Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Nature demonstrates the most complex and sophisticated engineering models that inspired the mankind throughout the history. Learning from nature and applying nature's engineering principles to materials science and engineering can not only promise sustainable solutions for environmental and public health but also offer revolutionary advances in the design and engineering of modern materials. Rich molecular machinery of nature including proteins, peptides, and nucleic acids working at the nanoscale, possess chemical complementarity, molecular specificity and selectivity. On the other hand, inorganic nanomaterials synthesized under laboratory conditions often lack such sophisticated structure, function and exquisite order at the mesoscale, which forms the bottleneck for the technological implication of nanomaterials. Merging molecular biology with the field of nanotechnology through engineering specific and selective recognition of inorganic surfaces by short peptides promise both the bio and nano components working synergistically at the nanoscale. In this work, we provided experimental insight into fundamental interfacial molecular interactions for rational integration of biological and /or biomimetic recognition elements with plasmonic nanostructures that exhibit unique optical properties using atomic force microscopy. These observations could provide new insight into engineering bio-nano interfaces for self-assembly, biotemplating and biotic-abiotic hybrid material systems and device platforms. Secondly, we demonstrated a novel class of chemical sensors that exploit the chemical recognition of biology and functional properties of plasmonic nanostructures. Overcoming the inherently poor chemical selectivity of the plasmonic nanostructures by synergistically integrating with material-binding peptides, which act as molecular recognition elements promise to propel these sensors from laboratory into real-world settings with specialized functionality and optimized performance even in the presence of numerous unknown interfering species. Bio-nano hybrid plasmonic substrates offer great versatility from nanophotonics to several fields for high-throughput point-of-care diagnostics and therapeutics, homeland security, and combinatorial biological and chemical sensing platform design. Moreover, we described biologically enabled synthesis of hybrid gold nanotechnologies with controlled chemical and physical properties and their potential biomedical applications. The multifunctionality of the hybrid nanostructures that possesses both the therapeutic efficacy and serving as contrast agents for image-guided therapy process hold great potential to fight with complex diseases. Biologically enabled multifunctional nanomaterials with minimal systemic toxicity are critical for realizing nanomedicine in clinical settings. Finally, this highly interdisciplinary research effort on nature-inspired engineering may enable us to pave new paths while tackling our most challenging problems in medicine and across other disciplines and provide a sustainable framework for the future of nanotechnology.
Katherine M Flores, Young-Shin Jun, Jeremiah Morrissey
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