California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA

570 Westwood Plaza
Bldg 114
Los Angeles,  CA  90095

United States
  • Booth: R2


The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) serves as a hub of multidisciplinary research in the center of the UCLA campus which brings together leading investigators to produce life-changing socioeconomic impacts. Our mission is to leverage public and private investment for nanoscience research at the interfaces between disciplines, to translate discoveries into knowledge-driven commercial enterprises, and to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. The Institute’s 190,000 square foot building fosters interdisciplinary team science by leveraging leading-edge facilities and expert services. CNSI’s Core Technology Centers provide fully integrated R&D infrastructure and professional support in the areas of nanofabrication, nanocharacterization and high-throughput screening. CNSI supports entrepreneurship through its Incubator Program, an innovative resource committed to accelerating the transfer of new technologies from the laboratory to the clinical and commercial marketplace. The Incubator Program drives commercialization through a translational pipeline built on training, collaboration and research infrastructure.

 Press Releases

  • Our smartphones, tablets, computers and biosensors all have improved because of the rapidly increasing efficiency of semiconductors. Since the turn of the 21st century, organic, or carbon-based, semiconductors have emerged as a major area of interest for scientists because they are inexpensive, plentiful and lightweight, and they can conduct current in ways comparable to inorganic semiconductors, which are made from metal-oxides or silicon. Now, materials scientists from the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA have discovered a way to make organic semiconductors more powerful and more efficient.

    Their breakthrough was in creating an improved structure for one type of organic semiconductor, a building block of a conductive polymer called tetraaniline. The scientists showed for the first time that tetraaniline crystals could be grown vertically. The advance could eventually lead to vastly improved technology for capturing solar energy. In fact, it could literally reshape solar cells. Scientists could potentially create “light antennas” — thin, pole-like devices that could absorb light from all directions, which would be an improvement over today’s wide, flat panels that can only absorb light from one surface.

    The study, led by Richard Kaner, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Materials Science and Engineering, was recently published online by the journal ACS Nano.

    The UCLA team grew the tetraaniline crystals vertically from a substrate, so the crystals stood up like spikes instead of lying flat as they do when produced using current techniques. They produced the crystals in a solution using a substrate made of graphene, a nanomaterial consisting of graphite that is extremely thin — measuring the thickness of a single atom. Scientists had previously grown crystals vertically in inorganic semiconducting materials, including silicon, but doing it in organic materials has been more difficult.

    Tetraaniline is a desirable material for semiconductors because of its particular electrical and chemical properties, which are determined by the orientation of very small crystals it contains. Devices such as solar cells and photosensors work better if the crystals grow vertically because vertical crystals can be packed more densely in the semiconductor, making it more powerful and more efficient at controlling electrical current.

    “These crystals are analogous to organizing a table covered with scattered pencils into a pencil cup,” said Yue “Jessica” Wang, a former UCLA doctoral student who now is a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University and was the study’s first author. “The vertical orientation can save a great deal of space, and that can mean smaller, more efficient personal electronics in the near future.”

    Once Kaner and his colleagues found they could guide the tetraaniline solution to grow vertical crystals, they developed a one-step method for growing highly ordered, vertically aligned crystals for a variety of organic semiconductors using the same graphene substrate.

    “The key was deciphering the interactions between organic semiconductors and graphene in various solvent environments,” Wang said. “Once we understood this complex mechanism, growing vertical organic crystals became simple.”

    Kaner said the researchers also discovered another advantage of the graphene substrate.

    “This technique enables us to pattern crystals wherever we want,” he said. “You could make electronic devices from these semiconductor crystals and grow them precisely in intricate patterns required for the device you want, such as thin-film transistors or light-emitting diodes.”

    The paper’s other authors were UCLA graduate students James Torres, Shan Jiang and Michael Yeung; Adam Stieg, Associate Director of Core Technology Centers at CNSI; Yves Rubin, UCLA Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Xiangfeng Duan, UCLA Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Co-author Santanu Chaudhuri is a Principal Research Scientist at the Illinois Applied Research Institute at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

    The research was supported by the Boeing Company, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

    Released on October 2, 2015

  • A spinoff from the Center of Excellence for Green Nanotechnologies at UCLA and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology has become a standalone company, thanks to a $5.5 million investment through TAQNIA International. The firm, Carbonics, Inc., is aiming to revolutionize traditional electronics by using carbon-based nanomaterials to vastly lower power consumption and improve the performance of smartphones and wearable devices.

