Developing materials that make a difference

To make a big difference, Carolina researchers start small – very small.

The biggest breakthroughs come from the right atoms, in the right sequences, building the right structures.

From drug-delivery implants smart enough to read the body to solar cells that turn sunlight into usable energy, the right materials are vehicles for real change. They not only serve the everyday lives of human beings without interruption, they also help protect the Earth instead of wearing it away.

That dynamic work goes on in labs all over the Carolina campus where researchers are using the building blocks of basic science to solve problems in energy, water, health and more by creating new materials or adapting the properties of existing ones for better results.

The most successful materials scientists aren’t working alone, said Nancy Allbritton, professor and chair of the UNC/NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. They come from different perspectives and with different motivations, but without partnerships none of them would get very far.

“The greatest inventions and discoveries are at the interfaces of disciplines,” she said. “It’s where you bring these very different disciplines together that things get really exciting and a lot of the true innovative and creative technologies begin to be had.”

Read more about water purification, a painless vaccine, accessible solar energy, from the University Gazette story by Courtney Mitchell.

Published June 16, 2014.