Molecular and colloidal self-assembly; Microfluidics and microreactors; Soft nanotechnology; Nanoscience and nanochemistry; Plasmonics and metamaterials; Biomedicine and medical diagnostics; Biomineralization and bioinspired materials.
Major Recognitions and Honors
Zhihong Nie Group: Nanoparticle chemistry and self-assembly, soft materials, microfluidic
The central theme of our research program is to understand interactions between molecules and nanoscale objects for assembling functional materials. We are particularly interested in molecular and colloidal assembly, the collective properties of nanoparticle ensembles, and the biomedical applications of assemblies.
Nanoscale Building Blocks for New Materials: Self-assembly is ubiquitous in nature, from the crystallization of snowflaks to the for mation of galaxies. Particularly, self-assembly in biological systems leads to remarkably complex structures (i.e., virus) which far surpass traditional materials in both design and functionality. The organization of nanoscale objects relative to one another and to larger structures is vital for their utilization in energy, optoelectronics, sensing, and biomedical applications. Inspired by
biological assembly, our efforts involve i) constructing novel nanoscale building blocks for assembing new materials; ii) researching new methodologies of assembling them into programmable architectures iii) exploring structure-property correlations of assembled materials and their applications in sustainable energy, sensing, and theranostics. (J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2013, 135, 7974; Agew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2013, 52, 2463; ACS Nano, 2013, 7, 5320–5329; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 3639; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 3628; Science 2010, 329, 197).
Microfluidic mimicking of biological tubules for studying pharmacokinetics and diseases: Tubular structures such as vascular vessel, renal tubules and salivary ducts operate important machinery to not only enable materials (i.e., nutrition, oxygen, waste) to move quickly throughout the organism, but also prevent the formation of deposits or blockage. Reconstruction of tubular tissues in vitro offers a new scenario of opportunities in the areas including implantable organs or devices, drug and toxic screening, and cell biology. We reprogram and culture cells (i.e., kidney proximal tubular cells, and salivary gland ductal cells) overall the wall of microfluidic devices to generate lumens with circular shapes and functional polarized monolayer. Using this in-vitro model, we conduct a new line of research directed towards: i) the real-time observation of kidney stone formation; and ii) the study of nano-carriers cross vascular membranes during drug/gene delivery. (Lab Chip 2012,12, 4037; Bioanalysis, 2012, 4, 1509).
Biomimetic programmable soft materials for tunable optics and tissue engineering: Material systems in nature (i.e., plants) perform environmentally responsive movements or shape transformations using anisotropy and hygroscopy. These systems offer new conceptual and practical inspirations for designing truly programmable architectural structures. Inspired by nature, we explore i) new concept of shape transformation materials; ii) dynamic tissue scaffolds for regenerative medicines; iii) optically active soft materials. (Nature Communications, 2013, 4, 1586); J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2013, 135, 4834.)