Biomolecular crystals for material applications and a mechanistic study of an iron oxide nanoparticle synthesis
Falkner, Joshua Charles
Colvin, Vicki L.
Doctor of Philosophy
The three projects within this work address the difficulties of controlling biomolecular crystal formats (i.e. size and shape), producing 3-D ordered composite materials from biomolecular crystal templates, and understanding the mechanism of a practical iron oxide synthesis. The unifying thread consistent throughout these three topics is the development of methods to manipulate nanomaterials using a bottom-up approach. Biomolecular crystals are nanometer to millimeter sized crystals that have well ordered mesoporous solvent channels. The overall physical dimensions of these crystals are highly dependent on crystallization conditions. The controlled growth of micro- and nanoprotein crystals was studied to provide new pathways for creating smaller crystalline protein materials. This method produced tetragonal hen egg-white lysozyme crystals (250--100,000 nm) with near monodisperse size distributions (<15%). With this degree of control, existing protein crystal applications such as drug delivery and analytical sensors can reach their full potential. Applications for larger crystals with inherently ubiquitous pore structures could extend to materials used for membranes or templates. In this work, the porous structure of larger cowpea mosaic virus crystals was used to template metal nanoparticle growth within the body centered cubic crystalline network. The final composite material was found to have long range ordering of palladium and platinum nonocrystal aggregates (10nm) with symmetry consistent to the virus template. Nanoparticle synthesis itself is an immense field of study with an array of diverse applications. The final piece of this work investigates the mechanism behind a previously developed iron oxide synthesis to gain more understanding and direction to future synthesis strategies. The particle growth mechanism was found to proceed by the formation of a solvated iron(III)oleate complex followed by a reduction of iron (III) to iron (II). This unstable iron(II) nucleates to form a wustite (FeO) core which serves as an epitaxial surface for the magnetite (Fe3O4) shell growth. This method produces spherical particles (6-60nm) with relative size distributions of less than 15%.
Biochemistry; Engineering; Materials science