Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2022

Author's School

McKelvey School of Engineering

Author's Department

Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Rapid expansion of technology development at the nanoscale has underpinned a promising industry. Towards this, there remain significant information gaps which are critical with regard to decision making processes and ultimate industrial sustainability. From an implication point of view, understanding how common biological macromolecules, including glycolipids and/or biopolymers produced by bacteria and fungi, which are ubiquitous in the environment, is fundamental to predicting the behavior of released/produced nanoparticles. Conversely, other bio-based tailored macromolecules, including mussel foot protein (MFP), have significant potential as functional material coatings for advanced applications.This PhD thesis is focused on interfacial processes related to superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles coatings. I have evaluated specific interactions between (Fe3O4) nanoparticles with varied surface functional groups and rhamnolipids through fundamental particle-particle and particle-surface interactions, as they relate to fundamental fate and transport in the environment. Specifically, I quantitatively described the role of rhamnolipid with regard to nanoparticle aggregation and deposition processes as a function of pH, ionic strength, and particle surface chemistry. Additionally, release of nanoparticles and toxicity of the particles are also described. The second aspect of the thesis is centered around application of the nano-bio interactions to address water quality issues. For this, I have developed nanobiohybrid composites for optimized sorption processes for Cr(VI), Cu(II) and Pb(II) via surface functionalization with proteins, including mussel foot proteins (MPF). Sorption behavior is further described as function of pH and ionic strength. Further, IONP-enzyme systems were developed and demonstrated with MFP (among other bind agents) towards (composite) material optimization. Resulting enzyme (here using laccase as a model) activity/recovery is described via relative thermodynamic, kinetic, operational stabilities. Model dye degradation is also described.


English (en)


John Fortner

Committee Members

Fuzhong Zhang, Kimberly Parker, Marcus Foston, Bryce Sadtler,

Available for download on Saturday, August 15, 2026