Research efforts are concentrated in biotechnology; computational; electronic materials and devices; and energy and the environment.
Biomaterials: The use of magnetic materials for biological applications can aid in detection of diseased tissue, serve to treat cancerous tissue, and can be used to trigger drug release external to the body. The focus of this research is to create novel therapies and medical diagnostics.
Nanobiotechnology: Research activities consist of preparation of nanomaterials using biological scaffolds, development of improved drug systems, biological and biomedical detection and diagnostic systems using nanomaterials, and investigation of environmental effects of nanomaterials.
Bioprocessing: Micro and nanoreactors are designed for new diagnostic techniques and producing pharmaceuticals with continuous processing. This requires an understanding of the fluid mechanics at small scales.
Molecular Simulations and Electronic Structure Calculations: This research involves applying molecular-level simulations and electronic structure calculations to predict the thermodynamics and properties of molecules, bio-molecules, fuel cells, carbon nanotubes, and chemical reactions. The molecular simulations involve advanced Monte Carlo methods and molecular dynamics simulations, and many of these simulations are deployed on national supercomputer sites around the country.
Electronic Materials and Devices
Electronic Materials/Thin Films: Research addresses the fundamental understanding of atomic scale processes occurring during the synthesis of electronic materials. Special emphasis is given towards deducing the chemical reactions, thermodynamic driving forces and physical phenomena that govern the material’s physical, optical and electronic properties. Strategies are developed to produce innovative, high performance materials for use in next-generation electronic devices.
Synthesis of Electronic Materials: This research effort focuses on the controlled synthesis and assembly of nanomaterials and nanostuctures. The objective of this effort is the discovery of novel phenomena exhibited by materials in the nanoscale.
Energy and Environment
Petroleum and CO2 Sequestration: This research focuses on new ways to sequester CO2 emissions and the evaluation of various aspects of CO2 enhanced oil production. Research efforts also include the development of numerical modeling and 3-D visualization tools for accurate assessment and prediction of responses to specific sequestration strategies.
Alternative Energy: Heterogeneous catalysis is used to produce and purify hydrogen from fossil fuels. Electrocatalysis is studied for fuel cell electrodes, photovoltaics, batteries, and supercapacitors. Major objectives include improving the activity and stability of the catalysts and finding less expensive metals. Biogas is produced from wastewater treatment sludge. Clathrate hydrates are studied as an energy resource and their potential impact on climate change.
Functionalized Membranes for Separation and Reaction: Research involves addition of adsorption and catalytic properties to porous membranes and thin films through the grafting of functional polymers. Current research includes high capacity membrane adsorbers for monoclonal antibodies, pharmaceuticals, and heavy metals, responsive membranes for protein separation, and acid and base catalytic membranes for alkylation and esterification reactions.
Ionic Liquids: These organic salts are used as green solvents and to sequester CO2 emissions. They can also be used to remove H2S and NH3 from natural gas.