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Bioengineering Magnets

For a number of animals, including birds, fish and mammals, there is evidence that magnets are used for orientation.  However, little is known about how these organisms build these magnets.  For magnetotactic bacteria we have isolated a protein that will drive the formation of magnetic particles.  We using this protein to discover how these bacteria produce magnets by the process called biomineralization.  

Microfiber Fabrication Process

Engineering 3D biomimetic scaffolds that incorporate both biochemical and mechanical properties required for cell culturing is critical for many biotechnology applications. Hydrogel-based scaffolds are widely used due to their biocompatibility, tunable biochemical properties, and tissue-like water content. In contrast to hydrogels, microfibers have high mechanical strength and are used as the building blocks to create highly porous scaffolds.

Discovery of New Alloys by Bulk Combinatorial Synthesis

The Critical Materials Institute (CMI) is developing new capabilities in the search for new materials or substitutions in existing compounds to reduce or eliminate rare earth elements in energy critical technologies.  We are developing a new method to produce large number of new compounds rapidly using advanced laser processing. While there has been a considerable effort in combinatorial synthesis, there are few efforts in bulk combinatorial synthesis especially for metals. 

Nanostructured photocatalysts for green chemistry and sustainable catalysis

Nanoscale materials with precise structure and composition offer unique opportunities in the development of catalytic processes for green and sustainable chemistry. Following a long tradition of successful undergraduate researchers and summer interns in our lab, SULI students in the Vela group will apply principles of nanomaterial synthesis, green chemistry, and catalysis to investigate photochemical transformations of renewable and alternative energy sources, with an emphasis on carbon dioxide (CO2) and biomass-relevant substrates.

Development of Heterogeneous Metallic Nanoparticles as Robust, Light-Weight Hydrogen Storage Materials

A significant challenge for the widespread use of hydrogen as a practical alternative to fossil fuel is the successful development of safe and efficient storage materials for H2. One of the promising candidates, light metal hydride MgH2, suffers from the slow kinetics and high temperatures required for H2 absorption/desorption.

Reduction of Metal Oxides by Microwave Heating of Multi-walled Carbon Nanotubes

Microwave heating of a metal oxide in the presence of multi-walled carbon nanotubes may result in the reduction of the metal oxide to the neutral metal containing a network of carbon nanotubes. This metal matrix composite may have properties with increased the metal hardness, reductions in density, and enhanced electrical and thermal conductivity. 

Nanocasting for a new generation of smart nanodevices

Project is aimed to prepare a new generation of composite nanostructured materials. These nanomaterials will be designed to eventually act as the basis for smart devices that can find applications in catalysis, CO2 capture and conversion, energy storage and transduction, and biomedical fields. Team members will work in the synthesis and characterization of mesoporous materials. They will use a series of analytical methods including powder x-ray diffraction, gas physi- and chimisorption, electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray microscopy.

Nanocasting for a new generation of smart nanodevices

Project is aimed to prepare a new generation of composite nanostructured materials. These nanomaterials will be designed to eventually act as the basis for smart devices that can find applications in catalysis, CO2 capture and conversion, energy storage and transduction, and biomedical fields. Team members will work in the synthesis and characterization of mesoporous materials. They will use a series of analytical methods including powder x-ray diffraction, gas physi- and chimisorption, electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray microscopy.

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