Applied Projects for PSM in Nanoscience Degree
PSM in Nanoscience
John A. Venables Department of Physics, Arizona State University,
and London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London, UK.
This page is a current list of Applied Projects within the PSM in Nanoscience at Arizona State University.
PSM students have been asked to express an interest in particular projects, and to contact the advisors. The
first projects were allocated on a first-come first served basis over the initial week of the Spring semester.
Now we have 4 graduates, and the remainder of the 2009-10 Full-time cohort are finishing up their projects in the Fall 2010 semester. Part-time students' projects are ongoing. The projects where the advisors are in blue and a student name has been added in red are essentially fixed, but
may in a few cases not work out, so concentrate on the others if you don't have a project yet. If no suitable
project is listed, please get in touch with me immediately.
a) The student will characterize the size and shape of small metal drops of low-melting point metals
(Au, Ag, Pb, In) on a silicon surface. Samples will be prepared in ultrahigh vacuum and characterized
ex-situ using Atomic Force Microscopy. This project will enable the student to investigate the
interactions between metals and silicon and research the role of metal-semiconductor contacts in
Advisor: a) Peter Bennett and b) Robert Nemanich (Physics);
Student: Manpuneet Kaur
Title: a) Metal nano-drops on Silicon b) TBA
b) Ths second topic needs a title and abstract
The student will develop high-quality samples as well as analysis procedures suitable for use in a
teaching module on "AFM" in the advanced Physics teaching labs, PHY 465. Samples will include a CD
stamper, polystyrene spheres on mica; Au layers on mica (STM), Ge islands on Si. This project will
enable the student to use the AFM, get experience with a range of samples, and help to research and
write the teaching manuals.
Advisor: Peter Bennett (Physics)
Title: Sample development for Atomic Force Microscopy teaching module
This project will consist of the synthesis of thin porphyrin polymer layers which may be used for electrochemical
detection. The porphyrins used may be complexed with nearly every element on the periodic table in the
electrochemical synthesis of these polymer layers, endowing the layers with different chemical properties.
Thus, the detection abilities may be tuned to be sensitive to different analytes by selecting an appropriate
element with which to complex. Applications will eventually lead to microarray sensors affectionately known
as "electronic noses". The research is in the beginning stages and the student will study the properties
and methods of synthesis of these polymer layers.
Advisor: Devens Gust (Chemistry & Biochemistry);
Student: James Brandon Hepler
Title: Synthesis of thin polymer layers for electrochemical detection
Single-Walled Carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) can be used as chemical/biological sensors, which lead to Lab on the Chip
(LOC) type portable devices. These applications of CNTs depend on their electrochemical properties. Therefore,
the goal of this study is to measure the electrochemical properties of a Single-Walled Carbon nanotube (SWCNT).
For this purpose, first we will grow CNT on a silicon substrate using a chemical vapor deposition method. Then
the CNT based device will be fabricated using standard micro- and nano-fabrication techniques. After the fabrication,
we will measure the electrochemical properties of the CNT device using cyclic voltammetry method. Especially, we will compare the electrochemical current before and after opening the CNT.
Advisor: Jin He (Biodesign Institute);
Student: Swasti Nag
Title: Eletrochemical properties of single-walled Carbon nanotubes
Fluorescent probes are widely used in biology, chemistry and physics to investigate a variety of physical
properties at the nano-scale. The parameters used to describe fluorescence (e.g. quantum efficiency,
lifetime and polarization) are usually sensitive to variables such as viscosity, polarity, pH, etc, and
can therefore be used to investigate these properties in a variety of materials such as polymers, glasses,
and biomolecules. The Levitus lab is interested in applying fluorescence techniques to investigate the
structure and dynamics of nucleic acids. We use a variety of techniques, including single-molecule,
time-resolved, and polarization spectroscopy, to investigate how the fluorescent properties of probes used
in biophysical research are affected by their nano-scale environment.
Advisor: Marcia Levitus (Chemistry & Biochemistry)
Title: Nano/Biophotonics: molecular probes for biophysical research
Dye molecules might provide a cheaper and more flexible alternative to silicon photovoltaics. The problem
is that they generate a highly localized charge separated states on optical absorption, and carrier
mobilities in bulk molecular solids are small (corresponding to scattering lengths of tens of nm).
This limitation has to be reconciled with the need of several microns of material for significant light
absorption. We are developing nanostructured layers in an attempt to solve this problem.
Advisor: Stuart Lindsay (Physics & Chemistry);
Student: Phani Kumar Kondapani
Title: Molecular Photovoltaic Thin Films
Two rapidly-advancing primary thrust areas of energy research today are fuel cells and the
sequestration of greenhouse gases, in particular CO2. With its unique capabilities for atomic and molecular
species identification plus motion rate measurements, NMR has played a significant role in advancing our
understanding of fundamental processes involved in these areas. Currently under study in our laboratory
are the properties of fuel cell membranes, whose primary function is to conduct protons (not neutral
hydrogen atoms, but charged particles) from the anode to the cathode. NMR is well-suited to investigate
this function because it allows direct proton observation by MRI as well as measurement of proton motion
rates, in samples of many kinds. Regarding CO2 sequestration, we have been monitoring the interactions between
CO2 and salts in solutions occurring in aquifers and sea water for several years, and are currently examining
the complex processes involved in removal of CO2 from power plant emissions as well as from the atmosphere.
