Research

The aim of this laboratory is to understand and exploit the intermolecular interactions of complex fluids that are or mimic biologic matter. We characterize the self-assembly of these materials using robust X-ray and Microscopy techniques in order to learn, with molecular detail, how to tailor and functionalize them for relevant therapeutic and biotechnological applications.

I. Smart supramolecular structures for the transport of biomolecules in cells: Lipids are the building blocks of the bilayer structure present in cellular membranes. Under certain conditions these membrane structures transition from the bilayer form into tubular aggregates or intricate structures with cubic symmetry. These kinds of structures and phase transitions appear to control the passive transport of biomolecules in cell organelles. We are developing and characterizing artificial lipid base materials with rich and responsive structural behavior and testing their efficiency as devices to transport nucleic acids, peptides, and other biomedical species into cells. We are developing microfluidic devices to allow the stabilization of small (ca 100 nm) and dispersed nanoparticles having diverse internal structures. (Hojun Kim, Sherry Leung)

II. Cellular delivery via deposited lipid films: The development of drug delivery devices require the transport of drugs and/or genes from a carrier that is deposited onto solid surfaces instead of a liquid dispersion. We are manufacturing a number of different lipid films adsorbed onto glass and silicon surfaces for the purpose of surface-based cell delivery. In this context, we developed new drug-lipid coating materials to apply to biodegradable macro-scale drug delivery devices. (Minjee Kang)

III. Directing the self-organization of hard materials with soft materials templating: We are developing a new method to create highly ordered, self-organized, semiconductor nanotubes using soft amphiphilic mesophases for the applications of smart LED devices. This project is done in collaboration with Professor Moonsub Shim. (Dylan Steer)

IV. Phase behavior of lung soft-materials: We are underpinning the phase behavior of lipids in healthy and diseased lungs using Small Angle X-ray Scattering and Solid State Nuclear Magnetic Ressonance (ssNMR). The ssNMR project is done in collaboration with Professor Daniel Topgaard at the University of Lund in Sweden. We are also building a oxygen sensor device to evaluate permeation of oxygen through lung mimetic membranes. (Dylan Steer, Mijung Kim)

V. Lipid loaded hydrogels: We are investigating a new class of hydrogel-liposome composite materials for the purpose of extracellular drug delivery as well as cell reprogramming. This work is done in collaboration with Professor Kris Kilian. (Sarith Bandara)

VI. Responsive polymer-lipid hybrid films: We are investigating responsive microphase separation in polymer-lipid thin films. In collaboration with Professor Chris Evans we are studying a class of thermoresponsive block-coplymers that when mixed with lipids display an on/off swicth of domain alignment. (Yookyung Go)

VII. Phase transitions in nanoparticles: In this project we investigate the capacity of lipid nanoparticles to experience local phase transitions between internal nanostructures as a function of Infrared Radiation for triggered drug-release applications. (Jacob Rueben)

VIII. Mixing oil and water by Ionic Liquids: Together with Professor Rosa Espinosa Marzal we are investigating the forces and interactions between microemulsions of oil/water/ionic liquids as an application in emerging fluids for enhanced oil recovery. (Hojun Kim, Mengwei Han at CEE)

Funding

Many thanks to our main sources of funding: National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the American Chemical Society, Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF)

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Collaborators

Our most active collaborators presently are: Rosa Espinosa Marzal, Andrew Smith, Chris Evans, Daniel Topgaard, Kris Kilian, Paul Braun, David Cahill, JJ Cheng, and Moonsub Shim.