A team of Columbia Engineering researchers, led by Mechanical Engineering Professor James Hone and Electrical Engineering Professor Kenneth Shepard, has taken advantage of graphene’s special properties—its mechanical strength and electrical conduction—and created a nano-mechanical system t

An illustration of part of Professor Ozgur Sahin’s atomic force microscope, which measures mechanical forces at the molecular level. Seen here is the sharp silicon tip of the device, which scans an object’s surface and bends in response to force.

One of Ozgur Sahin’s first machines was a mechanical adding device made from Legos. He made it when he was 11 and hasn’t stopped making gadgets since.

Latha Venkataraman, a professor of applied physics and applied mathematics, discovered a new technique to measure the electrical conduction of single molecules wired to electrodes. This graphic shows the maximum force that a molecule circuit can sustain under stress and shows that the force varies with the chemical character of the molecule making up the circuit.

In 2001, at the dawn of the nanoscale era, the newly formed Columbia Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center received a 10-year grant from the National Science Foundation large enough to support 20 professors with one or two graduate students apiece.

A digital microarray from the lab of Ken Shepard, a professor of electrical engineering, can measure individual DNA molecules, which are shown in this image. The new technology dramatically improves and simplifies genetic analysis.

Ken Shepard, a professor of electrical engineering, believes there is nowhere else in the world where he could do what he does. “Imagine a convergence of semiconductor technology and biotechnology. There is no company out there that has expertise in both,” he says.

Jim Yardley

Jim Yardley has seen firsthand how the nanotechnology field has exploded over the past decade. “It’s extremely exciting,” says the managing director of Columbia’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.