Selected Projects

Nanostructure Formation

Nanotechnology enables the design of materials with outstanding performance. A key element of nanotechnology is the ability to manipulate and control matter on the nanoscale to achieve a certain desired set of specific properties. Here, we discuss recent insight into the formation mechanisms of inorganic and organic nanoparticles during growth reactions in gas, liquid, and solid phases, as well as at phase interfaces.

Enzymatic Catalysis

Enzyme catalysis is the increase in the rate of a process by a biological molecule, an "enzyme". Most enzymes are proteins, and most such processes are chemical reactions. Within the enzyme, generally catalysis occurs at a localized site, called the active site. Mechanisms of enzyme catalysis vary, but are all similar in principle to other types of chemical catalysis in that the crucial factor is a reduction of energy barrier(s) separating the reactants from the products. 

Rational Catalyst Design
Pharmaceutical Protein Stabilization

Heterogeneous catalysis typically involves solid phase catalysts and gas phase reactants. In this case, there is a cycle of molecular adsorption, reaction, and desorption occurring at the catalyst surface. Thermodynamics, mass transfer, and heat transfer influence the rate (kinetics) of reaction. Catalysts are not active towards reactants across their entire surface; only specific locations possess catalytic activity, called active sites. Understanding the scaling relations of adsorption energies and activation energies greatly facilitates the computational catalyst design. 

The increasing use of recombinantly expressed therapeutic proteins in the pharmaceutical industry has highlighted issues such as their stability during long-term storage and means of efficacious delivery that avoid adverse immunogenic side effects. Controlled chemical modifications, such as substitutions, acylation and PEGylation, have fulfilled some but not all of their promises, while hydrogels and lipid-based formulations could well be developed into generic delivery systems. This might in turn lead to generally accepted guidelines and tests to avoid unforeseen adverse effects in drug delivery.

Biomass Transformation

As a sole renewable organic carbon source with many advantages such as abundance, low-cost, diversity and availability, biomass has tremendous potential to replace fossil resources. Major components of biomass are cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, long-chain fatty acid, and triglycerides, which can be converted to fuels, fine chemicals and functional materials. Replacing fossil resources with biomass can effectively reduce the dependence on fossil resources and has become a particularly hot research topic. Many processes and technologies have been developed for the efficient conversion of biomass to chemicals, fuels and materials, including thermochemical, chemical, physical, and biochemical technologies.