Project Overview

NIRT: Protein-aided Nanomanufacturing

# 0709131
Daniel Schwartz (Principal Investigator)
Mehmet Sarikaya (Co-Principal Investigator)
Francois Baneyx (Co-Principal Investigator)
Karl Bohringer (Co-Principal Investigator)
David Ginger (Co-Principal Investigator)

This research was received in response to the Active Nanostructures and Nanosystems initiative, NSF 06-595, category NIRT. Manufacturing at the nanometer-scale has the traditional challenges associated with ensuring superior quality, cost, speed, and production flexibility, as well as added constraints on the precise molecular/atomic configuration of the product. This research seeks to develop the molecules, hardware, and software needed to meet the challenges of hierarchical nanomanufacturing. Precise control of solution processed inorganic materials will be achieved using inorganic synthesizing proteins (ISPs) that are identified via combinatorial biology. ISPs are growth 'seeds' that can nucleate the target inorganic materials when brought into contact with an engineered aqueous electrolyte. Hardware for ISP seed 'planting' will rely on the protein-compatible patterning techniques dip-pen nanolithography, micro-contact printing, and thermo-responsive protein adsorption. New software algorithms are being developed to compute the optimal locations for planting ISP seeds on a surface to produce the highest accuracy object with the fewest number of tool moves. The final step in the protein-aided manufacturing process is to immerse the seeded surface in the growth electrolyte to spontaneously grow the object. Several scientific issues will be addressed. Rapidly identifying ISPs with selective affinity for specific inorganic polymorphs is key to understanding and controlling the growth of materials with desired crystallinity. The impact of protein patterning method on the molecular orientation and synthesis activity of ISPs will be studied, as will the scale-dependence of patterning and growth. Robust geometric modeling and tool path planning software will be developed to ensure good build fidelity for both isotropic and anisotropic crystal growth over hierarchical geometries.

This research addresses key societal challenges associated with alternative energy, sustainability, and the development of scientific and engineering human resources. The technology test bed for this research is the fabrication of ZnO solar cells, where new nanomanufacturing approaches offer the potential for significant improvements in performance and cost of solar energy conversion. Currently, solar cells and most electronic devices are made using high temperature, low pressure, and toxic reagents. The room temperature, water-based protein-aided manufacturing process proposed here demands modest energy inputs and uses low toxicity precursor reagents, thereby impacting the sustainability and efficiency of our economy. The graduate students working on this project will be integrated into nanotechnology-oriented programs aimed at improving the diversity of scientists and engineers, as well as a global partnership where they will have the opportunity to gain international experiences.

Source: NSF