Advisor: Robert Marzke (Physics) with collaborators in Chemistry;
Student: Ceyhan Beckham
Title: NMR investigations towards improved energy generation and control: better fuel cells and a
There are numerous specific projects connected with these two general lines of investigation that would be
suitable for student participation. Three of these are the following:
1) NMR measurements of proton diffusion rates in developmental fuel-cell electrolytes at temperatures above
2) Participation in the construction and commissioning of a 3D micro-MRI system for visualization and
measurements of proton flow and water accumulation in fuel cell membranes;
3) 13C NMR studies of reactions of CO2 with solutions containing dissolved salts of Ca and Na.
This project involves the science of nanopattern formation through photoreduction on a polarity patterned
ferroelectric surface of single crystal lithium niobate. The surfaces will be examined with an atomic force
microscope to image the development of the nanowires. The microscope will also be operated in the piezo force
mode (PFM) to image the electric polarity of the ferroelectric domains. Moreover, by applying a larger
electric potential to the tip of the atomic force microscope, the ferroelectric domains will be patterned
and employed for nano-lithography. Nano-patterns of silver nanowires will be prepared using a photochemical
process where the chemical reactivity is enhanced at the ferroelectric domain boundaries. The project will
analyze how the electric field distribution in the ferroelectric drives the nanopattern formation. The new focus
of this research is on the role of an adsorbed molecular surface layer to enhance the selectivity of the process.
Advisor: Robert Nemanich (Physics);
Student: Sandeep Kaur Gill
Title: Nanopattern Formation on Ferroelectric Surfaces
Liquid nanoparticle suspensions, popularly termed "nanofluids," are being explored as an innovative, efficient
means for converting sunlight into useful thermal or chemical energy. The presence of the nanoparticles in the
liquid allows the sunlight to be directly absorbed, thus obviating the need for an intermediate absorption
medium that leads to additional losses. We are examining, from both experimental and theoretical perspectives,
the potential of applying nanofluids for generating electric power and driving thermochemical reactions from
Advisor: Patrick Phelan (Mechanical Engineering)
Title: Nanoparticle Liquid Suspensions for Direct Solar Thermal Energy Conversion
Dielectrophoresis refers to the migration of polarizable particles in an electric field gradient.
Albeit well characterized and understood for microparticles and even biological cells, little is known
on the polarizability of proteins under physiological conditions. Understanding of the dielectrophoretic
behavior of proteins based on their underlying polarizability will allow to design efficient bioanalytical
tools for the separation of complex protein mixtures. In this project, a microfluidic platform is used to
provoke dielectrophoresis of proteins. The dielectrophoretic migration and trapping behavior of proteins
in the microfluidic platform is studied with fluorescence microscopy and particle tracking, allowing to access
protein polarizability quantitatively and reveal optimized separation parameters. Applications of this novel
separation platform will include the analysis of amyloid peptides involved in Alzheimer's Disease.
Advisor: Alexandra Ros (Chemistry & Biochemistry)
Title: Dielectrophoresis applied to rapid and efficient protein separation
The new research field of Nanoplasmonics has recently showed a great potential to become a new area in future
photonic materials. Applications are vast, ranging from integrated photonic circuits, through Nanolasers, to
optical detection and manipulation of individual atoms and molecules. This progress notwithstanding lacks a
clear fundamental picture of how quantum systems, such as an ensemble of atoms and/or molecules, interact
with metal surfaces of different topologies. In this project we combine the finite-difference time-domain
technique that allows us to solve Maxwell equations on a grid with a dynamics of quantum systems, treating
the latter from the first principles. With the help of the home-built supercomputer Plasmon located at the
Polytechnic campus we perform numerical experiments on how atoms interact with various plasmonic materials.
Advisor: Maxim Sukharev (Applied Sciences and Mathematics, Polytechnic Campus)
Title: Ab initio investigations of electromagnetic interaction of quantum systems and plasmonic materials
Recent studies have shown that high dietary intake of carotenoids tremendously lowers the risk of various
diseases. Carotenoid molecules such as beta carotene and lycopene are powerful antioxidants that usually
accumulate in the human body through consumption of fruits and vegetables. These molecules play the role
of scavengers for free radicals, singlet oxygen, and other harmful reactive oxygen species that are formed
during the biological and chemical processes in the cell. Carotenoids also have great promise for use as
inhibitors of various cancers and precancers. An inverse relationship between beta carotene intake and the
incidence of certain type of cancers, such as lung and gastrointestinal tract cancers has been observed.
