The research objective of this award is to use a combination of biophysical, colloid science and computational tools to investigate the mechanics of condensed lipid monolayers and the underlying chemical and physical mechanisms that control these properties. Lipid monolayers are nanometer-thick surfactant membranes that reduce surface tension and enable the viscoelastic stabilization of lung alveoli, a process necessary to produce rapid gas exchange in the lung and reduce the work required to breath. Studies conducted under this award will apply micrometer-scale gas bubble production and processing tools to manipulate the molecular composition and dimensions of lipid membranes. Single microbubble rheology experiments will be developed to investigate the contributions of lipid chemistry and processing on monolayer microstructure, viscosity and elasticity at high compressions previously unattainable with standard techniques. In parallel, a surface rheology computational model will be developed to relate the lipid molecular characteristics to overall monolayer thermodynamic and mechanical properties.

If successful, these studies would add significantly to the field's understanding of the molecular regulation of alveolar lipid monolayer mechanics and illustrate the utility of computational modeling in the design and analysis of experiments. The knowledge gained from these efforts will also enhance the field?s ability to manipulate alveolar structure and function by revealing design principles for lung surfactant structure and function. This in turn may help drive the evolution of alveolar mimics for biomedical applications employing microbubble contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging, ultrasound-guided drug delivery and intravascular gas delivery. The education plan focuses on curriculum development in biocolloid engineering at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as creation of partnerships between the awardee?s institution and state and local K-12 programs geared to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities in the engineering sciences. The education and research plans are integrated to expose younger students to laboratory research and develop adaptive expertise in graduate students.

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University of Colorado at Boulder
United States
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