Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom 2023 Image Contest

In honor of National Nanotechnology Day, the RTNN and NNCI are supporting the second annual “Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom” image contest. Do you have an image that you think could win most stunning, most unique, or most whimsical? If so, learn more and submit your image at the Image Contest Website. The deadline for image submission has been extended to September 1, 2023. Check out last year’s winners here.

Congratulations to our 2022 Image Contest Winners!

A big thank you to everyone who submitted an image in the 2021 Image Competition. We are excited to announce the winners. These images were submitted as part of the annual  NNCI Image Contest, There’s Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom

Most Stunning

Beautiful Mistake
Aaron Bell and Jin Nakashima, NC State University

This was a negative stain that went wrong (but “oh so right”). We’re guessing that there was something in the buffer that made the uranyl acetate precipitate into these amazing shapes. The specimen itself was unusable for scientific purposes but the images themselves were quite striking.

Most Whimsical

Tree Under Night Sky
Sreekiran Pillai, NC State University

Image captured from the edge of a glass slide coated with icephobic material. The ice grows on the uncoated edge and propagates away from the surface, in a shape of which is identical to pine forests.

Most Unique Capability

Sunlit Nanowires
Samuel Bottum, UNC Chapel-Hill

This image depicts a device fabricated to measure the photovoltaic properties of single multijunction silicon nanowires. This process involves making metal contacts (purple) to silicon nanowires (red) on a marker pattern (grey numbers), which are etched into the substrate. Each device holds ~20 nanowires with two contacts to each wire. The process to make this device involves many CHANL capabilities, including e-beam lithography, e-beam evaporation, DRIE, and SEM.

RTNN User Spotlight: Baiyu Zhang

About Baiyu: My name is Baiyu Zhang and I’m a 2nd-year Ph.D. student from the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University under advisement from Professor Aaron Franklin.  My research focuses on high-performance field-effect transistors using two-dimensional nanomaterials. Using nanomaterials to replace silicon as transistor channel material has shown a lot of promise, but progress is still limited by challenges related to the fabrication, performance, and reproducibility of devices. My current project studies the influence of different transistor geometries on the ultimate performance of the devices, including an effect know as contact scaling. During my free time, I enjoy reading, traveling, hiking, and cooking. I also like learning different languages and am often thrilled to find out the correlation between languages and cultures.

Testing a finished device using vacuum probe station in Franklin Lab.

What RTNN facilities or instruments are you using in your research, and how do they help you? I spend the majority of my lab time in the Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility (SMiF) at Duke. For fabricating nanoscale devices in my projects, I use electron-beam lithography, electron-beam evaporation, atomic layer deposition, reactive ion etching and so forth. Then I also use various analytical tools such as scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and Raman spectroscopy.


What about your research makes you excited about its impact? Transistors are the heart of all computing technology, so advancements in transistors can push forward virtually all areas of science and technology. Having the opportunity to study in such a pivotal field is simply an exciting privilege.

What is your favorite thing about using RTNN facilities? SMiF staff members at Duke are exceptional. Everyone is so kind and responsible. They are always helping us with their knowledge and endless patience. Their help has made our research work in SMiF feasible and efficient.

RTNN User Spotlight: Meet Kelly White

About Kelly: My name is Kelly White and I’m a third-year Ph.D. student from the department of chemistry at UNC Chapel Hill under advisement from professor Jim Cahoon. My work focuses on designing silicon nanowire geometric diodes for high frequency rectification. Through a combination of simulation and experiment, I seek to understand the ratcheting mechanism that makes these diodes work and establish design principles that dictate their performance. My goal is to eventually create silicon nanowire geometric diode rectenna devices that function as THz detectors. In my free time, I love playing tennis and squash, hiking with my dog, metalsmithing, and cooking.

SEM image of a surface gated silicon nanowire geometric diode device. The image is made possible by using four different CHANL instruments over nine different sessions.

What RTNN facilities or instruments are you using in your research, and how do they help you? CHANL facilities make it possible for me to do single-nanowire device fabrication and imaging. I use the SEM, DRIE, and e-beam evaporators to create devices using e-beam lithography and evaporation, and the ALD to modify nanowire surfaces and create surface gated devices. With these instruments, I am able to fabricate intricate devices on an incredibly small scale and measure the electronic properties of single silicon nanowire geometric diodes.

What about your research makes you excited about its impact? I am excited by the unique advantages of geometric diodes. Unlike traditional diodes, they are capable of rectifying high frequencies into the THz regime. If we can realize this THz rectification, silicon nanowire geometric diodes could be used for ultrafast communication and long wavelength energy harvesting, and eventually play an important role in the internet of things.

What is your favorite thing about using RTNN facilities? The RTNN staff go above and beyond when it comes to training, keeping instruments in good condition, and troubleshooting problems. I am always grateful for their willingness to drop everything and help when needed.

Free programs and events available for local companies via RTNN and First Flight Venture Center

Lunch is on us! RTNN to host free Lunch and Learn for local companies

Representatives from local companies are invited to join us on Tuesday July 12, 2022 from 11:30am-1:00pm EST at First Flight Venture Center in Research Triangle Park (Durham, NC) for an RTNN “Lunch and Learn” Event. Director Jacob Jones will present on analytical/nanofabrication facilities and expertise available across NC State University, Duke University, and UNC Chapel-Hill and RTNN’s network and affiliates and how they can be of use to research and development at companies. Lunch will be provided. Please limit company representatives to no more than 2 people.

Please RSVP by July 6, 2022 via this form:

Click Here to RSVP via Google Form

If you have any issues or questions, please contact Phillip Strader (

First Flight Venture Center offering scholarships to Propeller Pre-Accelerator Program

First Flight Venture Center is offering scholarships to its Propeller Program: a 6-week entrepreneurial design thinking program which helps founders and entrepreneurs determine whether there is sufficient value to pursue a product or service idea. The program helps entrepreneurs identify potential markets, develop a path to market strategy, and learn how to communicate the value of the idea to early stakeholders and adopters. This program is an excellent opportunity for local/small companies, or anyone with a science and technology business idea seeking guidance on determine its viability and a path to success.

For more info on this program and to apply, visit FFVC’s Propeller webpage:

Free facility access available through RTNN Kickstarter program

The RTNN offers free facility access via the RTNN Kickstarter program – anyone can apply for up to $1,000 in facility access value in RTNN facilities. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis with 2 “priority” deadlines once per year. Read more and apply on the RTNN Kickstarter webpage: