Optical properties of nanomaterials

The optical properties of semiconductor nanostructures are incredibly rich. We are setting up a micro-photoluminescence (micro-PL) system that will allow us to study the light emission from nanostructures. We can grown our own ZnO nanowires using a solution-based method, in collaboration with Prof. John Capobianco in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

A forest of ZnO nanowires grown in the lab A forest of ZnO nanowires grown in the lab

Lanthanide doped nanoparticles

This research involves the synthesis, characterization and spectroscopy of lanthanide doped nanoparticles which have attracted considerable attention due to their potential application as biolabels and in biological assays. Nanoparticles doped with lanthanide ions that emit in the infrared are also attractive to the telecommunication industry. These materials are particularly robust and resistant to chemical and photo-induced degradation making them ideal for these applications.

Upconverting NaY4 nanoparticles Upconverting NaY4 nanoparticles

Folding and Self-Organization in Bio-Inspired Materials

Our research is directed towards the fundamental principles involved with molecular and macromolecular 'folding'. The objectives of this research program are the design, synthesis, and physical characterization of bio-inspired model folding systems (foldamers) that adopt well-defined shapes, conformations, and functions based on the sum of weak interactions.

Nanospring being pulled by a cantilever Nanospring being pulled by a cantilever

Surface interactions

Surface interactions are ubiquitous in all aspects of life and are all controlled by weak, non-bonding interactions between molecules. Thus, knowledge of interfacial structure and the nature of interactions between surface-active components allows us to understand, predict and control interfacial processes.

Nanostripes obtained by Langmuir-Blodgett transfer Nanostripes obtained by Langmuir-Blodgett transfer

Small-molecule organic synthesis

Our research is focused on developing new methods for the formation of carbon-carbon bonds. This plays an important role in the synthesis of a wide range of chemical structures, including many drugs that are used to treat numerous diseases. Towards this end, we employ carboxylic acids and their mimics to create novel reactive groups that improve on the current transition-metal based coupling partners. The employment of carboxylic acids has many advantages, including their wide availability, general stability and their low environmental impact since no metal-based side-products are formed. While using sulfinate salts allow for a more facile extrusion of SO2 compared to CO2, rendering the coupling of aryl and heteroaromatic sulfinates with aryl bromides possible without the need of a co-catalyst.

Rare-earth metal–organic frameworks

Research in the Howarth group is focused on the design of new rare-earth (RE) metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) for applications in adsorption, catalytic breakdown, and sensing of contaminants in water.

Green synthesis and applications

Synthesis and characterization of gold nanoparticles

Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are engineered nanomaterial having historical importance in a wide range of applications from physics and chemistry to biology and medicine. In this connection, interparticle distance-dependent surface plasmon resonance (SPR) phenomena is the reason for naked-eye readout due to changing the color of solution. The unique features of AuNPs such as their ease of preparation, diversified surface functionalization and variable morphology make these nanoparticles a primary choice for sensor fabrication. The focus of this research project is on improving the sensitivity, reproducibility, multiplexing capabilities and cost-effectiveness for colorimetric detection of various analytes of interest in environment food matrices. The progress in this filed will have significant impact on fast testing of hazardous substances, hence reducing the pollution load in environment as well as render food contamination to ensure food safety.

Synthesis and characterization of gold nanoparticles Synthesis and characterization of gold nanoparticles

Safe and high energy secondary batteries

Research in Dr. Li’s group focuses on the development of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies for battery applications, such as Li-ion batteries, Na-ion batteries, metal-sulfur batteries, and solid-state batteries. The projects include the synthesis of battery materials, interface design in batteries, advanced characterization of battery materials, etc.

Safe and high energy secondary batteries Safe and high energy secondary batteries

Materials for photochemical energy conversion

Research in the Majewski group focuses on developing, characterizing and optimizing new inorganic materials for catalyzing visible light-driven processes. Research thrusts include the development of photocatalytic metal-organic compounds and surfaces for “solar fuels” generation (i.e. water oxidation or CO2 reduction), value-added chemical transformations, and surface modification.

Nanostructured semiconductor photoelectrode Photoelectrochemical response of a sensitized nanostructured semiconductor photoelectrode

Carbon Dots – From Synthesis to Imaging, Sensing and Drug Delivery Applications

Our research aims to investigate multiple avenues in the synthesis of carbon dots in order to devise methods of preparing highly monodisperse particles with narrow size distributions and specific optical signatures with a specific focus on the experimental parameters and their impact on the nucleation and growth processes of these carbon dots.

Hybrid nanoparticle Hybrid nanoparticle with heating and imaging capabilities functionalized with targeting ligands.

Advanced materials for renewable energy and fuels

Our research focuses on the design, synthesis, and characterization of functional nanomaterials for photocatalysis applications. The special interests are integrating one-dimensional metal oxides with visible-light absorber materials to drive water splitting and CO2 conversion reactions.

Advanced materials for renewable energy and fuels Advanced materials for renewable energy and fuels

Design and processing of macromolecular nanoscale biomaterials for biomedical applications

Our research focuses on the design and processing of macromolecular nanoscale biomaterials for biomedical applications. Our particular interests are the integration of nanostructured materials with biology and biomedicine to develop advanced bionanomaterials that can interface biological processes as well as to understand their biological functions.

Macromolecular nanoscale biomaterials Design and processing of macromolecular nanoscale biomaterials

Organic electronic materials

We explore the physico-chemical properties of organic electronic materials in the solid state, where we mainly focus on thin films of organic semiconductors (conjugated molecules and polymers) with regards to their application in novel electronic devices. Such materials are of particular interest as their opto-electronic properties (e.g., their bandgap) can be widely tuned by the chemical structure and as they allow for large-area processability of functional structures.

Synchrotron X-ray diffraction on a highly-ordered organic semiconductor thin-film Synchrotron X-ray diffraction on a highly-ordered organic semiconductor thin-film

Polyelectrolyte nanocapsules to extract toxic trace metals

The Skinner research group is developing polyelectrolyte nanocapsules to extract toxic trace metals from environmental samples. Nanocapsules have high surface area to volume ratios allowing rapid and efficient extraction of metals from solution. The highly charged surface also aids the extraction because of its high permeability to ions.

Polyelectrolyte nanocapsules Polyelectrolyte nanocapsules

Nanostructured materials for electrochemical energy storage, catalysis, and environmental applications

Dr. Zhibin Ye’s research group focuses on designing and developing innovative nanostructured materials for electrochemical energy storage in supercapacitors and rechargeable batteries, catalytic organic transformations, and removal of hazardous substances in environmental applications. Some representative nanostructured materials being developed include ultra-small carbon nanospheres with well-defined diameters within 5 – 50 nm for energy storage, ionomer-modified 2D MXene materials for batteries, and graphene-based nanocomposites for arsenic removal.


Structure-function relationships in photosynthetic pigment-protein complexes

My research is currently focused mainly on exploring structure-function relationships in photosynthetic pigment-protein complexes. These nano-scale objects are responsible for the first, light-driven steps of photosynthesis. The particular issues being explored include pigment-pigment and pigment-protein interactions, excitation energy transfer, as well as low-temperature dynamics of proteins. We utilize mainly the methods of optical spectroscopy, including high-resolution low-temperature methods such as spectral hole burning and single molecule/complex spectroscopy.

Fluorescence spectrogram Fluorescence spectrogram
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