Research Descriptions

Colloidal Nanoparticle Catalysis for Enzyme Site Mimics

Our research targets the preparation of ligand-capped metal nanoparticles that are active catalysts for regio-, chemo-, and/or stereo-selective organic reactions. The main objective is to investigate the effects of the surface density and structure/composition/conformation of thiolate ligands adsorbed on metal nanoparticle catalyst surfaces. This work is building upon our recently reported synthetic method generating stable Pd nanoparticles capped with a low density of alkanethiolate ligands. Considering the overall size (6-8 nm In diameter including ligands), spherical shape, and versatile ligand characteristics, the organic ligand-capped Pd nanoparticles with various functional groups will serve as an excellent model system for enzyme site mimics.

[Funded by NIH-NIGMS]

Biocompatible Nanoparticle Platforms for Pro-Drug Delivery and Activation

The development of a simple and safe way to detect and cure diseases has been considered as a high priority area in the field of biotechnology and medical research. Our research specifically targets the preparation of biocompatible nanoparticle platform for therapeutic agents (pro-drug delivery and activation) for tumor cells. The target nanocarriers are the lipopolymer-nanoparticle hybrids (LNP) such as carbohydrate-coated liposomes with bilayer-embedded nanoparticles and lipoprotein-encapsulated nanoparticles. Both LNPs are composed of nontoxic materials and will resist aggregation in biological fluids due to the presence of biocompatible shells. Carbohydrate and protein serve as cancer specific targeting groups and will guide LNP specifically to the tumor sites. Encapsulated metal nanoparticles act as activation catalysts for co-embedded pro-drug molecules.

Engineered Nanoparticle Hybrids for Thermal- and Photo-Enhanced Catalysis

Our research targets the preparation of hybrid nanostructured materials that are suitable for catalysis and energy applications. The solid support materials such as nanocarbons, semiconductors, and topological insulators (TI: insulators with topologically protected surface conductivity) with unique physical and chemical properties are considered as promising candidates for enhancing adsorption of organic molecules and catalytic efficiency of adjoining nanoparticulate materials. The controlled synthesis of metal nanoparticle-graphene oxide nanosheets and nanoparticle-Bi2Se3 TI nanostructures will allow the fundamental understanding of the influence of 2D solid supports on chemical and electronic properties of catalytic Pd nanoparticles. Additional strategies such as the hybridization of catalytic Pd nanoparticles with either stabilizing organic-inorganic framework or plasmonic nanoparticles will be attempted to further facilitate thermal- or photo-enhanced catalytic reactions, respectively.