PHILADELPHIA –- The Nano/Bio Interface Center at the University of Pennsylvania has been awarded $11.5 million from the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers of the National Science Foundation to continue to advance nanoscale research at the interface of physical and biological systems.
The grant will support multidisciplinary research at Penn designed to explore and control the function and quantification of molecules, to explore interactions between organic/inorganic interfaces and physical and biological systems and to unite investigators from 10 academic departments to provide new directions for the life sciences in a two-way flow essential to fully realizing the benefits of nano-biotechnology.
NBIC participants conduct research in one of two major themes: biomolecular optoelectronics and molecular motions. While each theme looks into the fundamentals of molecules, there are advantages to the resulting technologies.
“Basic research of this kind will become the technologies that fuel nanoelectronics, medical diagnostic devices, functional organic molecules and inorganic nanostructures that lead to improved catalysts, solar cells and chemical sensor — all made with new families of functional materials ordered on the sub-10 nanometer-length scale,” said Steven J. Fluharty, vice provost for research at Penn.
Since the Center’s inception in 2004, the NBIC has received approximately $28 million in funding that supports faculty research from the schools of Engineering and Applied Science, Arts and Sciences, Medicine and Education and the Wharton School. The NBIC partners with research consortiums in South Korea, the Technical University Dresden and Alabama State University, as well as several corporations. These efforts are tied to an extensive education and outreach program that includes partners like Wharton and Penn’s Graduate School of Education.
Faculty and students in Wharton and the Department of History and Sociology of Science are involved in a research project that addresses the role of technology in society. Local high school science teachers enrich their content knowledge and teaching skills in a variety of professional-development programs.
“This grant is a recognition of the outstanding accomplishments of the NBIC research faculty, students and post-docs and of the new education initiatives,” said Dawn Bonnell, director of the NBIC and Trustee Chair Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at Penn. “We are excited about the future advances that will be enabled by this additional support.”
Also, the NBIC has established the Nano/Bio Probe Innovation Facility, a lab with next-generation instrumentation that has facilitated nanoscience and nanotechnology research for nearly 100 members of the Penn community, as well as local industry. In addition, NBIC has performed the first probe of the dielectric function of a single molecular layer, the first simultaneous optical and force imaging of a single ribosome and the design and synthesis of a new family of molecules with extreme optical properties. It has also created a new hybrid plasmonic nanostructure that increases and tunes photo conductivity for solar cells and has demonstrated real-time observation of a molecular motor and a nanotechnology undergraduate minor, graduate certificate and master’s-degree programs.
“The Nano/Bio Interface Center continues to lead by example in fostering research collaborations across the Penn campus and beyond,” said Eduardo Glandt, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Penn. “These advances are forging paths in fundamental research that will drive innovation from medical diagnostics to energy technologies.”