Projects in 2011

In its fourth year, SNNI has been awarded over $8M in total to fund research projects that fall within its three broad research thrusts. As decided by SNNI's funding agency, in agreement with the Leadership Team, awards are internally competed biannually. Thus this year's award of nearly $3M will fund projects from the previous internal competition (Year 3). The strategic decision to award projects biannually have proven successful, giving researchers the opportunity to make significant progress in both manuscripts and external grants. Research projects awarded in this year reflect the success and progress of SNNI. Below are the current projects funded for this cycle.

Designing greener nanomaterials

The overarching goal of this research thrust is 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 a diverse array of applications 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.

For more information, contact the Research Group lead: Robert Tanguay (OSU)

PIs: Jim Hutchison (UO), Eric Johnson (UO), Robert Tanguay (OSU), Galya Orr (PNNL), Marvin Warner (PNNL), Mark Lonergan (UO), Scott Reed (PSU), Stacey Harper (OSU), Shiwoo Lee (OSU)

Probing the biological impacts of functionalized nanoparticles

We systematically investigate the biological activity of precision-engineered, functionalized nanoparticles with specific compositions and structures in the model vertebrate, Danio rerio (zebrafish), Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) and in cultured alveolar type-2 epithelial cells. Starting from a diverse library of purified, characterized nanoparticles, we examine the structure-function rules governing biological impact. We assay nanoparticle dose, changes in gene expression, cellular and subcellular targeting, regulation of cell proliferation and regulation of cell death. We will identify the cellular interactions and fate of well-defined, functionalized gold nanoparticles and investigate the inflammatory responses and surviva of the cells after exposure to the nanoparticles using cultured cells.

Expanded libraries of precisely engineered nanoparticles

The objective of this work is to design nanomaterials that are suitable for a multitude of applications using environmentally benign methods. This approach is predicated on the fact that nanomaterials are most often composed of simpler molecular components that can be selected to reduce the toxicity of nanomaterials produced using them. By using benign building blocks, the likelihood of toxicity caused by impurities  or decomposition products can be reduced. This green approach to nanoparticle synthesis has both health and environmental benefits.

Computational and analytic tools to support the development of environmentally-benign nanomaterials

This task is developing an expert system to predict the biological activity of nanomaterials and provide the computational and analytic tools to suggest nanomaterial design or redesign that may minimize hazard. Knowledge of nanomaterial-biological interactions will likely only be arrived at upon inclusion and consideration of the entire body of data produced from global efforts in this research area. We propose to develop a collaborative knowledgebase of Nanomaterial-Biological Interactions (NBI) that is systematically and functionally linked to related databases.  The vision of NBI is to serve as a repository for annotated data on nanomaterial-biological interactions.  Relevant computational, analytic and data mining tools will be developed and incorporated into the NBI to extract useful knowledge from diverse datasets on nanomaterial characterization, synthesis methods and nanomaterial-biological interactions defined at multiple levels of biological organization. Oregon State University has hosted the NBI knowledgebase research portal since March 2008 to test and demonstrate the NBI’s basic functionalities.  The technological feasibility and capability to continue the development of NBI knowledgebase has been verified.

Greener Nanomanufacturing of engineered nanoparticles

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.

For more information, contact the Research Group lead: Vincent Remcho (OSU)

PIs: Steven Kevan (UO), Jim Hutchison (UO), Chih-hung Chang (OSU), Vincent Remcho (OSU), Todd Miller (OSU), Daniel Palo (PNNL), Andrew Berglund (UO)

Mechanistic studies and in situe spectroscopy toward high-rate, continuous flow nanoparticle production in microchannel reactors

The aims of this work are to develop appropriate reaction chemistry, a microcapillary reactor system, and in situ spectroscopic approaches that will (a) improve our fundamental understanding of nanoparticle formation and passivation reactions and (b) rapidly develop new nanoparticle synthesis methods that can be transferred to integrated microchannel reactors.  These activities relate to the broader thrust's overall goal of developing continuous flow methods for production of nanoparticles that increase production rate and decrease waste and build off the success in gold-11 (Au11) production during the previous funding cycle. The proposed research will, (i) extend the size range of gold particles that can be synthesized in continuous flow microreactors, (ii) complete our development of small-angle x-ray scattering and optical spectroscopy as in situ probes of nanoparticle growth for microchannel reactions, (iii) integrate nanoparticle purification and parallelize production in collaboration with the next group and (iv) apply these methods and approaches to the production of oxides of zinc, titanium and iron.

