Department of Chemistry Research

Dr. Bastakoti’s focus is to study the synthesis and self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules, using them as a template and structure-directing agent for the fabrication of porous inorganic nanomaterials. Tuning and tailoring their architecture on nanometer to micron length scale offers the better physical and chemical properties of materials. To have an impact on the real application, porous materials must satisfy multiple criteria such as high surface area, crystallinity, selectivity, stability and processability. He is exploring a broad design challenge to control the multiple structural properties such as porosity, crystallinity, and dimension of porous nanomaterials. He is particularly interested in using highly porous nanostructured materials in catalysis, energy conversion and bio application

We are developing a family of synthetic methods for the preparation of 2D and 3D materials based on boron, nitrogen, and carbon (BCN), both compact and porous. Since currently available approaches deliver materials with random structures, we are interested in synthetic strategies that provide BCN materials with atomic-level structural control. Structures thus produced hold promise as specialty engineering materials (which includes superhard materials), medium gap semiconductors, thermal neutron detectors, NH3 and other amine sensors, nanofiltration media etc.

For a number of years and with the support of the Department of Energy (DoE) we have been studying the physical and chemical properties of metal powder that is used in different additive manufacturing (3D printing) techniques such as binder jetting and  Selective Laser Melting (SLM).  We studied the use of copper nanoparticles in increasing the packing density of stainless steel powder that is used in binder jetting 3D printers. We also studied the thermal stability of the polymer-based binder in the presence of the copper nanoparticles. In the last project, we studied the change in physical and chemical properties of stainless steel powder that is used in SLM 3D printers to assess the recyclability of the powder. Several techniques were used in these studies such as gas pycnometry and Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) (Both instruments are available in Basti’s lab), and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), Raman spectroscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). With the acquiring of the 400 MHz NMR spectrometer in the chemistry department that has solid state and high-resolution capabilities, NMR techniques will be included in the continuation of these studies. Two Masters students worked on these projects and they are both currently employed in DoE labs.

The chemical amplification approach, Amplification-by-Polymerization, based on effective mass growth upon biomolecular recognition using reversible-deactivation radical polymerization reactions has been demonstrated for DNA, protein, and other biomarker analysis. In particular, a polymerization reaction is activated upon a biomolecular binding that subsequently leads to the formation of polymer brushes tethered to a solid support. The polymerization reaction consequently amplifies the traditional sensing readout from one detection tag per biological binding event (e.g., through DNA hybridization or receptor-ligand binding, etc.) to having more than 100 reporting tags per binding event. The formed thin layer of polymer film is readily distinguishable by the naked eye as an opaque spot on the surface.

NMR-based metabolomics research extends on expertise by advancing more sophisticated computational methods development for structural and metabolomics analyses, and their applications in drug effect, environmental science, and disease mechanism studies. Our research projects implement NMR and HPLC/MS analyses of natural compounds extractions and the metabolomic profiling study in a combination of various stimuli. In addition, we have developed novel methods for quantitative analyses of complex metabolites and their structures using both 1D and 2D NMR spectra from tissue extracts. The group’s experiences and resources using NMR and innovative computations pipelines of structural analyses will help in determining new classes of novel and metabolites in both serum and feces.

For the training and introduction to NMR-based metabolomics, please refer to the NMR-based metabolomics website.

Development of new inorganic phosphors steadily improves the efficiency of White Light Emission Diodes (WLED) and their use for general illumination is projected to become price-competitive with fluorescent lamps in the near future. To optimize the color rendering properties of WLEDs, the current focus of their fabrication is gradually shifting from YAG:Ce3+ based to single-phased RGB-emitting/full color phosphors excited by UV-LEDs. A CaWO4 host doped with a small amount Mo in (CaW1-xMoxO4) is being studied in Assefa’s lab. So far the research has resulted in the extension of the excitation properties as well as an observance of wavelength-tunability of the material’s emission. Moreover, the extended excitation range resulted in a non-radiative transfer of the excited energy to triply-doped RGB-emitting Ln3+ with the resulting emission being tunable between cool, natural, and warm white light.

Research in Dong lab is focused on protein structure and function. We apply biochemistry, X-ray crystallography and computational modeling to obtain a deep understanding of the relationship of protein structure and function. Though numerous phosphorylation-dependent signaling pathways are modulated by redox signaling, the limited availability of structures of the phosphorylated proteins, kinase-substrate complexes and redox-modified proteins prevent an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms involved in redox regulation of many kinase-substrate pairs. Currently we are focusing on understanding the mechanisms underlying redox regulated phosphorylation of metabolic enzymes

In recent years, CO2 emission is an important problem in terms of environmental concern. Dr. Kuila’s group is focused on developing microreactors (silicon and 3D printed stainless steel) and novel catalysts for next-generation of biofuels from CO and CO2. We have developed different mesoporous support (SBA-15, MCM-41, KIT-6, TiO2, Al2O3) or composite mesoporous oxide supports for these reactions at our NSF-CREST Bioenergy Center. The F-T studies and kinetics of the reactions using different bimetallic catalysts and mesoporous silica have been investigated in 3-D printed SS microreactor to understand the effect of metals and the structure of the support. In order to investigate synergistic effects of bimetallic oxide (BMO) supports on F-T synthesis, mesoporous silica-alumina, silica-titania and titania-alumina were synthesized. The best catalytic activity in terms of CO conversion, stability and product selectivity to C1-C3 alkanes was observed for the 10Fe5Ru catalyst.

To address the Green Chemistry challenges, we are also developing catalysts for steam reforming of bio-derived alcohols using a tubular reactor. Methanol steam reforming (SRM) studies with different metals and mesoporous silica and TiO2 show very significant interactions between metal and the support that govern methanol conversion and H2 selectivity. These studies have been extended to steam reforming of glycerol (SRG), a byproduct of biodiesel. Both Ni/Co-MCM-41 and Ni/Co-SBA-15 catalysts yielded better H2 selectivity (85% vs 78%) and glycerol conversion (99% vs 88%) at 650 °C with higher glycerol to water feed ratio (1:12).

An experimental set up for high-pressure computer-controlled microreactor workstation with control over a wide range of operating conditions (temperature, flowrates, type of gases, pressure) was successfully demonstrated at N.C. A&T for different chemical engineering applications. The overall goal of this project is to synthesize novel materials that could be used as a filter to capture the particulates emitted from the combustion system in the vehicle. The characterization capabilities like BET, TPR, SEM, TEM, XPS, TGA-DSC will help to study the physio and chemical properties of these nanomaterials. Finally, the low throughput microreactors can be utilized as a lab-on-a-chip device for the development of light and heavy-duty particulate filters in the microreactor workstation. This could be a potential university-industry collaboration towards contribution to zero-emission race.

Recent publications:

Bodner, George M., Rob Ferguson, and Selçuk Çalimsiz. "Doing the research that informs practice: A retrospective view of one group's attempt to study the teaching and learning of organic chemistry." Chemistry–An Asian Journal 12.13 (2017): 1413-1420.