The University of Maryland MRSEC grants ended in September 2013 after 17 years of successful operation. This site remains as a history of the center, but will not be actively maintained.

Undergraduate/Graduate Programs

2006 REU Projects

Synthesis of Nanotubes and their Applications

Research Advisor: Dr. Sangbok Lee

Nanotube structures have a number of attributes that make them potential candidates for biomedical applications. First, nanotubes have inner voids that can be filled with species ranging from large proteins to small molecules. In addition, nanotubes have distinct inner and outer surfaces that can be differentially functionalized. The ability to control the dimensions allows for tailoring tube size to fit the biomedical problem at hand. Finally, the ability to make these nanotubes out of nearly any material creates the possibility of making nanotubes with a desired property such as ruggedness or biodegradability.

The REU student will learn how to synthesize these nanotubes using various materials such as SiO2, conducting polymers, and Fe3O4 by using alumina porous template film. The student will also approach problems in various applications such as targeted drug delivery, biosensors, membrane transports, and electronic devices.

Preparation and Characterization of Organic Thin Film Field Effect Transistors

Research Advisor: Dr. Elba Gomar-Nadal

Organic thin-film transistors (OTFTs) based on conjugated polymers, oligomers, or other molecules have been envisioned as a viable alternative to more traditional, mainstream thin-film transistors (TFTs) based on inorganic materials. Because of the relatively low mobility of the organic semiconductor layers, OTFTs cannot rival the performance of field-effect transistors based on single-crystalline inorganic semiconductors, such as Si and Ge, which have charge carrier mobilities () about three orders of magnitude higher. Consequently, OTFTs are not suitable for use in applications requiring very high switching speeds. However, the processing characteristics and demonstrated performance of OTFTs suggest that they can be competitive for existing or novel thin-film-transistor applications requiring large-area coverage, structural flexibility, low-temperature processing, and, especially, low cost. Such applications include switching devices for active-matrix flat-panel displays or organic light emitting diodes.

REU students will participate in the preparation of thin film OFETs by thermal evaporation, characterization of the thin film morphology using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and study of the OFET transport properties.

Combinatorial Investigation of Functional Materials

Research Advisor: Dr. Ichiro Takeuchi

Throughout the history of mankind, scientists and engineers have relied on the slow and serendipitous trial and error process for materials discovery. This process allows only a small number of materials to be examined in a given period of time. The combinatorial approach provides a means to quickly investigate a large number of previously unexplored compositions. High-throughput synthesis and characterization techniques are implemented to carry out highly integrated search-and-discovery processes.

The result is that we can rapidly identify new materials with enhanced physical properties. To date, we have used the combinatorial library method to discover new dielectric materials, ferromagnetic shape memory alloys, luminescent materials and magnetoelectric materials. REU students will participate in the design, synthesis and characterization of combinatorial libraries in search of novel functional materials. For more information, go to

Fluorescent and Colorimetric Sensors Based on Cucurbit[n]urils

Research Advisor: Dr. Lyle Isaacs

The Isaacs group has recently prepared new macrocycles (Doughnut shaped compounds) that are fluorescent, UV active, and have the ability to act as molecular containers for chemically and biologically (e.g. Amino acids, explosives, neurotransmitters, etc) important analytes. The next step to be undertaken by an REU summer student is to covalently immobilize the cucurbit[n]uril analogs to a solid phase (e.g. Glass slides) and use this new material as a novel sensory material using fluorescence or UV/Vis spectroscopy. The REU student will be exposed to organic synthesis and associated analytical techniques (e.g. NMR), surface fictionalization and characterization, and sensing applications (e.g. Fluorescence and UV/Vis).

Electronic Properties of Interfaces Between 2-D Nanomaterials

Research Advisor: Dr. Michael Fuhrer

Two-dimensional (2-D) nanoscale materials with thickness less than few atoms exhibit unusual physical properties which are interesting for both fundamental and applied science. We are investigating the electron transport properties of 2-D nanomaterials: single sheet of graphite or layered transition-metal dichalcogenides (e.g. MoS2), or single-molecule-thick films of organic semiconductors. Our scientific goal is to observe the influence of two-dimensional electrostatics on the electronic properties of interfaces between metals and semiconductors. This research may lead to novel types of electronic devices such as photoelectric cells or chemical sensors. The REU student will be directly involved with materials preparation, characterization using scanning electron microscopy and scanning probe microscopy, device fabrication (electron-beam lithography), and electrical measurements of devices at cryogenic temperatures.

