National Nanotechnology Day, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) are making key announcements that aim to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to leverage the promise of science and technology to benefit all Americans. They also complement the Administration’s ongoing CHIPS and Science Act implementation efforts that will ensure the United States remains a world leader in the industries of tomorrow.

“National Nanotechnology Day is an opportunity to celebrate the NNCO’s – and Biden-Harris Administration’s – efforts to advance research breakthroughs on the nanoscale that impact nearly every scientific discipline and lay the foundation for emerging fields and technologies,” said newly announced National Nanotechnology Coordination Office Director Dr. Branden Brough. “As evidenced by this week’s Nobel Prize announcements highlighting work in quantum information science and click chemistry, the nanotechnology community is leveraging the Nation’s investments in research at the level of atoms and molecules to find solutions to address today’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, pandemic preparedness, and domestic microelectronics manufacturing.”

Biden-⁠Harris Administration’s National Nanotechnology Challenge, Nano4EARTH

The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office is announcing the inaugural National Nanotechnology Challenge, Nano4EARTH. Nano4EARTH will leverage recent investments in understanding and controlling matter at the nanoscale to develop technologies and industries that address climate change. Nano4EARTH recognizes the role nanotechnology plays in: Evaluating, monitoring, and detecting climate change status and trends; Averting future greenhouse gas emissions; Removing existing greenhouse gasses; Training and educating a highly skilled workforce to harness nanotechnology solutions; and developing Higher resilience to – and mitigation of – climate change-induced pressures for improved societal/economic resilience.

The NNCO supports the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a White House-led initiative that coordinates the nanotechnology R&D activities of 20 federal government agencies. Identified in the 2021 NNI Strategic Plan, National Nanotechnology Challenges are a new mechanism to mobilize and connect the NNI community so it can help to address global societal challenges.

Members of the NNI community – the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and government leaders developing solutions at the nanoscale – are invited to participate in Nano4EARTH! By doing so, they can support the United States’ goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and inspire and build the STEM workforce capacity that will help develop and implement climate change mitigation and resilience solutions. Links to relevant agency programs, information about the public kick-off workshop, and a link to join a mailing list to get involved can be found on the Nano4EARTH webpage. The Nano4EARTH kick-off workshop (to be held in early 2023) will serve as an information-gathering exercise to identify key feasible outputs of the challenge and effective ways to measure success.

National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) Leadership

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office are announcing Dr. Branden Brough as the new Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) and Dr. Quinn Spadola as its Deputy Director.

Dr. Brough joins the NNCO from the Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded nanoscale science research center that provides users from around the world with access to cutting-edge expertise and instrumentation. He will also serve as OSTP’s Assistant Director for Nanotechnology. As the Molecular Foundry’s Deputy Director, Dr. Brough was responsible for helping guide the organization’s scientific plans and initiatives, while also managing the center’s operations. Before joining the Molecular Foundry, Dr. Brough worked at the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, where he led strategic policy and planning activities, as well as Congressional and public outreach efforts. Dr. Brough received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering – focusing on the integration of synthetic motor molecules and natural self-assembling proteins into micro/nanotechnologies – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Dr. Spadola was the Associate Director of Education for the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI), a network of open nanotechnology laboratory user facilities supported by the National Science Foundation, and the Director of Education and Outreach for the Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor NNCI site at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Spadola was the Education and Outreach Coordinator and a Technical Advisor to the Director at NNCO. She received her Ph.D. in physics from Arizona State University and her MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking from Montana State University.

Once again, the Climate Change National Nanotechnology Challenge (Nano4EARTH) webpage is here and apparently they aren’t quite ready yet but,

The NNI is planning a Nano4EARTH kick-off workshop! Join our mailing list to get all future updates!