Tech

April 18, 2014

AFRL researchers uncover structural, function relationships in bioinspired nanomaterials

Tim Anderl
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

In his 1954 work, The Nature of Science, Edwin Powell Hubble said, “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”

During his tenure with the Air Force Research Laboratory, National Research Council associate Dr. Nick Bedford, embarked on such an adventure that applied both biological and physical principles prevalent in the world around him to uncover scientific phenomena and understanding.

“For over millennia, nature has devised methods for the creation of hierarchical nano/micro scale inorganic structures under benign aqueous conditions,” Bedford explained. “The precise synthesis and arrangement of biogenic inorganic materials is only achievable because of the level of functional and structural sophistication found in biomolecules such as proteins, peptides, and nucleic acids. Inspired by such processes, the material science community has seen a significant increase in the use of biological molecules to create nanomaterials.”

Further, scientists recognize that by exploiting the inherent complexity/programmability of peptides, it may be possible to achieve tunable materials functionality and spatial arrangement by simple alteration of the amino acid sequence, Bedford added. However, such precise nanoscale control can only be accomplished if a thorough understanding of biotic/abiotic interactions is known.

With this understanding, Bedford came to AFRL research leader Dr. Rajesh Naik, who he’d collaborated with during a Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute fellowship program, with an idea. The NRC mentor suggested he submit the proposal to AFRL via the NRC associateship program. Naik and his team at the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at AFRL are actively engaged in understanding the design rules that govern the interaction between biomolecules and abiotic materials such as metal, carbon nanomaterials and polymers.

“The proposal scored well and I was invited to begin working in March 2013,” Bedford said.

The collaborative research effort is already yielding results that represent a critical step forward to fully understand the complete biotic/abiotic scope of materials, and uncovering fundamental science that has never previously been understood.

According to Bedford, the discovery has the potential to enhance the properties and change the structures of materials allowing them perform in different and better ways. Uncovering better, stronger materials with enhanced capabilities is of paramount importance to Air Force scientists working towards next generation aerospace systems.

Until now, experimental and theoretical techniques have been used to help understand peptide surface morphology at this critical interface, yet virtually nothing is known about the underlying inorganic structure. “Research I conducted with peers at AFRL, Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Miami, Florida, University of Akron, Central Michigan University and Brookhaven National Laboratory illuminates the precise relationships and interactions at the biotic/abiotic interface and within the inorganic nanomaterial,” Bedford said.

Using synchrotron radiation characterization techniques, Bedford and collaborators at AFRL can determine atomic scale structural differences in nanoparticles generated with peptides of varying amino acid diversity. “Using bio-inspired Palladium (Pd) nanocatalysts as a model system, we were able to generated nanoparticle configurations by modelling atomic pair distribution functions (PDF), obtained from high-energy X-ray diffraction data, using a reverse Monte Carlo (RMC) algorithm.”

“Potential structural differences caused by slight changes in the amino acid content of the capping peptide, ultimately have a direct impact on the catalytic activity,” Dr. Bedford added “The results from the RMC fitting, shown in the accompanying figure, corroborate this hypothesis, demonstrating different amounts of surface disorder for each peptide analog.

“Such structural information is important, as it can help elucidate sequence dependent structure/function relationships needed to create a nanomaterial with tunable properties.”

While peptide-capped Pd is a noteworthy material in terms of its catalytic properties, other bio-inspired materials are also being studied in a similar manner to obtain universal and material specific peptide induced structure/function relationships. These materials include Gold, and Titania with applications in sensing, optics, energy storage and energy harvesting.

Moving forward, computational methods will also be used in conjunction with atomic PDF data to help determine the morphology of the peptide on these surface disordered structures. With the combined diffraction/computational characterization efforts, it is envisioned that a set of “design rules” will be developed for the creation of highly programmable nanomaterials and nanomaterial assemblies, potentially allowing for creation nanomaterials with the precision of nature.

Bedford and his collaborators are currently completing a research paper and will publish their discoveries. In the meantime Dr. Bedford is searching for new opportunities and weighing his career options as an independent researcher, in academia or at another government laboratory.

“The opportunity, collaborations and freedom this NRC associateship provided were extremely valuable and fruitful,” Bedford admitted. “The result is the discovery of new, fundamental science nobody knew about.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines April 17, 2015

News: Army extends benefits to Hood shooting victims¬†- The Army will provide “all possible benefits” to victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting who recently were awarded the Purple Heart, the service announced April 16.   Business: Rolls-Royce lands biggest deal in its 109-year history¬†- U.K. engineering company Rolls-Royce has won the largest order in...
 
 

News Briefs April 17, 2015

Army orders financial benefits for 2009 Fort Hood victims Dozens of soldiers and surviving family members of the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting are receiving additional Army pay that they felt was long overdue. The announcement from Army Sec. John McHugh April 16 comes a week after 36 Purple Hearts were awarded to victims and...
 
 
NASA illustration

NASA awards radiation challenge winners, launches next round

NASA illustration This illustration depicts our heliosphere, showing the approximate locations of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft. Galactic cosmic rays originate outside the heliosphere and stream in uniformly from all direc...
 

 

U.S. Air Force completes operational testing on Raytheon’s MALD-J

Raytheon and the U.S. Air Force successfully completed operational tests of Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer, satisfying all requirements to attain Initial Operational Capability. “MALD-J’s unique capabilities have been proven in 42 successful flight tests during the last two years and brought us closer to full rate production,” said Mike Jarrett, vice president of Raytheon...
 
 

Northrop Grumman to expand North Dakota presence

In partnership with local leadership, Northrop Grumman confirmed its dedication to the future of unmanned systems development in the Red River Valley region by signing a lease agreement to anchor the new Grand Sky Technology Park in Grand Forks County. Northrop Grumman is working to identify specialized opportunities for the Grand Sky facility. The opportunities,...
 
 

Raytheon awarded more than $2 billion for an International Patriot system

Raytheon announced April 17 it has been awarded a contract worth over $2.0 billion to deliver the combat-proven Patriot Air and Missile Defense System to an undisclosed international customer. The contract, awarded April 2, 2015, and booked in the second quarter as a direct commercial sale, includes fully digitized new-production Patriot fire units with the...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>