Chirality is a geometrical property describing objects that are not the same as their mirror images. Such objects are common in Nature and chirality determines the outcome of most biological processes. This project will study how to make nanoparticles of ceramics chiral in order to produce new drugs, reduce pollution, create new display technologies, improve biomedical implants, and realize new ultra-strong materials. These technological advances become possible because chirality of nanoscale ceramics can be combined with their special mechanical, optical, electronic, chemical, and biological properties. Synthetic methods, characteristic properties, and computational tools will be established. The surface of small particles of tungsten oxide will be coated with amino acids that will transfer their chirality to the inorganic material. The best conditions for the synthesis of long chain molecules, known as peptides, with specific chirality to be used as antibacterial drugs for biomedical and national defense needs, will be found. The outcome of this project will be a versatile toolbox for applied studies and education that will be available to other scientists, engineers, teachers, and the public. The low cost, biocompatibility and commonality of ceramic materials will enable utilization of chiral ceramics in many technological areas. The University of Michigan will collaborate with schools in poor communities in Detroit area to demonstrate importance of chirality to high and middle school students. The project will also help kids of high school age with speech impediments to find interesting research topics in chemistry, physics, materials, or mathematics.

Technical Abstract

Chirality is a geometrical property with unifying importance for physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and mathematics. Nanoscale ceramics can be chiral, which will enhance mechanical, optical, electronic, chemical, and biological properties of these materials. These advances in ceramics will make possible a new generation of materials for polarization modulation devices, chiral catalysts, biomedical implants, biosensors, and drug carriers. Thus, a framework of synthetic methods, characteristic properties, and computational tools will be established in this project. As a model system, chiral ceramic nanoparticles of tungsten trioxide with L- and D- amino acid surface ligands adsorbed to their surface will be synthesized. These nanocolloids will be subsequently utilized in the catalysis of amino acid condensation into antibacterial peptides. Integrated training of students skillful in both computational and synthetic tools is essential to its impact of this project. The educational and outreach efforts will be focused on underrepresented minorities and middle- and high-school students from high-poverty Ypsilanti area. Kids of high school age with speech impediments will be engaged in the scientific research.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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Judith Yang
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Regents of the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor
United States
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