(Photo Courtesy Wayne State University College of Engineering)

By Julie O’Connor

Guangzhao Mao


Guangzhao Mao, Wayne State University College of Engineering

A professor from Wayne State University’s College of Engineering recently received a $330,000 award from the National Science Foundation for the project, “Nanoparticle-directed synthesis of organic nanorods.”

According to the National Science Foundation, nanotechnology is the creation and utilization of functional materials, devices, and systems with novel properties and functions. A major bottleneck in scaling up nanotechnology is the lack of manufacturing methods that connect different functional materials into one device. A research team led by Dr. Guangzhao Mao, professor of chemical engineering and materials science, is seeking answers to this problem.

Mao will explore a new concept of manufacturing nanoscale devices using a solution-based process with inexpensive raw materials. Mao’s concept could potentially revolutionize the field by allowing new functional materials to be added to basic devices from solution droplets.

“Our research will investigate nanorod and nanowire synthesis using nanoparticles as seeds,” said Mao. “This will allow us to add flexible materials made of organics and polymers into nanoscale devices.”

One of the devices Mao plans to make is an inexpensive and field-ready electrochemical nano-sensor. Seed-mediated crystallization is used to make drug crystals and gem stones, and Mao believes that if small seeds are used, she can reliably make small crystals. These small crystals can be in the form of nanowires to connect to other units of the same device. This solution-based room-temperature process can be scaled up for the manufacturing of molecular conductors, connectors, switches, and networks.

“In addition, we will monitor the seed-mediated crystallization process in real time as it occurs in a solution using atomic force microscopy to better understand this process,” added Mao.

“Dr. Mao’s important research illustrates how commercial technology development sparks new research and vice versa,” said Gloria Heppner, Ph.D., associate vice president for research at Wayne State. “She is most deserving of this award from the National Science Foundation.”

The award number for this National Science Foundation award is NSF CHE-1404285.