Professor Angela Belcher.

Professor Angela Belcher.

An article in today’s Boston Globe points to many modest improvements in everyday products that have resulted from nano-science—research at the scale the nanometer, equal to one-billionth of a meter. Faster computer processors and more moldable plastics are examples.

Then there is what MIT is doing. One counterpoint to the proposition that nanotechnology does not yet deserve its hype is the example of Institute Professor Bob Langer ScD ’74, who is lauded for his pharmacy on a chip concept. Langer, who has 750 issued and pending patents worldwide, builds silicon silvers that contain tiny reservoirs of medicines programmed to be released in precise locations, such as a narrowed artery or tumor site.

Another is MIT materials engineer Angela Belcher who applied a longtime fascination with abalone mollusks to train viruses to assemble batteries, which may someday power pacemakers or hybrid cars. In a 2009 Cambridge Science Festival interview, she describes her work. The potential is vast–and the federal government is supporting next generation batteries with billions of dollars including $249 million to nano-battery designer A123 Systems founded by MIT Professor Yet-Ming Chiang ’80, ScD ’85. Learn more from the MIT Energy Initiative spotlight on tiny battery research.