Department News


A recent National Science Foundation (NSF) award made to Colorado State University with an intended total amount of $350,000.00. This project, entitled "Highly Parallel Synthesis of Nanostructures Inside Crystalline Protein Scaffolds," is under the direction of Christopher Snow. The award is effectiveSep. 01, 2014.
This is a 3-year CMMI Nanomanufacturing grant, a collaboration with Chris Ackerson in the department of Chemistry. A grand challenge in nanomaterials manufacturing is the reliable, scalable, and reproducible production of metallic nanostructures. The ability to program the synthesis and position of such nanostructures will enable the development of innovative materials for energy storage, light-harvesting, or catalysis. Despite a high degree of interest in controlling the growth and placement of nanoparticles using biological materials as templates, it is currently difficult to control the size, shape, and position of the resulting inorganic components. The research team will therefore use engineered protein crystals, highly ordered assemblies of trillions of monomers, as “molds” to direct and limit the growth patterns of guest nanoparticles. Both the resulting nanostructures, and the hybrid crystalline assembly of nanoparticles thereof, have potential applications. For example, inorganic structures formed within the solvent channels of protein crystals could form useful ultra-high surface area materials for catalysis or battery applications. This research will provide interdisciplinary educational training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in cutting-edge areas of bionanotechnology, molecular modeling, nanostructure synthesis, as well as nanostructure imaging and analysis. Results from this research will therefore benefit both the U.S. economy and society.
Nanoparticle growth is a nucleation phenomenon, making it technically challenging to grow nanoparticles with uniform size or low symmetry. The research team will decouple nucleation from growth, using well-established affinity interactions to “plant” seed nanoparticles at specific sites within the protein lattice. Seeded nuclei will then be subjected to controlled growth within the anisotropic protein matrix. The resulting hybrid crystals will be characterized using multiple techniques including x-ray diffraction, elemental analysis, and electron microscopy. Nanoparticles released from the host crystals will likewise be characterized via electron microscopy. In comparison with existing approaches for the template-directed deposition of inorganic structures, crystalline scaffolds will provide a higher degree of order and the unique possibility of high-resolution structure determination.



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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Colorado State University
1370 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1370
Phone: (970) 491-5252
Fax: (970) 491-7369