    Carbonics was created by UCLA/KACST Center of Excellence for Green Nanotechnologies, Aneeve — a resident company at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute Technology Incubator — and the USC NanoLab, which is led by Chongwu Zhou.  It licenses intellectual property derived from the Center of Excellence for Green Nanotechnologies, which is one of the 14 hubs for the Joint Centers of Excellence Program.

    Carbon-based nanomaterials include carbon nanotubes, nanodiamonds, fullerene, graphite and graphene. Engineers have been focused on finding ways to incorporate them in microchip processors for electronic devices, but Carbonics intends to use those nanomaterials to improve the performance of radio frequency transistor devices, which are found in all products with wireless connectivity.

    “Carbonics technology will allow smartphones to be charged once a week instead of once a day, and they won’t heat up in your hand,” said Carbonics CEO Kos Galatsis, a nanotechnologist and former UCLA professor with more than 10 years of experience leading semiconductor technology programs.

    Increased wireless traffic for everything from defense applications and big data management to wearable monitors and interactive gaming has created a need for radio frequency semiconductors that have better signal quality, higher data transfer rates, increased clarity and lower power consumption. Carbonics’ technology offers increased power efficiency and superior signal fidelity, or linearity, across a wide bandwidth. The company is fabricating radio frequency transistor prototypes to customers’ specifications, with products scheduled for manufacturing via foundry partners in the second half of 2015.

    Prince Dr. Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud, Vice President for Research Institutes at KACST, said “this is exemplary outcome of the JCEP program in creating a rich innovative eco-system and knowledge-based society.”

    Kang Wang, who holds UCLA’s Raytheon Chair in Physical Electronics and is a Carbonics co-founder and co-Director of the Center of Excellence for Green Nanotechnologies, said the company’s formation reflects CNSI’s mission to transfer new technologies from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace.

    “The launch of Carbonics is an exemplary success of the CNSI ecosystem, from the Incubator to the Core Laboratories,” Wang said, “Carbonics benefits from the use of the CNSI’s cleanroom core facility, a key infrastructure component to nanodevice prototyping.”

    Released on November 20, 2014

  • UCLA professor Yang Yang, member of the California NanoSystems Institute, is a world-renowned innovator of solar cell technology whose team in recent years has developed next-generation solar cells constructed of perovskite, which has remarkable efficiency converting sunlight to electricity.

    Despite this success, the delicate nature of perovskite — a very light, flexible, organic-inorganic hybrid material — stalled further development toward its commercialized use. When exposed to air, perovskite cells broke down and disintegrated within a few hours to few days. The cells deteriorated even faster when also exposed to moisture, mainly due to the hydroscopic nature of the perovskite. Now Yang’s team has conquered the primary difficulty of perovskite by protecting it between two layers of metal oxide. This is a significant advance toward stabilizing perovskite solar cells. Their new cell construction extends the cell’s effective life in air by more than 10 times, with only a marginal loss of efficiency converting sunlight to electricity.

    The study was published online Oct. 12 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Postdoctoral scholar Jingbi You and graduate student Lei Meng from the Yang Lab were the lead authors on the paper.

    “There has been much optimism about perovskite solar cell technology,” Meng said. In less than two years, the Yang team has advanced perovskite solar cell efficiency from less than 1 percent to close to 20 percent. “But its short lifespan was a limiting factor we have been trying to improve on since developing perovskite cells with high efficiency.”

    Yang, who holds the Carol and Lawrence E. Tannas, Jr., Endowed Chair in Engineering at UCLA, said there are several factors that lead to quick deterioration in normally layered perovskite solar cells. The most significant, Yang said, was that the widely used top organic buffer layer has poor stability and can’t effectively protect the perovskite layer from moisture in the air, speeding cell degradation.  The buffer layers are important to cell construction because electricity generated by the cell is extracted through them.

