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Physics Colloquium - April 18, 2013

Using Neutrons and X-Rays to Study the Structure of Bio-Templated Polymer Nanomaterials

Abstract: Nanomaterials hold great promise for revolutionizing fields as far flung as material science, energy, and medicine. This last area in particular is generating a lot of activity because nanomaterials can be created that mimic nature’s own nanomachines (liposomes, proteins, ribosomes, etc). In collaboration with researchers at St. Louis University and elsewhere, we use biomaterials to spontaneously form templates for the creation of robust polymer nanomaterials, such as nanocapsules, nanodisks, and nano-thin films. On the nano-scale, structure has a large influence on function, so we use x-ray and neutron scattering to determine the structures of these materials, working our way towards rational design of engineered organic nanoparticles. In this talk I present the bio-templating method, show applications of the polymer nanomaterials, discuss the scattering characterization methods, and share the results of the structural studies. For example, we have found that our polymer nanocapsules have nanometer thick walls, making them the thinnest non-elemental membranes ever achieved. I also present very recent work using surfactants as templating materials, leading to a potentially rich phase-space for polymer nanomaterial fabrication.

Professor Andrew Richter
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Valparaiso University