This research seeks to advance the fundamental manufacturing science of nanoparticle monolayer self-assembly and deposition as a unit operation for commercial nano manufacturing. Specifically, the proposed project will investigate the fundamental aspects of self-assembly methods, incorporate these discoveries into continuous roll-to-roll commercial-scale processes, and develop novel applications that utilize these processes. These processes will enable production of nanoporous membranes, flexible dye sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs).
This scalable nanomanufacturing program focuses on development of two separate but fundamentally related continuous processes that deposit self-assembled particle arrays on substrates. The first process focuses on convective deposition, and the second process focuses an automated Langmuir-Blodgett deposition. Both processes utilize capillary interactions of particles confined in thin films for directed particle self-assembly. Experimental and computational methods for exploring the fundamental mechanisms, limitations, and stabilities of each of these processes will advance rational scale-up and continuous operation and determination of new deposition control parameters. This fundamental insight will serve as the foundation for identifying expanded uses and target applications. To ensure feasibility and robustness of these processes, three energy and bioengineering-related applications will be developed in tandem utilizing self-assembled particle depositions derived from these processes. These include development of nanostructured dye supports in dye sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), coatings and internal structures for light emitting diodes (LEDs), and large-are periodic nanoporous membranes for molecular to viral separations.
Development of broadly applicable, commercial particle monolayer deposition processes could have far-reaching impact on a multitude of industrial applications. Fundamental research on colloidal self-assembly via capillary interactions and concomitant research into fundamental scientific aspects and scalable production of nanoporous membranes, DSSCs, and LEDs could also impact a wide variety of scientific disciplines and industries, and could lead to significant advancements in key areas of disease detection and energy applications. Direct collaboration with industrial partners, including Versatilis, LLC and PAower Optics LLC will guide efforts to commercialization. Undergraduate and graduate students will be trained in the principles of scale-up, surface science, particle technology, self-assembly, photovoltaics, separations, and a multitude of characterization techniques. A primary student initiative in collaboration with members of the Lehigh College of Education will expose K-5 students to topics related to fundamental surface science and scientific methods.