Bio-Inspired Development of Nanocatalysts

Supervisory Team: Dr Nick Bedford

Description: Biology has generated inorganic nanoscale materials under ambient conditions for millennia. Some examples found throughout nature include biogenic iron oxide nanoparticles used for navigation in migratory species to nanoscale features found in various aquatic corals that result in structural colorization. Taking cues from nature, researchers are using similar concepts to create functional nanomaterials. Commonly, this involves the incorporation of a biomolecule, such as a protein or nuclei acid, to initiate synthesis, template, and/or assemble inorganic materials under aqueous conditions. More recent efforts have demonstrated that such approaches can be used to create nanocatalysts that have biologically-engendered reactivity. In other words, the sequence of the biological molecule at the biotic/abiotic surface directly affect catalytic reactivity. This exciting discovery suggest that catalyst properties can be directly altered by manipulating biological molecule sequences, enabling bio-inspired strategies to make better catalysts.

In this project, peptides will be used to generate functional nanocatalysts. Possible nanocatalyst candidates for study include metallic and bimetallic nanoparticles, mixed metal oxides, and hierarchical metal/metal oxide nanoparticles. Reactions of possible study include those relevant to electrochemical reactions of importance to alternative energy solutions, hydrolysis reactions for pesticide decontamination, amongst others.
Prospective students in the Chemical Engineering or Food Science and Technology should have the appropriate background to perform in this research project. Interested students should contact Dr. Nicholas Bedford (n.bedford@unsw.edu.au) for more information.

Suitable for: Chemical Engineers, Food Scientist. Not available during summer semester

Level of difficulty: Average