Research Foundations in sol-gel science

In the 1980’s Jeff Brinker initiated some of the first fundamental and systematic studies of chemical processing of ceramics via sol-gel techniques. In
collaboration with Dale Schaeffer and Keith Keefer, Jeff performed the first xray scattering study on gels confirming their fractal characteristics (Sol-Gel Transition in Simple Silicates I,II,III J. Non. Cryst. Solids). Along with George Scherer he was the first to study the sintering and relaxation of amorphous silica gels (Sol-Gel-Glass I, II, III, J. Non. Cryst. Solids). He provided insight into the details of silica sol-gel chemistry (Hydrolysis and Condensation of Silicates, J. Non. Cryst. Solids).  In 1990, Brinker, together with Scherer, published the single most important book in sol-gel chemistry, "Sol-Gel Science".  This book contains the most extensive and systematic discussions of the fundamental scientific principles as well as practical applications of sol-gel processing, a principle means of chemical synthesis of nanostructured materials.

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Latest Research

Understanding Catalysis in a Multiphasic Two-Dimensional Transition Metal Dichalcogenide

Establishing processing-structure-property relationships for monolayer materials is crucial for a range of applications spanning optics, catalysis, electronics and energy. Presently, for molybdenum disulfide, a promising catalyst for artificial photosynthesis, considerable debate surrounds the structure/property relationships of its various allotropes. Here we unambiguously solve the structure of molybdenum disulfide monolayers using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy supported by density functional theory and show lithium intercalation to direct a preferential transformation of the basal plane from 2H (trigonal prismatic) to 1T' (clustered Mo).

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Spray-Dried Multiscale Nano-biocomposites Containing Living Cells

Three-dimensional encapsulation of cells within nanostructured silica gels or matrices enables applications as diverse as biosensors, microbial fuel cells, artificial organs, and vaccines; it also allows the study of individual cell behaviors. Recent progress has improved the performance and flexibility of cellular encapsulation, yet there remains a need for robust scalable processes. Here, we report a spray-drying process enabling the large-scale production of functional nano-biocomposites (NBCs) containing living cells within ordered 3D lipid-silica nanostructures. The spray-drying process is demonstrated to work with multiple cell types and results in dry powders exhibiting a unique combination of properties including highly ordered 3D nanostructure, extended lipid fluidity, tunable macromorphologies and aerodynamic diameters, and unexpectedly high physical strength.

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