Our research aims at understanding how macromolecular and biomolecular systems behave.
If we understand how to chemically and physically affect molecular behavior, we may be able to fabricate unique molecular devices, detect molecules of interest, and develop “smart” and effective therapeutics. These goals require the ability to interface with and manipulate molecular systems, a task that is enabled by nanotechnology.
In our research, we use a variety of tools to design, fabricate, and integrate different types of nanoscale interfaces:
The smallest synthetic interfaces we work with are nanopores. Using a fine electron beam, we can reliably make nanopores as small as 2 nm in each dimension (x, y, and z), and use them for analyzing biomolecules and biophysical systems with unprecedented sensitivity. Also, we are using exciting new membrane materials for nanopore fabrication. An electron micrograph of a few-layer-thick graphene membranebefore and after fabricating a 2 nm pore through it is shown above. Nanopores are promising tools for reading DNA structure. Ultimately,DNA sequencing using nano pores could be a unique enzyme-free approach (this is work in progress by several labs around the world…).
We study the optical and electronic properties of metallic and semiconducting quantum dots, in efforts to integrate these particles into sensors that probe biomolecular dynamics.
We are also developing a system to make nanoparticles of specific size and shape using electrically-triggered chemical reactions.
Nanoscale gaps between metals are interesting to study because the confined environment makes photons and electrons behave differently than in bulk.
We want to study single molecules by utilizing the nanoscale confinement for sensing. Ultimately, nanogap/ nanopore/nanoparticle interfaces can be combined to afford parallel, electronic identification of biomolecules, such as proteins, RNA, DNA, and other macromolecules. We are also developing chemical approaches for derivatizing the interfaces for specific recognition.
We are also manipulating polymer structure using nanoscale channels. More on this soon…