The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has awarded a US $2.9 million grant to a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by Professor Paras Prasad from the University at Buffalo (UB) to develop nanomaterials that react to external stimuli of light and heat by changing the shape of their internal structure.
Mark T. Swihart, fellow researcher in the Project and professor of chemical and biological engineering at UB, stated that the grant reinforces the university’s success in inviting grants towards multidisciplinary research and the new project falls under the ambit of eight broad multidisciplinary areas spelt out by the university. The new project will involve the intersection of two fields, namely, Integrated Nanostructure Systems and Information and Computing Technology.
The researchers will employ three types of components to build the desired nanomaterial. The base would be an inorganic nanoparticle that demonstrates required electrical or optical properties. Seven types of nanoparticles will be used and these include silver, gold, iron-oxide, silica, zinc-sulfide, cadmium-sulfide and iron-platinum. The second component is a peptide that would attach itself to the nanoparticle. The third component comprises special molecules labeled spacers that place themselves between the peptides and bend in response to heat and light stimuli. An external stimulation will thereby prod the spacers to trigger the morphing of the nanoparticles arrangement. The team will identify the components combination that generates the most interesting outcome. In order to mine the large amount of generated data and to analyze the numerous combinations of the three components, high-throughput techniques employed in bioinformatics will be used. The data processing will be carried out on the supercomputer at UB’s Center for Computational Research (CCR). The shape-shifting nanomaterials have potential applications in light-diverting plasmonic circuits and sensors that change color.