Sustainable Futures: Jeff Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering, is experimenting with graphene — a sheet of graphite just one atom thick — for an energy-efficient approach to water desalination. “If we want to make significant progress on issues like energy and clean water,” Grossman says, “we need to invent completely new materials. Not just materials that are incrementally better, but real game-changers.” Courtesy of the researchers A nanometer is one billionth of a meter—and it promises to be the measure of our future. That’s a big claim for such a small dimension. But researchers have discovered that matter at this scale behaves in entirely new ways.

A search to understand how materials behave at the nanoscale has been under way for decades. Researchers now have the ability to manipulate and construct materials at the scale of individual atoms or molecules, materials that can serve almost any purpose and will ultimately reshape our world.

When the new MIT.nano facility opens in 2018, it will enable an estimated 2,000-plus researchers from a variety of disciplines to tackle urgent challenges in health, energy, computing, manufacturing, and beyond.

Watch a slide show that illustrates some of the astonishing ways in which MIT scientists and engineers are already solving big problems one atom and one molecule at a time.

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