Chem Students’ Research May Help Other Universities
| by Carol Best firstname.lastname@example.org
MNU chemistry research students are working on new ways to explore the interactions between gold nanoparticles and photoswitching molecules under the direction of MNU Associate Professor of chemistry Jordan Mantha, PhD, and his collaborator Chris Elles, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Kansas.
Nanoparticles are more than a thousand times smaller than the thickness of a human hair and can have many different shapes such as spheres, rods, or pyramids. Because they are so small, they can have very different properties from “normal” size particles.
“We are particularly interested in the way that molecules undergo light-driven chemical reactions near metal nanoparticles,” Mantha said. “These molecules are like the ones used in ‘Transitions’ eye glasses. When UV light interacts with the molecule, they convert into a darkly-colored form. When visible light interacts with the molecule, they convert into a colorless form. That means they switch forms based on the wavelength of the light.”
These photoswitching molecules could be use as molecular light sensors, molecular data storage devices, or perhaps be included in larger nanomachinery.
“When a photoswitching molecule gets close to a nanoparticle or even between two nanoparticles, its photoswitching is enhanced, and we are trying to understand how that enhancement happens,” Mantha added.
MNU students are synthesizing nanoparticles and helping build an instrument that can be used to investigate only those photoswitching molecules that are near the nanoparticles. While commercial instruments can be purchased to do these experiments, another goal of this project is to build a modular, low-cost instrument that could be used by other undergraduate universities.
“We are also developing chemistry and physics laboratory experiments that can be used to introduce science students to nanotechnology, materials science, and experimental physics and chemistry,” Mantha said.
Mantha presented the research at the KS-NE Symposium on Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures. His poster presentation was titled “Blending teaching and research: Low-cost surface-enhanced Raman scattering to probe the reaction dynamics of a molecular photoswitch.”
Research on the project is primarily funded by KU's grant from the National Science Foundation though "Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures” (Award No. IIA-1430493). Some instrumentation has been funded by MNU’s five-year, $10 million, Title III Department of Education grant.