Projects in 2012

As SNNI entered its fifth year of formal support, we continued to strengthen and focus the three research thrust groups of the initiative. 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. Since its inception, SNNI has received ~$12M 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 ~$30M in individual project investigator and collaborative grants. In this funding cycle, the initiative underwent a formal, internal review, which included an aim to focus the third research thrust "Nanodevice Applications" on greener nanomaterials for clean energy. SNNI's review panel (consisting of the Leadership Team and external reviewers) selected innovative proposals to transform and strengthen its core research thrusts.  Currently funded research projects are listed below.

Designing greener nanomaterials

Robert Tanguay, Research Thrust Lead (OSU), Lewis Semprini (OSU), Jeffery Nason (OSU), Daniel Arp (OSU), Tyler Radniecki (OSU), Galya Orr (PNNL), Jim Hutchison (UO), Mark Lonergan (UO), Andrew Berglund (UO), Stacey Harper (OSU)

Biological Impacts of engineered nanoparticles

We will systematically investigate the biological activity of functionalized nanoparticles with specific compositions and structures in the model vertebrate Danio rerio (zebrafish), in ammonia oxidizing bacteria, Nitrosomonas europaea and in cultured alveolar type two epithelial cells.  Starting from a diverse libraries of purified nanoparticles, we will examine the structure-function rules governing biological impact.  We will 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 nanoparticles, and investigate the inflammatory responses and survival of the cells after exposures to the nanoparticles using cultured cells.

Expanding the libraries of precisely engineered nanoparticles

The objective of this project is to produce well-defined reference materials needed for biological investigation.  The task involves the production of materials with precisely controlled size, shape, composition, surface function and purity so that the influence of each on the biological impact may be determined.  Successful completion of this task requires the development of new methods of synthesis and purification to access nanoparticles with new structural or chemical features.  Careful characterization of the materials is necessary to ensure strong correlations between nanoparticle structure/composition and the observed biological effect.  Researchers in this task will collaborate extensively with toxicologists and biologists in the previous project (biological impacts) and with the nanomaterials characterization specialist.

Computational tools to define nanomaterial-biological interactions

We have developed a collaborative knowledgebase of Nanomaterial-Biological Interactions (NBI) that serves as a repository for annotated data on the physicochemical properties of nanomaterials and their biological interactions.  The goal is to provide the infrastructure to i) conduct species, route, dose and scenario extrapolations; ii) predict the biological interactions of unsynthesized nanomaterials; iii) provide material design tools and visualization software to guide material modifications that may minimize hazard, and iv) identify experimental platforms/methods most predictive of nanomaterial-biological interactions.

Greener Nanomanufacturing of engineered nanomaterials

Vincent Remcho, Research Thrust Lead (OSU), Chih-hung Chang (OSU), Brian Paul (OSU), Todd Miller (OSU), Daniel Palo (PNNL), Steven Kevan (UO), Jim Hutchison (UO), R. Shane Addleman (PNNL), Marvin Warner (PNNL)

Mechanistic studies to guide high-rate, continuous flow of nanoparticle production: in situ spectroscopy in microcapillary reactors

We will develop continuous flow methods for production of nanoparticles that increase production rate and decrease waste compared to the batch processes. To this end, this group will conduct mechanistic studies that guide the development of synthetic strategies that are more efficient and that are 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.  This task shall also assist members of following group in developing and optimizing reaction chemistry for use in specialized microreaction systems developed its work.

Microsystems development

Our team will develop a system that significantly reduces processing time, greatly improves product purity and reduces waste through the application of microreaction technology.  We will explore the key mechanisms affecting nanoparticle production, the synthesis of other types of engineered nanoparticles, and continue towards total process integration. We will also develop nanoparticle production capabilities based on microchannel unit operations, focused on a microchannel-based emulsifier.

Environmentally benign routes for transport, purification and functionalization of naoparticles and nanoparticle structures

This team aims to develop efficient, inexpensive and environmentally benign routes for the synthesis, functionalization, transport, handling, and deposition of nanoparticles (and hierarchical structures composed of integrated nanomaterials) using supercritical fluids (ScFs) and near critical fluids (NcFs) as solvents. We will specifically focus upon directed deposition of thin films of NPs using ScFs and NcFs and integration of these solvent systems into other SNNI efforts to provide access to a series of greener solvent systems.

Nanodevice applications for energy

Mark Lonergan, Research Thrust Lead (UO), Richard Taylor (UO), Gregory L. Rorrer (OSU), Jun Jiao (PSU), Bin Jiang (PSU), Mark Lonergan (UO), Carl Wamser (PSU), Rolf Koenenkamp (PSU), Glen Fryxell (PNNL), Douglas A. Keszler (OSU), Mas Subramanian (OSU), David C. Johnson (UO)

Self-assembled fractal nanocircuits - a green approach to nanoscale energy transport

We will develop a self-assembly approach to fabricating electronic circuits which have an underlying fractal architecture. Gold nanoparticles will be electrostatically anchored to a ‘backbone’ 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 drain electrodes.  In addition to capitalizing on the material efficiency of the ‘bottom-up’ approach, the resulting circuits will exploit the favorable electrical properties associated with conduction through fractal patterns with the aim of developing novel circuit functionality. We will investigate the degree to which the intrinsic complexity of the fractal patterns (quantified by a fractal analysis of electron microscope images of the circuits) can be controlled and tuned during the self-assembly process and used to increase the electrical connectivity of the resulting fractal circuit.

Development of nanomaterials for energy storage

The objective of this task includes the design of nanomaterials and nanomaterials-based devices for energy storage applications (e.g. solar cells and photocatalysts for solar hydrogen production). Under this task, we will: (1) biologically fabricate thin films derived from the shells of two model unicellular organisms and characterize the optical properties of these thin films,  (2) demonstrate ligand control over the doping of semiconductor nanoparticles for energy conversion (e.g. photovoltaics), and (3) investigate the creation of hybrid organic-inorganic solar cells using conductive organic polymers.

Nanostructured solids for high-efficiency energy production and storage

This team will focus on the use of 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.

Projects completed in Years 3 and 4

Functional characterization of the genetic network regulating the respoinse to nanoparticles. Eric Johnson (UO)

We have examined the biological impact of nanoparticles on cultured Drosophila KC cells and created a database of gene expression changes caused by exposure to nanoparticles varying in charge and size. We also developed flow cytometry assays for cell metabolism and death that have allowed precise quantitation of nanoparticle effects, created a dsRNA 'knowckout' library of regulator genes in Drosophila and created luciferase reporters and have shown that they are activated by nanoparticle exposure.

Research to Innovation Enterprise spun from seed funding: Floragenex

Biocompatible, lipid-functionalized gold nanoparticles. Scott Reed (PSU, now at University at Colorado Denver)

We develped several approaches to the synthesis of nanoparticles using naturally occuring lipids and methods to characterize the optical, physical and chemical properties of these materials in the bulk and single particle level.

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