Nanotechnology Project

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Environment, Health and Safety Research

Environmental Remediation Through Self-Assembly and Applications to Environmental Sensor Development

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorVijay John
InstitutionTulane University
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsMarginal
Class of NanomaterialEngineered Nanomaterials
Impact SectorEnvironment
Broad Research Categories Hazard
NNI identifier

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$100,000.00
Annual Funding$50,000.00
Funding SourceNSF
Funding MechanismExtramural
Funding SectorGovernment
Start Year2003
Anticipated End Year2005


“Environmental Remediation through Self-Assembly and Applications to Environmental Sensor Development”

The objective of this research is to develop a process for environmental remediation of aqueous streams containing aromatic compounds. The process involves incorporating well-known technologies with new science. Surfactant micelles will be first used to concentrate organic contaminants (typically phenols and aromatic amines) in aqueous streams, in a version of the well-studied micellar enhanced ultrafiltration technology (MEUF). The next step will be to polymerize these contaminants within the micelles using oxidative enzymes such as horseradish peroxidase. The resulting conjugated polymers are themselves very useful in coatings technologies, and in applications to electrooptics. The third step is to encapsulate the micelle-polymer assembly within the pore structure of mesoporous silicas (and titanias). This will result in useful polymer-ceramic nanocomposites where functionality of the encapsulated materials can be utilized to develop robust sensor materials that are photoluminescent. The encapsulation of enzymes through this route will also be evaluated in the development of novel chemo-biosensors.

Broader impacts

Excellent interdisciplinary training for both undergraduates and graduate students will be provided. The combination of spectroscopy, microscopy and scattering techniques that the students will be exposed to, will be an invaluable research experience. Tulane University operates a unique Coordinated Instrumentation Facility where centralized instrumentation and expertise allow excellent student training. The PI’s are fully committed to providing educational opportunities, and have a strong record of working towards such objectives with formalized programs such as the Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation in Research (LAMP). The research is the continuation of a collaboration at Tulane that has produced several Ph.D. graduates and has provided undergraduate research experience to over 10 students. From a technical prospective, the exploratory research phase will evaluate the feasibility of transforming environmental contaminants to useful, high value products.

The process of enzyme entrapment in mesoporous silicas will be used to encapsulate phosphotriesterase. Thin films of such enzyme containing silicas will be used to develop a sensor for the detection of nerve agent surrogates such as paraoxon.