Research by Area

The research areas in our department span from biological engineering to energy to functional materials; below are the main thrusts.

Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

Anseth BiomaterialsBiomaterials and Tissue Engineering ~ Anseth, Bowman, Bryant, Cha, Goodwin, Kaar, Randolph, Schwartz, Shirts, Stansbury

  • Materials that improve biocompatibility and functional performance.
  • Polymers for drug delivery, in vivo imaging, and tissue engineering.
  • Directing tissue growth for regenerating cartilage and cardiac muscle.
  • Novel dental restorative materials.
  • Engineering proteins for biomaterials and imaging applications.
  • Dynamics of biomolecules at biomaterial interfaces.

(pictured: Embryonic stem cell-derived motor neurons seeded on a hydrogel that recapitulates critical aspects of the of the adult nervous system microenvironment. Beta-tubulin is shown in red, actin in orange, and cytoplasm in green. Courtesy of Anseth research group.)


Making quantum dotsBiosensing ~ Bowman, ChaChatterjee, Goodwin, Nagpal, Schwartz

  • Novel protein nanosensors for in vitro and in vivo detection.
  • “Smart” colloids that sense and react to their surroundings.
  • Biomolecule detection using liquid crystals, polymerization, or photonics.

[pictured: The strategy for producing stable DNA conjugated quantum dots (a) and the resulting quantum dots (b). Courtesy of the Cha, Goodwin and Nagpal research groups.]

Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals

Ricin stabilizationBiotechnology and Pharmaceuticals ~ Chatterjee, Fox, Gill, Goodwin, Kaar, Randolph, Schwartz, Shirts

  • Sustainable biorefining of fuels, commodity chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Stabilization and formulation of therapeutic proteins and vaccines.
  • Improving bioreactor performance.
  • Novel antimicrobials.
  • Computational studies of biomolecules.

(pictured: Lyophilization was used to stabilize a recombinant ricin toxin A subunit vaccine. Mice immunized with reconstituted vaccine produced antibodies, regardless of the length of high temperature vaccine storage. Courtesy of the Randolph research group.

Catalysis and Surface Science

Medlin catalysis and surface scienceCatalysis and Surface Science ~ Cha, Falconer, Gin, Holewinski, Medlin, Musgrave, Schwartz, Weimer

  • Improved chemical reactions for renewable and sustainable energy.
  • Novel biomimetic heterogeneous catalysts.
  • New catalysis using atomic layer deposition (ALD).
  • Enzymatic catalysis in novel solvent environments.

(pictured: An alkyl chain growing on a surface in an aqueous environment, as might occur in conversion of carbon dioxide to fuels. Courtesy of the Medlin research group.)

Computational Science and Engineering

Focus on Fluids FigureComputational Science and Engineering ~ Chatterjee, DavisHeinz, Hrenya, Medlin, Musgrave, Shirts

  • Mathematical modeling of cellular processes for biomedical applications.
  • Dynamics and interactions of particles or droplets.
  • Multiscale modeling of polymers, nanomaterials, and biomolecules.
  • Simulating materials for catalysis, microelectronics, data storage and biomaterials.
  • Quantum simulations to discover and design molecules for the conversion and storage of energy.

(pictured:Kinetic-theory prediction of clustering instabilities in granular flows. Applications include gasifiers used in energy production, heat transfer in concentrating solar power plants, ejection of lunar soil upon spacecraft landing, and even the dynamics of the rings of Saturn. Courtesy of Hrenya research group.)


Multi-tube solar reactorEnergy ~ Cha, Chatterjee, Davis, Falconer, Fox, Gill, Gin, GoodwinHeinz, Holewinski, Hrenya, Medlin, Musgrave, Nagpal, Noble, Schwartz, Stoykovich, Weimer

  • Genome-engineering to improve cellulosic biofuels production.
  • Designing new catalysts for selective conversions in renewable and sustainable energy applications.
  • Utilizing enzymes in ionic liquids to convert biomass to biofuels.
  • Quantum simulations to design molecules for the conversion and storage of energy.

H2 from sunlight

  • Thin film materials and membranes to obtain high-purity hydrogen for fuel cells.
  • Design of solar cells and solar-thermal chemical reactors/receivers to produce high purity hydrogen.

