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Nano-Bio Hybrids and Synthetic Biology

The Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) has extensive synthesis capabilities and expertise for the creation of novel nano-bio hybrid materials and biological assemblies.

These efforts center upon nature-inspired materials that potentially can support energy conversion and energy transport, as well as understanding biosensing mechanisms in cell-like environments that are functionalized with engineered nanomaterials.

In this effort, we hybridize metals, organics, semiconductors and dielectrics with biomaterials to create nanobio metamaterials with unique properties. We are particularly motivated by light-activated behavior of biofunctional nanostructures for energy transduction. Users are thus able to access synthesis and fabrication capabilities and then link to advanced spectroscopies and microscopies under one roof.

We have further developed synthetic biology capabilities for creating artificial cell prototypes (protocells) in which we assemble biological building blocks into miniature nanoreactors that demonstrate light-activated behavior. We generally use similar building blocks to those in nature, where metalloporphyrin analogs achieve vital biological processes. In particular, these include those involving energy functions such as photosynthesis (chlorophyll), oxygen transport (hemoglobin) and oxygen activation (cytochrome). Bioinspired hybrid materials can also be introduced into cellular machinery for triggering and alerting biochemical pathways through remote activation. These synthetic capabilities create new opportunities for users in diverse fields such as catalysis in self-healing materials, chemical and biological sensing, coherent energy transport in biomimetic systems, and medical technologies.

Key Instruments

  • Automated Synthesizers enable custom synthesis of DNA, RNA, peptide nucleic acid (PNA) and peptide biomolecules with desired properties
  • Extensive organic laboratories and clean rooms designed for carrying out temperature-controlled air-free synthesis
  • Simultaneous coupling to key characterization tools such as FESEM, HRTEM, EDAX, electrochemical and photoelectrochemical tools, FTIR, rheometry, and laser scanning confocal microscopy, among others