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DOE ORNL Develops Method For Observing Biomaterials’ Nanostructure
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On February 25, 2020, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced that its scientists have developed a novel technique to closely observe the nanostructure of biomaterials without damaging the sample. Using a nonintrusive soft mechanical nanoablation (sMNA) technique can confirm structural features in starch, which is an important carbohydrate in the production of biofuels. ORNL’s chief scientist for systems biology and biotechnology, Brian Davison, highlighted the importance of plant cell wall structures in the next generation of biofuels, stating that the “study used starch as an example of how this technique can start to access some of these nanomechanical structure materials” that currently cannot be observed. ORNL’s study was published on February 6, 2020. ORNL scientists believe the novel technique can also be applied to nonliving materials and used on synthetic polymers or even three-dimensional-printed materials.