Research and Faculty

There are three research themes:

i. Biomaterials. Biomaterials encompass any material, created either by self-assembly or via elaborate multi-step synthetic routes, that interacts with living systems. The key concepts of biocompatibility, degradation, biomimetics, and structure/function relationships guide the development and applications of new biomaterials. Research in the area of biomaterials draws on integration of concepts related to evaluation of biocompatibility and toxicology, mechanical and structural properties, pathobiology, and ultimately biofunction.

ii. Energy materials. Our interest in the energy arena bridges both the implementation of more energy-efficient processes and the development of renewable energy sources and better energy storage devices. This includes harnessing solar energy, and development of photovoltaics, biofuels, and batteries. Specific research groups are focusing on discovery of more efficient photovoltaic materials; development of catalytic methods for hydrogen production, storage and delivery; and development of new devices for solar energy capture and conversion.

iii. Materials Characterization. Several of the participating research groups are focused on the development of innovative methodologies and instrumentation for characterization of materials. Analysis of materials offers significant challenges on many levels, from the heterogeneity of nanoscale composites to the complexity of bio-inspired films. Spectroscopic and microscopic strategies are at the forefront of this area, and research projects will encompass development of new analytical/physical methods, application of those methods for characterization of biomaterials and energy materials, and assessment of performance metrics.


Faculty participants include:

Hal Alper: The Alper group produces polymers for unique applications through the use of biotechnology. One goal is to rewire biochemical pathways and metabolism to enable the renewable, sustainable production of chemicals and materials precursors.


Carlos Baiz: The Baiz group develops advanced optical methods, primarily multidimensional infrared spectroscopy, to characterize the structure and dynamics of complex materials and heterogeneous biological environments.


Jenny Brodbelt: The Brodbelt group develops surface-modified mesh materials that allow selective enrichment and analysis in a single step via desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. One goal is to achieve multiplex analysis of complex mixtures based on use of affinity-based materials.


Lydia Contreras: Our goal is to harness the natural ability of RNA elements to control gene expression by sensing stimuli and eliciting structural changes in the context of smart materials. We discover natural regulatory materials within extremophilic bacteria.


Livia Eberlin: The Eberlin group focuses on applying mass spectrometry imaging technology to health related research. We are developing minimally invasive probes, including novel biopsy needles, for cancer diagnosis and treatment.


Chris Ellison:  We develop new methods that use light to trigger photopolymerization to rapidly transform reactive liquid mixtures into solid thread-like structures. This is a new solventless and energy efficient method that is adaptable to all current polymer fiber manufacturing techniques.


Keith Keitz:  We study the interaction of microorganisms with inorganic materials to develop new catalysts for the conversion of chemical feedstocks and biomass into value-added products. We utilize bacteria that integrate inorganic substrates into their respiratory pathway to generate new catalysts.


Nate Lynd:  We create and utilize new functional and reactive polyether materials. We develop novel techniques for advanced copolymer structure determination and detailed mechanistic understanding which facilitates the compositional control of structure-property relationships.


Delia Milliron:  The Milliron group explores how nanostructured materials enable a new class of energy-saving smart windows. We synthesize inorganic nanocrystals, then coat these onto glass to form thin films that can dynamically modulate daylighting and solar heating.


Buddie Mullins: The Mullins group works in the area of solar-generated fuels to develop photon absorbing materials (primarily metal oxide semiconductors) and decorates them with electrocatalysts to capture sunlight and catalyze the decomposition of water into molecular hydrogen and water.


Emily Que:  We prepare dendrimeric materials functionalized with metal complexes for use in bioimaging including magnetic resonance imaging and luminescence imaging. These dendrimer-metal conjugates can be implemented as imaging agents for disease diagnostics.


Sean Roberts: The Roberts group develops methods for examining energy transport in electronics based on organic semiconductors and plasmonic materials. We study how surface ligands can be used to tune the electronic properties of semiconducting nanocrystals to improve solar energy conversion.


Mike Rose:  The Rose group is developing composite devices for solar fuels and undertaking fundamental electron transfer studies through heterogeneous junctions. We combine molecular and materials chemistry to develop electrode surfaces that are suitable for sensing, electron transfer or fuel production.


Lauren Webb:  We develop advanced biological materials that integrate protein function with inorganic substrates to build biocompatible sensors and catalysts. These bioanalytical devices are capable of benign, in situ sensing of disease markers.