A team led by Case Western Reserve University chemical engineering professor C.C. Liu will receive $1.3 million over the next four years to research and develop novel microscopic machines powered by ultra light-sensitive molecules. The practical applications of research on these molecules, called bistable rotaxanes, include energy-storage systems, drug-delivery devices, and chemical and biological sensors; any of which could fit on the head of a pin.
The project is one of 25 out of 386 original proposals selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to be funded as part of its highly competitive Nanoscale: Interdisciplinary Research Teams (NIRT), grant. Other team members include experts in chemistry and computer modeling from California Institute of Technology, Penn State University and UCLA.
According to Liu, Case's Wallace R. Persons Professor of Sensor Technology and Control, he and his colleagues will take a comprehensive approach to the development and application of novel photoactive molecular structures. "With the people and institutions we have assembled, we can investigate everything from how these molecular structures react to light differently in different states to how to most effectively and efficiently manufacture them for use in practical devices," Liu says.
As director of Case's Electronics Design Center microfabrication facility, Liu will oversee practical application and manufacturing aspects of the project.
The proposal, which is titled "NanoElectroMechanical Systems (NEMS) using Light-Driven Molecular Shuttles as Active Nanostructures," received high marks from NSF reviewers for its educational impact as well as its technical merit. The project includes a summer program that will allow students at the four institutions to participate in each other's research groups as well as outreach programs that engage children as early as elementary school.
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