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Nano Solutions for Grand Challenges

Transforming our economy, society and everyday life

The Sydney Nano Grand Challenges are aimed at discovering ground-breaking solutions to the world’s greatest challenges that are of social, economic and scientific significance. Bringing together researchers from across the University, the multidisciplinary Grand Challenge initiative will be enabled by advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology.

Sydney Nano Grand Challenges

Sydney Nano Grand Challenges are flagship programs of our Institute. They all align with the strategic priorities of the University and foster multidisciplinary collaboration amongst Faculties, other multidisciplinary institutes, Core Research Facilities and Professional Service Units. The strategic research framework of the institute is based on themes and domains, and the Grand Challenges are interlinked with this framework. 

Each Grand Challenge engages researchers across the whole University and comprises most senior academics to researchers in the early stages of their career. They provide opportunities for multidisciplinary research and education while presenting opportunities for industry partnerships, commercialisation and outreach with the public. 

Our current Grand Challenges spanning 2022 - 2023 are:

Eco-Active Building Envelopes

To lay the groundwork for a new generation of buildings that are self-sufficient in energy and water consumption, able to produce on-site food to encourage healthy eating habits and contribute to the regulation of heat stress and pollution. Led by Dr Arianna Brambilla & Prof. Deanna D’Alessandro.

Nanosensing Airborne Pathogens for Public Biosecurity

To develop disruptive nanoscale sensing technologies for detection of airborne pathogens to upgrade public biosecurity standards and regulations. Led by Prof. Antonio Tricoli & Prof. Corinne Caillaud.

Organ-on-Chip for Blood Clot assessment

To develop microfluidic devices based on vascular imaging of affected patients to detect thrombotic tendency in recipients of COVID-19 vaccine. Led by Dr Lining (Arnold) Ju & Dr Freda Passam.

Solar Fuels

To create new nanomaterials and chemical processes that capture and ‘bottle’ sunlight in the form of energy-rich, renewable fuels. Led by Prof. Anita Ho-Baillie & Dr Fengwang Li.


Our inaugural Grand Challenges are:

Advanced Capture of Water from the Atmosphere (ACWA)

Developing a low cost method to capture enough water from the atmosphere to alleviate the effect of drought by providing water for consumption by humans and animals, and for irrigating plants.

CO2 Zero

Reducing CO2 emissions in manufacturing processes and converting CO2 into commercial products through nanocatalysis.

Safe-by-Design Nanotechnology

Developing a regulation framework to assess safety, efficacy and toxicity, and guide the future development of nanomaterials – across drug formulations, food additives and biosensors.

Nanorobotics for Health

Building autonomous, programmable nanorobots to navigate through the body to detect and treat early disease.

Computational Materials Discovery

Simulating new materials from a single atom to fully functioning devices using quantum computers, multiscale simulation, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Unlocking the Neural Interface

Rethinking the means of intervention into the human nervous system to make untreatable neurological diseases treatable, and to transform treatments into comprehensive cures.