The Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program of the Chemistry Division supports the project by Professor Angel A. MartÃ and Professor Matteo Pasquali of Rice University to study the properties of tubular nanostructures made of boron and nitrogen known as boron-nitride nanotubes (BNNTs). The goals of this research are to develop methods to chemically modify the surface of BNNTs and to study their solution behavior. Controlling the surface chemistry and organization of BNNT in solution will allow their utilization as building blocks for a variety of applications including high strength materials, water purification membranes, heat dissipation materials, and antifouling agents. While exploring the chemistry of BNNTs, the PIs pursue broader impact activities to broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering careers and to disseminate chemistry, engineering, and nanoscience concepts to the larger community.
BNNTs are the ultimate building blocks for the manufacture of nanoarchitectures and novel macroscopic assemblies. However their chemical functionalization, dispersion, and phase behavior in liquids, and thus their self-assembly into supramolecular ordered structures, are still challenges in this field of research. In order to address these challenges, the proposed research involves synthesizing negatively charged BNNTs, or boron nitrides nanotubides (BNNTDs). The BNNTD properties provide control over the dispensability, chemical properties, and solution dynamics of BNNTs. This project involves studying how to prepare BNNTDs by chemical reduction and the functionalization of the BNNT surface by reaction of BNNTDs with alkyl and aryl halides. The solution dynamics of BNNTs are studied using microscopy techniques. The results of this research will accelerate the maturation of BNNT science and technology, which is expected to provide new supramolecular structures with unusual combinations of properties (e.g., strong, flexible, electrically insulating, thermally conductive fibers). The research not only advances the state-of-knowledge in nanoscience, but also promotes the discovery and understanding of advanced nanotechnology concepts by graduate and undergraduate students. The educational plan includes offering talks to underrepresented minority students from K-12 to graduate school about different topics such as nanotechnology research, careers in science and engineering, and graduate school.