This research project aims to develop fundamental understanding of a robust nanomanufacturing technology that combines the simplicity and cost benefits of bottom-up self-assembly with the scalability and compatibility of top-down microfabrication. Spontaneous organization of colloidal nanoparticles with diameter smaller than 100 nm is of great scientific interest and considerable technological importance in developing practical devices with unprecedented electronic, optical, magnetic, and mechanical properties. The research has three objectives: (1) elucidate the basic mechanisms by which unusual nonclose-packed nanoparticle assemblies form during a simple spin-coating process, (2) assemble ferromagnetic nanoparticle arrays for ultra-high density magnetic recording, and (3) develop ultra-sensitive chemical and biological sensors by using periodic metallic nanostructures.
If successful, this work will lead to significant breakthroughs in a wide spectrum of fields ranging from magnetic recording media to biosensors. The scalable assembly of colloidal nanoparticles will advance many other areas not covered by this proposal ranging from highly efficient solar cells to bio-microanalysis, where the creation of large-area periodic nanostructures is important. The closely integrated educational plan focuses on developing several outreach activities to educate K-12 students as well as general public on fascinating biomimetics and bottom-up nanomanufacturing. An educational display for the Florida Museum of Natural History's "Butterfly Rainforest Center" will be created to disseminate the fascinating nanostructures and the associated unique functionalities found on morpho butterfly wings and butterfly eyes, along with how to mimic these nanostructured coatings using nanoparticle self-assembly. Direct participation of high school students from underrepresented groups in the research program will be sought through a successful program at the university.
This NSF program aims to develop basic understanding of a new spin-coating nanomanufacturing platform for fabricating a spectrum of periodic nanostructures for applications ranging from high-density magnetic recording media to ultrasensitive chemical and biological sensors. A large variety of plasmonic and magnetic nanostructures have been fabricated and their superior optical and magnetic properties have been systematically characterized by both experiments and theory. 7 graduates, 5 undergraduates and 2 high school students, including 6 minority students (3 female, 1 African American, 2 Hispanic), have participated in the research program. Their research has resulted in over 20 peer-reviewed publications, over 30 oral and poster presentations at various international, national and regional conferences, and 4 pending U.S. patents. A start-up company, Differential Diagnosis LLC, has licensed the plasmonic biosensor technology developed during the course of this program. Another company, IST, located at Orlando, FL, is negotiating with the UF Office of Technology Licensing to license a set of the technologies developed in the PI's group. The research supported by this NSF program has also spurred enormous public interest. More than a dozen of public media have covered the research of this program. One of the high school students (Beverly Ge) has won the first place in the Alachua Region Science and Engineering Fair and a special award in ASM Materials. She will represent the Alachua County to compete in the State of Florida Science and Engineering Fair in March 2015.