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Thrust 2 - Macromolecular Assemblies and Hybrid Devices

The high rate of discovery in nanotechnology is permitting us to realize nanomaterials with interesting new properties that can be used for building hybrid devices in conjunction with biomolecules. Thrust 2 focuses on several of these applications.

The focus of this thrust is on studying and exploiting the material properties of innovative mesoscale assemblies of biomolecules, inorganic matter or even their mixtures to produce enhanced functionality and devices. This thrust, which deals with the intermediate mesoscale level of organization of biological materials synergizes with the biomolecular (Thrust 1) and cellular (Thrust 3) levels of organization and forms a key component of our overall center’s mission of using an interdisciplinary approach approach combining physical, biological and engineering methods to understand and exploit the functioning of multi-scale assemblies of biological matter. Here, we focus on assemblies consisting of active entities and substrates where interactions between the entities mediated by the substrate, the dimensionality of the substrate and the precise spatial positioning of the active entities all have significant roles in influencing the overall material and functional properties. In this thrust we exploit this feature by manipulating these specific variables to achieve a variety of enhanced functionality including:

  • Enhanced cargo transport by tuning vesicle membrane properties: We propose to tune the cooperativity of kinesin motors involved in intracellular cargo transport by embedding them in designer vesicles, made of appropriate lipid mixtures with tunable material properties. This approach allows for the direct manipulation of the dynamics of the motors and their membrane mediated interactions, providing us with a route to designer cargo transport systems with enhanced functionality.

  • Enhanced bio-sensing by using functionalized crumpled graphene: We will utilize graphene based nanosheets as a revolutionary assembling route to produce geometrically engineered Crumpled Graphene Nanoparticles (CGNs), which have been previosuly shown to providechemically defined and biologically active interfaces for building hybrid biosensor platforms.These methods will be applied to the development of a proof-of-principle sensor platform for Valley Fever, an environmentally-mediated systemic infection caused by the inhalation of an soil-dwelling fungus found in the southwestern United States, parts of Mexico and Central and South America.

  • Enhanced bio-sensing and lasing based on DNA templated nanoparticle assemblies: Specifically, we will use novel large DNA origami that will encode specific instructions to arrange DNA functionalized nanoparticles into a wide range of complex patterns. Some of the patterns will allow us to study coupling of plasmons and lasing at previously unachievable spatial and temporal scales while others will form nanoparticle assemblies that will make possible extremely sensitive, multiplexed detection of neurotransmitters.

Specific training under this project will include optical trapping, fluorescence microscopy, biochemical purification, designing and implementing self-assembly of DNA origami nanostructures, electrohydrodynamic processing, microfluidics and nanofacbrication, as well as characterization techniques such as SEM, TEM and scanning optical spectroscopy and computer simulation and modeling methodologies including Brownian dynamics and Monte Carlo methods and numerical solutions of differential equations.