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Abstract digital illustration showing graphene structure

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In March, researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, described building high-rise ‘nano-housing’ for photosynthetic bacteria, designed to help the bacteria grow faster by providing a lot of surface area and light. The mini skyscrapers of metal oxide nanoparticles act as electrodes, with the potential to extract enough energy from photosynthesis also to power small electronics.

The possibility of scaling up such a device to achieve better solar-conversion efficiencies and more effective biofuel generation than existing methods illustrates why nanoscience and nanotechnology is such an attractive field for researchers and investments. With the right building blocks, intended to integrate with computing systems to support new architectures or gene-editing machinery to boost crop performance, for example, nanoscience has the capacity to revolutionize industries.

In this supplement, we explore the people and institutions that are leading the way in high-quality nanoscience and nanotechnology research. We use the metric Share to measure performance based on output in the 82 selected natural-science journals tracked by the Nature Index. Nano-articles in the index were identified through keyword and fields-of-research searches in the Dimensions database by Digital Science, as well as tracking output in ACS Nano, Nano Letters and Nature Nanotechnology.

Public buy-in can be a big hurdle for nanoscience researchers, especially those working in medicine or health care. As Jess Wade discusses, ‘nano-phobia’ can undermine efforts to advance vaccine technology and other innovations in drug delivery. Clear messaging and a concerted effort from the scientific community and governments to address misconceptions are crucial if we are to address the world’s biggest challenges using some of its smallest components.

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