Bioinspired Materials

Since the dawn of human civilization, we have continually advanced our ability to manufacture and manipulate materials, to build a world of modern cities composed of complex infrastructure. However, many challenges at the interface between manufactured parts and natural systems remain unsolved, for example, drag resistance in pipes, wastewater treatment, and biofouling in medical and maritime industries. Nature, with millions of years evolution, has provided us with our greatest inspiration to solve critical design challenges. Our group focuses on rationally designing interfacial micro-nano architectures inspired from a variety of species found in nature, in order to provide novel strategies and guidelines for overcoming challenges at biotic-abiotic interfaces.

1. Inspired by the reentrant nanostructure on the springtail skin, we have rationally designed and fabricated the superomniphobic hyper-hierarchical surface structures from nanometer scale to micrometer scales, providing insights for the future manufacturing of liquid-repellent surfaces. Our nano-manufacturing process can be applied to a wide variety of substrates, which leads to applications ranging from drag reduction in pipes to self-cleaning and anti-fouling surfaces for medical devices.

2. Wastewater treatment is a critical step in our water cycles; however, it often involves energy intensive processes, such as reverse osmosis to remove toxic ions and other chemical waste streams. Morpho sulkowskyi butterfly wings contain naturally occurring hierarchical nanostructures that produce structural coloration. The high aspect ratio and surface area of these wings make them attractive nanostructured templates for applications in solar energy and photocatalysis. Our group introduced a biotemplating approach that precisely replicates Morpho nanostructures by depositing nanocrystalline ZnO coatings onto wings via low-temperature atomic layer deposition (ALD). The multifunctional photocatalysts from this biotempleted nanostructure present a new approach to integrating solar energy harvesting into visually attractive surfaces that can be integrated into building facades or other macroscopic structures to impart aesthetic appeal.

3. Biofouling has a negative impact on human health and economic development. It causes increased fuel penalty, attenuation of sensor signals, and more. To overcome these challenges, several natural surfaces, including shark skin, crab eyes, and dragonfly wings, have shown reduced biofilm settlement, nucleation, and adhesion because of their micro- and nano- surface textures. Inspired by natural surfaces, herein, our group has presented the rational design and fabrication of ZnO/Al2O3 core-shell nanowire (NW) architectures to significantly reduce marine biofouling (algae: cyanobacteria and diatoms) and further suppress the biofilm formation by tuning the NW geometry (length, spacing, branching) and surface chemistry. Through the rational control of surface nano-architectures, the coupled relationships between wettability, transparency, and anti-biofouling performance are identified. We envision that the insights gained from the work can be used to systematically design surfaces that reduce marine biofouling in various industrial settings.

Selected Publications:

(1) Wang, J., Lee, S., Bielinski, A. R., Meyer, K. A., Dhyani, A., Ortiz-Ortiz, A. M., Tuteja, A., Dasgupta, N. P., Rational Design of Transparent Nanowire Architectures for Preventing Marine Fouling. Advanced Materials Interfaces, 2000672 (2020) [link]

(2) Rodríguez, R.E., Agarwal, S.P., An, S., Kazyak, E., Das, D., Shang, W., Skye, R., Deng, T. and Dasgupta, N.P.,  Biotemplated morpho butterfly wings for tunable structurally colored photocatalysts. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 10, 4614 (2018) [link]

(3) Bielinski, A.R., Boban, M., He, Y., Kazyak, E., Lee, D.H., Wang, C., Tuteja, A. and Dasgupta, N.P.,  Rational design of hyperbranched nanowire systems for tunable superomniphobic surfaces enabled by atomic layer deposition. ACS Nano 11, 478 (2017) [link]

(4) Lou, J., Liu, Y., Wang, Z., Zhao, D., Song, C., Wu, J., Dasgupta, N., Zhang, W., Zhang, D., Tao, P. and Shang, W., Bioinspired multifunctional paper-based rGO composites for solar-driven clean water generation. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces. 8, 14628, (2016) [link]

(5) Liu, Y., Lou, J., Ni, M., Song, C., Wu, J., Dasgupta, N.P., Tao, P., Shang, W. and Deng, T., Bioinspired bifunctional membrane for efficient clean water generation. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 8, 772 (2016). [link]

(6) Bielinski, A.R., Kazyak, E., Schlepütz, C.M., Jung, H.J., Wood, K.N. and Dasgupta, N.P., Hierarchical ZnO nanowire growth with tunable orientations on versatile substrates using atomic layer deposition seeding. Chem. Mater. 27, 4799 (2015). [link]