Surfaces and Interfaces

Our research is centered on the physical chemistry of surfaces and interfaces which includes such phenomena as adhesion, friction, lubrication, self-assembly, the interactive forces between matter at small length scales, and chemical reactions occurring at solid-fluid interfaces (corrosion, catalysis, dissolution). Interfacial science is, by nature, a trans-disciplinary field (every material system has at least one interface) and so our research interests cover a broad spectrum.

Our group is currently developing biofouling resistant, implantable bionic electrodes for neural stimulation and recording (i.e. computer-brain interfaces) based on a self-assembling glycoprotein from synovial joints known as ‘lubricin.’

Our multifunctional lubricin coatings are also being applied to create fouling resistant electrochemical and optical biosensors capable of rapid, ultra-sensitive, and ultra-selective detection of analytes in highly fouling environments such as raw, unprocessed bodily fluids. These non-fouling sensor interfaces are being integrated into microfluidic platforms and applied to cancer diagnostics using multiplexed arrays, point-of-care drug screening, RNA based biomarkers, and fire retardants (PFAS) related to waste water and environmental remediation.

Our group has also invented a new technology for the fabrication of ultra-thin and ultra-uniform conductive polymer films and composites. These films (approximately 100 nm thick) can be made solid or nanoporous, and are able to achieve controlled release of multiple therapeutic drugs from a single material platform. The nano-scale ‘thinness’ of these films ensures ultra-efficient release (>95%) with virtually zero passive release (i.e. ‘leakage’).

In addition to our work in biomaterials and biotechnology, our group has invented a new nanofabrication technology which utilizes a geological phenomenon known as ‘pressure solution.’ Under the right conditions, pressure solution can accelerate the dissolution of inorganic materials such as silica, sapphire, GaN, etc. by as much as 1011 times their ‘natural’ dissolution rate. Pressure solution is being used to perform nanoimprinting and AFM based direct-write lithography directly into mechanically hard inorganic substrates.

In the field of tribology (friction, adhesion, lubrication), our group is developing biomimetic lubricants based on principles of the cartilage lubrication systems as well as functional additives for mitigating sub-surface micro-pitting in gear oils.

Finally, our group is developing microemulsion based anti-microbial and anti-oxidant coatings using natural silk proteins and a turmeric extract called curcumin to retard the ripening process of fresh fruit and vegetables and reduce spoilage and food waste.