Microsystem development for continuous metal nanoparticle production and functionalization

The objective of this task is to develop reliable and reproducible methods for manufacturing uniformly sized inorganic nanoparticles within a microsystem format i.e. develop a microchemical nanofactory as well as continuous processes for the production of metal nanoparticles based on microemulsion systems. Components to be developed for this system include micromixers for uniformly reacting nanoparticles, integrated heat exchangers for reaction control, valves for reagent introduction (e.g. gas segments), integrated waveguides for monitoring and feedback control, separation operations for product purity control, and functionalization chambers for nanoparticle surface modification. We have started our development of a microsystem for the synthesis of 0.8 nm – 5.0 nm gold nanoparticles using the gold chemistry developed in by the previous group. Our research to date has produced novel designs and methods leading to enhanced rate and purity in production of Au11 nanoparticles.  This has been realized through advances in mixing and separations.  In the upcoming project year we will build on this success by interfacing the reactor and separator components, optimizing the system for Au11 nanoparticle production, and extending the system to the production of other nanoparticles.

The use of RNA aptamers to control nanoparticle shape

Nanoparticulate materials (e.g. particles having dimensions of one to tens of nanometers) are expected to have dramatic impacts in many fields.  The excitement surrounding these new materials stems from the novel (and widely tunable) properties/functionality that they provide.  Nanoparticles (core-shell structures with nanoscale dimensions) are unique materials in two respects: their properties (e.g. optical and electronic responses) are size-dependent and they are highly functional, possessing an unusual amount of functionality useful for molecular recognition and/or manipulating physical properties. Because these properties can be widely tuned, there has been considerable interest in using engineered nanoparticles in fields ranging from biomedicine to mini-electrical devices.  As an example, it should be possible to design nanoparticles that can simultaneously absorb near-IR irradiation (not absorbed by tissue) and/or be stimulated by a magnetic field for visualization in tissue, be guided to a tumor site through the (multi)functionality of its ligand shell, and be locally activated to precisely destroy the tumor.
SELEX (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment) is a powerful methodology that uses PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to isolate and amplify rare RNAs with unique characteristics from a large pool of random molecules (1014).  Our objective is to obtain aptamers that bind specifically to one face of gold and control the growth and shape of the gold nanoparticles.  To perform SELEX on surfaces, we designed and made a microreactor that allows us to select aptamers to any planar surface.  We have named this microreactor, ISOS, for in vitro selection on surfaces.  We have recently finished a selection experiment using the ISOS microreactor to the surface of Au (111).  We have found that a specific aptamer from this SELEX (E03) is capable of forming gold “arrowhead” nanoparticles.  Additional aptamers from this SELEX are being tested for their ability to form nanoparticles.

Nanodevice applications

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.

For more information contact the Research Group Lead: Mark Lonergan (UO)

Shane Addleman (PNNL), Glen Fryxell (PNNL), Jim Hutchison (UO), Greg Rorrer (OSU), Mark Jones (PNNL), Mark Lonergan (UO), Gertrude Rempfer (PSU), David Johnson (UO), Mas Subramanian (OSU), Douglas Keszler (OSU)

Exploring the environmentally geeing routes for transport, purification and functionalization of nanoparticles

The scope of the proposed work is to continue development of an efficient, inexpensive and environmentally benign route for the synthesis, transport and handling of nanoparticles using solvents called supercritical fluids (ScFs).  Specifically this effort will apply recently demonstrated tunable methods for the transport, purification and selective deposition of gold nanocrystals to other nanoparticles (e.g. quantum dot emitters) and superparamagnetic FeO nanoparticles. This effort will also explore methods to change the surface chemistry of nanoparticles in ScFs. This proposed work builds upon the recent successes of SNNI research presently underway through collaborative labs at PNNL, OSU and UO. The work proposed herein will demonstrate further development and diversification of ScF processing methodologies for nanomaterials production and handling.  ScF processes can have a number of environmentally positive characteristics (compared to standard organic solvent based systems) including significant waste reduction and improved efficiency. Industrial scale up of ScF processes have been shown to be economically viable for bulk extractions (coffee decaffeination, solvent free dry cleaning, and pharma purification) and the technology is beginning to be utilized in the microtechnology sector. Consequently, the proposed supercritical fluid methods should enable cost-effectively, industrially scalable, environmentally benign nanomaterial processing.

Development of nanomaterials for photonics devices

This task focuses on photonic device structures based on new ionically functionalized nanoparticles and bio-based routes for synthesis of nanostructured photocatalysts. The development of synthetic routes to ionically functionalized nanoparticles will feed into the SNNI’s studies of the biological impacts of nanomaterials by expanding the library of particles available for study. A new direction for the “diatom-based TiO2 thin film” includes development of environmentally-benign, bio-based routes for the green synthesis of photocatalysts capable includes converting dilute organic waste materials into fuel-cell hydrogen gas using solar energy.

The chemistry of nanostructured matter: low temperature and solution-based processing of nanostructured inorganic materials

The objective of this task is to understand the interplay between charge transfer, the ratio of the constituents and the thickness of the constituents in nanostructured inorganic materials, using low temperature solid-state and solution based synthetic strategies and approaches to design “greener” piezoelectric and high K dielectric nanomaterials and nanoarchitectures.  This understanding will be used to develop design rules to optimize properties of technological interest for thermoelectric devices, printable sensors and capacitor applications.

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