Self-Assembly of Surfactant-based Drug Encapsulation Vessels

Research Advisor: Dr. Doug English

One area of particular interest in the English Group is self assembly. Self assembly refers to processes in which groups of molecules weakly associate to form larger, stable aggregates with very specific structure. These self assembly processes are important in how laundry detergents work, how walls form in living cells, and the way in which molecules coat certain surfaces. In our group, a REU student will study mixtures of cationic and anionic molecules that spontaneously form spherical shells (spontaneous equilibrium vesicles). These equilibrium vesicles can be used to encapsulate small molecules in solution. Molecules can remain encapsulated for weeks or months and their release can be intentionally triggered. These vesicles are promising storage and delivery vehicles for drugs, cosmetics and agrochemicals. As a REU student you will participate in studies aimed at deepening our understanding of how equilibrium vesicle properties change with composition. These results will be important in optimizing the performance of these molecular materials.

Controlled Synthesis of Functional Zero-Dimensional Nanostructures

Research Advisor: Dr. Min Ouyang

This project will explore rational chemical synthesis of metallic and semiconductor nanomaterials with their sizes tunable between 2-20 nanometer. Recently these nanomaterials have attracted a great deal of interests from both fundamental science and technological application points of view because their physical properties (electronic, optical and etc.) show dramatic difference from higher dimensional counterparts. We will focus on developing novel organometallic synthetic routes for making high quality zero-dimensional nanomaterials with controllable size, shape and morphology. The REU students will gain invaluable experience in chemical nanomaterial synthesis, nanomaterial structural and composition characterizations (using transmission electron microscope, powder X-ray diffraction and etc.).

Optical and Anisotropic Properties of One-Dimensional Nanowires

Research Advisor: Dr. Min Ouyang

One- dimensional nanowires with nanometer wide and micrometer long represent the smallest dimension structures for transporting information (for example, electrical current) and nano-device integration. Our goal is (1) to fabricate these one- dimensional nanowires in a control manner. Different methods including gas phase synthesis and electrochemical synthesis will be applied; and (2) to study their unique optical and anisotropic effects. Nanowires with different diameters will have different optical properties. In addition, these one- dimensional nanowires are intrinsically anisotropic material systems, which immediately suggest that their corresponding optical properties (and others) will be distinct from different directions. The REU students will be directly involved with materials preparation and optical measurements and are expected to receive highly interdisciplinary training in cutting-edge research spanning chemistry, physics and material science.

Imaging on the nano-scale with Near Field Optical Microscopy

Research Advisor: Dr. Dennis Drew

With the discovery of the optical microscope by Anton van Leeuwenhoek in the seventeenth century mankind has had the ability to look at the world on the microscale. This ability opened the door to modern science and medicine. However, the finite wavelength of light limited the optical magnification or the optical resolution of the optical microscope to about 1 micron. Recently the development of NSOM (Near Field Scanning Optical Microscope) has greatly improved our ability to image on a small spatial scale. By scanning a sub-wavelength aperture over a sample, NSOM allows imaging on the nano-scale. Now we can look inside a living cell or see individual atoms using light. In our laboratory we use NSOM to study the nano-physics of individual molecules and the optical properties of nano-circuits of metal nano-particles, and to write and read nano-scale information. NSOM is one of the tools fueling the field of nano-science which promises a new revolution in science and technology. REU students will work with NSOM on research on imaging individual molecules and nano-particles and investigating their properties.

Project in Directed Self Organization at Moving Interfaces

Research Advisor: Dr. Ray Phaneuf

The continued drive toward devices of ever-smaller dimensions and simultaneously higher densities is expected to exceed the capabilities of existing photolithographic and direct-write technologies within the next several years. Continued progress will require a new paradigm. One of the most promising is that of directed self-assembly, i. e. inducing a spontaneous ordering of atoms or molecules into useful structures using some sort of spatially modulated field or template. The experiments use both epitaxial growth of ultra thin semiconductor films on patterned substrates and sublimation from patterned substrates to control the structures that develop. This project will include both involvement in atomic force microscopy measurements of the structures, and analysis of the results.

This project involves investigation of instabilities and pattern formation at surfaces of semiconductor and low-k dielectric materials during growth, etching and annealing. The student will participate in characterization of templated surfaces before and after the above processes using atomic force microscopy (AFM), as well as numerical simulations of the morphology changes which occur.

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