(pictured right: A laboratory model of a multi-tube solar reactor at the University of Colorado Boulder that can be used to split water in order to produce clean hydrogen fuel. Courtesy of the Weimer research group.)

Fluids and Flows

Hrenya fluids and flowsFluids and Flows ~ Davis, Hrenya, Weimer

  • Characterizing flow behavior of particulate matter including granular flows, gas-particle fluidization, and aerosol dynamics.
  • Microphysical studies of fundamental interactions.
  • Macrophysical studies of suspensions, sedimentation, filtration, aggregation, coalescence, flotation, and phase separation.

(pictured: De-mixing of solid particles according to size when undergoing vibration-induced flow. Courtesy of the Hrenya research group.)

Interfaces and Self-Assembly

Intermittent Molecular HoppingInterfaces and Self-Assembly ~ Bowman, Cha, Gin, GoodwinHeinz, Kaar, Medlin, Musgrave, Nagpal, Randolph, Schwartz, Stoykovich

  • Directing proteins and polymer surfaces at interfaces to develop novel functional biomaterials.
  • Improving reactions at solid surfaces for energy applications.
  • “Smart” colloids that sense and react to their surroundings.
  • Directed self-assembly of polymeric films into useful, device-oriented structures.
  • Effects of chemical stimuli and external forces on interfacial organization.

(pictured: Using single-molecule tracking at a solid-liquid interface, molecules are seen to move by an intermittent, 3D hopping mechanism. Courtesy of the Schwartz research group.)

Membranes and Separations

Zeolite membrane structureZeolite membrane Membranes and Separations ~ Davis, Falconer, Gin, Noble

  • Inorganic membranes such as zeolites for gas and liquid separations.
  • Molecular layer deposition (MLD) for membrane preparation.
  • Room-temperature ionic liquids-based materials and films.
  • Electric or light energy for increased selectivity in micro-scale devices.
  • Polymer membranes.

(pictured: Zeolite membranes and gas separation utilizing a zeolite membrane. Courtesy of the Falconer research group.)

Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology

Nagpal upconversion of infrared radiation into visible lightNanomaterials and Nanotechnology ~ Bowman, Cha, FalconerGin, GoodwinHeinz, Holewinski, Medlin, Musgrave, Nagpal, Schwartz, Stoykovich, Weimer

  • Nanoparticle thin film device fabrication and modeling.
  • New room-temperature ionic liquids-based materials and polyelectrolyte architectures.
  • Synthesizing well-defined organic-inorganic systems from nanoscale building blocks.
  • Improved microfluidic devices using photopolymerizations.
  • Designing and fabricating nanostructured materials using top-down and bottom-up techniques.

(pictured: The upconversion of infrared radiation into visible light using doped-lanthanide nanocrystals; applications include improved solar cell performance and biological imaging of deep tissue. Courtesy of the Nagpal research group.)

Polymers and Soft Materials

Bowman Advanced Materials CoverPolymers and Soft Materials ~ Anseth, Bowman, BryantGin, GoodwinHeinz, Musgrave, Randolph, Stansbury, Stoykovich

  • Novel monomers and photopolymerization mechanisms.
  • Dental restorative materials with minimal shrinkage.
  • Polymers for drug delivery, in vivo imaging, tissue engineering, labs-on-a-chip, adhesives, coatings, lithography, microelectronics, and LCDs.
  • Computer simulations to study material behavior.

(pictured: This Advanced Materials cover image illustrates the formation of a cross-linked network in the irradiated/light area while unreacted monomer molecules remain in the dark regions. Courtesy of the Bowman research group.)

Protein Engineering and Synthetic Biology

Gill E coli sequencingProtein Engineering and Synthetic Biology ~ ChatterjeeFox, Gill, Kaar, Randolph

  • Genome-engineering for biofuels, pharmaceutical, and gene therapy applications.
  • Rationalizing relationships between genome structure and function.
  • Synthesizing protein-containing structures.
  • Therapeutic protein stability, degradation, and contamination studies.
  • Modular synthetic genetic devices that can achieve higher-order biological computation.

(pictured: The design of an ethanol tolerance selection strategy utilizing the SCALEs approach. The goal is to genetically alter E. coli to produce ethanol. Courtesy of the Gill research group.)