In this project, the property of beta carotene and lycopene such as their molar concentration in natural
foods such as vegetables and fruits will be characterized with Raman spectroscopy.
Advisor: Kong-Thon Tsen (Physics);
Student: Mohanapriya Anandakoniraj
Title: Probing biological molecules in natural foods with Raman spectroscopy
done by recent Graduates of the
PSM in Nanoscience
Image simulations are needed to underpin ongoing TEM studies of heteroepitaxial III-V/II-VI interfaces.
The experiments have been and are being carried out by past and current students. The student will master
the computational techniques which have already been developed, and will apply them to a range of material
combinations of current device interest. There is a strong prospect of a good publication at the end of the project.
Advisors: David Smith and Molly McCartney (Physics);
Student: Ajit Dhamdhere
Title: TEM image simulations relating to heteroepitaxial III-V/II-VI interfaces
Ajit studied the above topic, starting in Spring 2009, and succesfully defended his work in July 2010, before
his committee (Drs Smith, McCartney and Venables). Ajit graduated in Summer 2010, and is now persuing a period of Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Artificial and biological nanopores exhibit interesting ionic transport properties as shown in recent
studies. The fact that the electrostatic screening length exceeds the nanopore radius in low ionic
concentration solutions leads to a depletion of one of the ionic species. This results in the selective
transport of one ionic species, which can be used for example for separating charged molecules. Within
the "Applied Project" the goal is to study ionic transport through the nanometer-sized pores within
diatom shells. To be able to handle the diatom, it will be mounted on a silicon chip, which has a
micropore etched inside to allow access to both sides of the nanopore membrane. In initial experiments,
the current through the array of nanopores will be recorded in dependence of the concentration of KCl and
HCl in the electrolytic solution. The results obtained can be compared with those obtained on top-down
fabricated pores in silicon. In the next step, charged nanoparticles will be added. As a control experiment,
fluorescent dies carrying a particular charge will be added to the solution. These experiments challenge
one to measure ionic currents at high resolution on top of a significant background signal. This requires
getting to know and use the measurement setup, experimental protocols and data processing. The
fluorescence-based measurements involve becoming familiar with optical equipment.
Advisor: Michael Goryll (Electrical Engineering);
Student: Aleta Dozier
Title: Molecular and ionic transport through "natural" silica nanopores
Aleta studied the above topic, starting in Spring 2009, and succesfully defended her work in May 2010, before
her committee (Drs Sankey, Goryll and Robert Ros). Aleta graduated in Summer 2010, and is now considering whether to go back into employment in Industry, or to start a PhD.
Nanoporous materials with highly open porosity and high surface areas offer unique prospects in the reduction
of energy usage and greenhouse gas mission for many important industrial applications, such as catalysis,
thermal insulation, renewable energy generation, efficient power storage (batteries/supercapacitors), and
CO2 capture, as well as in other applications such as environmental remediation. The anticipated widespread use of the materials (in the scale of millions of tons) calls for sustainable synthetic methodologies that are
inherently scalable, cost-effective, resource/energy-efficient, environmentally benign, and materially robust.
Our research group focuses on design/exploration of new green syntheses of highly porous crystalline metal oxides,
nanoporous carbon and geopolymers (alkali-activated aluminosilicates) with emphasis on rapid industrial adaptation.
Advisor: Don Seo (Chemistry & Biochemistry);
Student: Daniel Mieritz
Title: Sustainable Approaches in Syntheses of Nanoporous Materials
Daniel studied the above topic, starting in Fall 2009, and succesfully defended his work in July 2010, before
his committee (Drs Seo, Matyushov and Venables). Daniel graduated in Summer 2010, and is now continuing his studies as a PhD student in Chemistry with his advisor (Dr Seo).
Our goal is the development of targeted anticancer therapies using STPP-liposomes, a new mitochondria-specific
pharmaceutical nano-carrier, which has been shown to accumulate selectively at mitochondria in response to
the mitochondrial membrane potential. In addition to the mitochondrial membrane potential, there is an
elevated plasma membrane potential in many carcinoma cells compared to their normal parent cell line. This
means the membrane potential sensitive liposomes may be able to selectively target mitochondria inside
these cancer cells. Therefore, STPP-liposomes may constitute a carcinoma-targeted and mitochondria-specific
drug delivery system, making "tissue-specific subcellular drug delivery" feasible for the first time.
Advisor: Volkmar Weissig (Pharmacy, Mid-Western University, Glendale);
Student: Andrew Walker
Title: Targeted anticancer therapies using mitochondria-specific pharmaceutical nano-carriers
Andrew studied the above topic, starting in Spring 2009, and succesfully defended his work in March 2010, before
his committee (Drs Matyushov, Lindsay and Venables), with his advisor (Dr Weissig) in attendance. Andrew is now
the first graduate of this PSM in Nanoscience degree program.
Latest version of this document 29th September 2010.