Biosculpting of Functional Inorganic Materials
(in vitro biomineralization)
Key Research Questions
Biosculpting refers to the fabrication of chemically-tailored structures with controlled (non-natural) shapes via the use of biomolecules. This research thrust is focused on identifying polypeptides capable of inducing the formation of functional oxides under ambient conditions (i.e., room temperature, 1 atm pressure, near neutral pH), and then learning how to use such polypeptides to induce the formation of functional oxides in controlled patterns. Basic research questions of the following type are being addressed in this thrust:
- What are the key molecular characteristics of polypeptides that allow such biomolecules to induce the formation of functional oxides from precursor solutions under ambient conditions?
- How do solution conditions (pH, choice of soluble precursor, peptide:precursor ratio) influence the morphologies, chemistries, and yields of the polypeptide-induced precipitates?
- How do externally applied fields (flow or electrical fields) influence the morphology of the silica structures formed during in vitro biosilicification?
- How can polypeptides be integrated within scalable microfabrication protocols to allow for the patterned formation of functional oxides?
In this research thrust, the bacteriophage display (biopanning) process is being used to isolate polypeptides exhibiting strong binding to particular target oxides. The abilities of such polypeptides to induce the formation of the desired (target) oxides from precursor solutions, relative to control (non-screened) polypeptides, are then examined. Various protocols for the microscale patterning of oxide-forming polypeptides (to allow for biomimetic mineralization of coatings in controlled patterns) are being evaluated. The micro-to-nanoscale structures and chemistries of the polypeptide-induced precipitates and patterned coatings are being determined via scanning and transmission electron microscopies, energy-dispersive x-ray analysis, and electron, and x-ray diffraction analyses.
The major MURI participants are:
Professor Ken H. Sandhage
B. Mifflin Hood Professor
School of Materials Science & Engineering, Georgia Tech
Adjunct Prof., School of Chemistry and Biochemistry,
Professor Derek J. Hansford
Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Ohio State University
Dr. Rajesh R. Naik
Biotechnology Lead and Technical Advisor
Nanostructured and Biological Materials Branch (AFRL/RXBP)
Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
The technical expertise of each of these collaborators is well-suited for this research thrust.
Professor Sandhage has more than 20 years of research and development experience in the syntheses and characterization of advanced functional ceramics and ceramic composites for optical, chemical, electrochemical/sensor, electromagnetic, and high-temperature/refractory applications.
Professor Hansford is a recognized expert in the development of microfabrication protocols for the syntheses of functional devices for biomedical, sensor, and microfluidic applications.
Dr. Naik has pioneered the development of biomimetic and bio-enabled routes to advanced functional organic and inorganic materials, composites, and devices for Air Force applications.
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