(K. Koehler, G. Vermont, G. Devey)
Programs in the BIO Directorate at NSF support nanotechnologies both directly and indirectly, with a total of approximately $1.5 million. Direct support involves approaches to the imaging and characterization of biological structures: utilization of nanofabricated electrode arrays, microchannel structures for separations and detection, atomic force microscopies, near-field spectroscopies, and microlithographed nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) coil structures, to name only a few. In addition to direct support of such studies, the Division of Biological Infrastructure supports NNUN.
Indirect support involves the potential generalization of characterized biological structures and the assembly rules derived from them to directed assembly of nonbiological structures. Such support is at present limited and would be reflected in increased joint review and funding with the MPS Directorate.
Understanding biological self-assembly, and hence more general aspects of self-assembly, involves correlation of structure with functional properties such as association behavior, generally in an aqueous environment. BIO supports the acquisition and development of methodology to characterize interacting macromolecules (and more general binding processes). Some examples include analytical ultracentrifugation, biosensor approaches (BIAcore, etc.), optical scattering, and spectroscopic approaches.
BIO as well as programs in MPS support theoretical and computational studies of the way in which biological structures encode and utilize information.