    Meng said that in this study the team replaced those organic layers with metal oxide layers that sandwich the perovskite layer, protecting it from moisture. The difference was dramatic. The metal oxide cells lasted 60 days in open-air storage at room temperature, retaining 90 percent of their original solar conversion efficiency. “With this technique perfected we have significantly enhanced the stability.”

    The next step for the Yang team is to make the metal oxide layers more condensed for better efficiency and seal the solar cell for even longer life with no loss of efficiency. Yang expects that this process can be scaled up to large production now that the main perovskite problem has been solved.

    This research is a joint project with National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

    Released on October 16, 2015 


  • CNSI Startup Incubator Program
    CNSI supports the entrepreneurial efforts of researchers and startup companies that develop life-changing products. The CNSI Startup Incubator offers entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to grow their businesses within the research ecosystem at UCLA.  ...

  • The CNSI Startup Incubator Program provides entrepreneurs their own personal space and affords Member companies access to world-class research infrastructure including dedicated laboratory spaces (fume hoods, tissue culture labs, air handling, gas supply and hazardous waste disposal) as well as robust administrative support (procurement, mail handling, high-speed internet access, a 260-seat auditorium, large presentation space, plus full-service meeting and conferencing infrastructure). Startups receive access to in-house technical expertise from our Core Technology Centers that provide access to a wide array of instrumentation including all major areas of nanofabrication and characterization. The Program also offers private offices and workstations to companies in our newly built co-working area. Occupants are provided front desk concierge services, waiting areas, personal workstations, offices and a private conference room. Its central location in the Court of Sciences provides occupants of the Startup Incubator a unique opportunity to network with the best and brightest scientists at UCLA in a remarkably collaborative ecosystem.

  • Nanofabrication Technology Centers
    The CNSI Core Technology Centers provide truly unrestricted access to a collection of the world’s most advanced instrumentation for nanofabrication including epitaxial growth of compound semiconductors and a state-of-the-art cleanroom. ...

  • The CNSI Core Technology Centers provide infrastructure, expertise, and training on state-of-the-art nanofabrication tools to researchers from academia and industry. 

    The Integrated Nano Materials Laboratory provides epitaxial synthesis and characterization services to address diverse future technological needs through development and integration of nanomaterials. Featuring two, interconnected GEN 930 molecular beam epitaxy systems, INML is equipped to fabricate a wide range of III-V and III-N compound semiconductor materials with specific expertise in the growth of nanowires, nanopillars, quantum dots, and semiconductor films.

    The Integrated Systems Nanofabrication Cleanroom provides a 9,700 square feet of vertical-flow clean room for nanofabrication and characterization designed to maximize performance and throughput. Comprising 12 fully-outfitted process bays, ISNC integrates classic semiconductor processes and foundry services with emerging research topics using a blend of research and industrial grade tools.

  • Nanocharacterization Technology Centers
    The CNSI Core Technology Centers provide unrestricted access to a collection of advanced instrumentation for nanocharacterization. The Centers provide access, expertise, and training on state-of-the-art tools to researchers from academia and industry.  ...

  • The CNSI Core Technology Centers provide access to state-of-the-art nanocharacterization tools operating at scales ranging from atoms to devices.

    The Advanced Light Microcopy & Spectroscopy Laboratory provides optical methods to achieve imaging and spectroscopy at the limits of resolution. ALMS offers 11 major instruments including confocal one-photon, two-photon and super-resolution laser scanning microscopy, time-correlated single photon counting and SPIM-based light sheet microscopy.

    The Electron Imaging Center for NanoMachines provides Electron Microscopy modalities including cryoEM/ET, HR TEM, STEM, and X-ray spectroscopy. The EICN instrumentation suite of 7 microscopes includes both the FEI Titan Krios and STEM as well as iCorr technology on its FEI T20 to enable correlative fluorescence light and electron microscopy.

    The Nano and Pico Characterization Laboratory provides an unprecedented collection of Scanning Probe Microscopes for characterization of surfaces, nanostructures, and devices. NPC offers a suite of 8 leading-edge commercial and custom-built instrumentation operating over a wide range of experimental conditions. 

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