Research

Our history is defined by the materials we use, starting with those used during the Stone Age up until the present age of nanoscience and nanotechnology.  From a physicist’s standpoint,  nanomaterials are “labs at the atomic scale” for realizing the elegance and beauty of quantum mechanics. More importantly, harnessing unique properties of nanomaterials can help realize new technologies, from energy storage to cancer drug delivery.  @CUnanobio lab, as an integral part of the Clemson Nanomaterials Institute (CNI), focuses on multidisciplinary research to identify novel optical and electrical phenomena at the nanoscale that could be transformed into high impact and commercially and environmentally viable products such as batteries, supercapacitors, triboelectric nanogenerators, and biosensors.

Our reserach is at two different interfaces: Nano-bio and Nano-Energy

Nano-bio

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Currently, the research emphasis is in three areas:

Elucidation of Nano-biointeractions: While nanoscience and nanotechnology can revolutionize many fields, their impact on health and environment is yet to be comprehensively understood. Indeed, nanomaterials present a wide variety of physicochemical characteristics and strongly interact with biomolecules. We are exploring the influence of nanomaterial characteristics (particularly defects) and charge transfer, on the formation of protein corona and the ensuing bioresponses. Materials of interest include carbon nanostructures (nanotubes, fullerenes, and graphene), metal, and metal oxide nanoparticles.

Biomedical imaging: Defects in nanomaterials provide new physical properties that are otherwise absent in the bulk. For instance, defects such as O vacancies in ZnO nanoparticles result in surface states that cause photoluminescence. Our aim is to engineer such defects in emerging materials to realize the possibility of multi-photon imaging.

Nano-biosensing: Emerging two-dimensional materials (which are entirely surfaces) are excellent platforms to sense bioanalytes. In this regard, we aim to functionalize these surfaces with capture antibodies and use these robust platfroms for electrochemical and optical sensing of biomarkers in diseases such as HIV, Ebola etc. Furthermore, we are endeavoring to develop smart-phone based flexible optical sensors that can efficiently detect pathogens and identify disease markers in point-of-care and resource-limited settings.

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“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious”- Albert Einstein

Nano-Energy

Following Albert’s advice, we try, explore, poke, question, and turn things inside out without adhering to the invisible boundaries of sub-fields that otherwise confine one’s curiosity. In addition to the above topics, we find these also curious

 

energy areas

Nanomaterials for energy storage: We are interested in controlling defects in nanomaterials to enable new paradigms of energy storage in terms of increasing quantum capacitance in supercapacitors or enhancing power density in batteries. We are presently working on nanocarbon related materials for supercapacitors, Li-ion, Li-Sulfur, and Al-ion batteries. Please see our publications for more details.

Energy generation: We are interested in the development of triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs), which convert random and irregular mechanical energy into usable electrical energy, provide promising solutions to meet global energy needs in the near future. TENGs utilize charges arising from friction similar to the static we experience on dry winter days. Going back to the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin found that when a piece of glass and a silk cloth, neither of which exhibit any electrical properties, attract each other upon rubbing due to the build up of charges. In fact, combing your hair with a plastic comb can also build up triboelectricity that allows the comb to attract tiny pieces of paper. This natural affinity for retaining electric charges is pronounced in certain materials, which when integrated in the right combination function as efficient TENGs to generate electricity from waste mechanical vibrations (e.g., walking and ocean waves) in the surrounding environment.

Defects at the nanoscale: We explore how defects at the nanoscale behave from both theoretical and experimental standpoints with the goal of manipulating defects to bring forth new properties.

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