Projects in 2013

AFRL awarded SNNI six years of funding support. SNNI's paramount success to date can be attributed to it's strategic plan in this regard and to its mission to create high-performance yet inherently safer nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing methods. To date, SNNI received >$15M in funds to support seed funding for innovative, high risk/high pay-off proposals. As a result of this support, researchers under SNNI have been awarded >$50M (total) in individual project investigator and collaborative grants. In addition, one of its research thrusts (Nanodevices) was spun off as a Center for Chemical Innovation (CCI)-Phase II NSF Center, The Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry.

Projects completed

Designing benign nanoparticles

The overarching goal of this research thrust has been to formulate structure-property relationships for the biological impact of engineered nanoparticles and to apply these relationships to the design of new materials with tailored properties. By studying the potential toxicological effects of nanoparticles before they are incorporated into technologies, we can minimize negative consequences of a growing nanotechnology and promote sustainability. Because nanoparticles are key building blocks for applications in chemical/biological sensing, nanoelectronics, quantum computing, and nanophotonics they are likely to be widely distributed throughout the environment. By using a library of structurally and compositionally well-defined nanoparticles in conjunction with biological assays that examine multiple aspects of cellular and organismal health, it will be possible to identify those that cause harm and develop structure-property relationships to feed back into product design.

Expanded libraries of precisely engineered nanoparticles, Jim Hutchison, Mark Lonergan, Andy Berglund (UO)

This research group explores new methods of synthesis and purification to access nanoparticles with new structural or chemical features. We are developing a library of well-defined reference nanomaterials needed for biological investigation, wherein these materials possess precisely controlled size, shape, composition, surface function and purity.

Probe the biological impacts of functionalized nanoparticles, Robert Tanguay, Lewis Semprini, Jeff Nason, Tyler Radniecki (UO), Galya Orr (PNNL)

Biological assays have been established to link the physical, chemical, and geometric properties of structurally and chemically well-defined nanoparticles to their function in biological systems. The biological assays give information on nanoparticle movement and tissue accumulation, changes in gene expression in response to nanoparticle interaction with the cellular environment, and subsequent alterations to organismal viability and development. Individual nanoparticles are tracked in real time through live cells to examine the fate of nanoparticles in cultured. The data from these tracking studies will augment the ongoing in vivo and in vitro toxicity screenings and will be fed back into nanoparticle design to create nanoparticles that have minimal impact on organisms.

Computational and analytic tools to support the development of environmentally-benign nanomaterials, Stacey Harper (UO), Bettye Maddux (UO and OSU)

There is a paucity of data on nanoparticle characterization and toxicity or a means for disseminating new data. Many government agencies have called for a method to catalog the anticipated accumulation of data on nanoparticles into a relatively easy searchable database. This research group focuses on the development of a collaborative knowledgebase of Nanomaterial-Biological Interactions (NBI) that is systematically linked to related data/knowledgebases. NBI will serve as a repository for annotated data on nanomaterial-biological interactions. Relevant computational, analytic and data mining tools will be integrated and/or developed to extract useful knowledge from diverse datasets on nanomaterial characterization, synthesis methods and nanomaterial-biological interactions defined at multiple levels of biological organizations.

Greener nanomanufacturing

The aim of this effort is to develop methods of manufacturing nanoparticles using a process that is efficient and minimizes waste, while maintaining the properties needed for high-performance applications. The lessons that emerge from the research conducted during the initial SNNI funding cycle are the importance of developing (i) a mechanistic understanding of the reactions developed for use in microscale reactors, (ii) real-time, in situ, as well as ex situ, characterization methods to guide research and production decisions, and (iii) strong integration and project coordination between the chemistry and engineering in order to develop reactors and methods capable of continuous, high-rate production of highly functionalized nanoparticles.

Mechanistic studies in in situ spectroscopy toward high-rate, continuous flow nanoparticle production in microchannel reactors, Steve Kevan, Jim Hutchison (UO)

The goal of the research group is to develop new syntheses and continuous flow methods for production of nanoparticles that enhance material quality and reliability, increase production rate and decrease waste compared to batch processes. Toward this end, we conduct mechanistic studies that guide the development of synthetic strategies that are more efficient and amenable to continuous flow production. A considerable emphasis is placed on developing new methods to gain this mechanistic insight, including the development of in situ spectroscopic probes such as small-angle-x-ray scattering and optical spectroscopy that can be used to monitor nanoparticle growth within microchannel reactors.

Microsystem development for metal nanoparticle production, Vince Remcho, Brian Paul, Chih-Hung Chang, Todd Miller (OSU), Dan Palo (PNNL, now at Barr Engineering), Sudhir Ramprasad (PNNL)

We are developing reliable and reproducible methods for manufacturing, transporting, purifying and depositing uniformly sized inorganic nanoparticles using efficient microsystems. Toward this end, we focus on a microwave-enhanced microreactor system and unique micro-channel-based jetting and microemulsion devices.

Exploring environmentally-benign routes for transport, purification and functionalization of nanoparticles and nanostructures, Shane Addleman (PNNL)

This research group uses supercritical (ScFs) and near critical fluids (NcFs) as solvents to develop greener routes for the synthesis, functionalization, and deposition of nanoparticles and hierarchiacal structures composed of integrated nanomaterials. The ScF methods developed here should enable cost-effective, industrially scalable, environmentally friendly nanomaterial processing. In particular, we will focus on deposition of nanoparticle thin films using ScFs and NcFs and integration of the unit operations into more continuous processes. Application of the technology to devices and challenges in clean energy and polymers are also explored.

Nanodevices for Energy and energy storage

Nanomaterials are driving innovation in optical and electronic devices, however, realizing the full potential of nanoscale matter in device technologies requires the integration of the nanoscale building blocks with other components of the device. Nanostructures can also be important precursors in the low-cost and greener manufacture of more traditional microscale devices and to exotic new materials. Thus, developing environmentally-benign assembly methods and identifying approaches to interface nanomaterials with macroscopic structures are being explored to produce greener, high-performance devices and nanostructured materials.

Self-assembled fractal nanocircuits - a green approach to nanoscale energy transport, Richard Taylor (UO)

This task focuses on development of a self-assembly approach to fabricating novel electronic circuits which hand an underlying fractal architecture. Gold nanoparticles will be electrostatically anchored to a scaffold of DNA strands. The nanoparticles form the conducting 'wires' of the circuit and the underlying DNA strands determine the fractal architecture of the circuit that connects the source and train electrodes.

Development of nanomaterials for energy storage, Greg Rorrer (OSU), Greg Wamser, Rolf Koenenkamp (PSU), Glen Fryxell (PNNL), Mark Lonergan (UO)

This task studies the design of nanomaterials and nanomaterials-based devices for energy storage applications. In particular, we focus on (i) biological fabrication and characterization of nanostructured metal oxide thin films for photovoltaic and energy storage applications; (ii) advance nanoparticle-based electronic and photonic devices through control of the transport and injection of charges in semiconductor nanoparticle films; and (iii) investigate an approach to creating hybrid organic-inorganic solar cells using conductive organic polymers based on porphyrins integrated with inorganice semiconductors.

Nanostructured solids for high-efficiency energy production and storage, Doug Kezler, Mas Subramanian (OSU), Dave Johnson (UO)

This task uses non-epitaxial vapor and solution-based processing of thin films to demonstrate new levels of electrical control for efficient production and storage of solar energy by using environmentally benign materials and processes.

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