Material Engineering

The following is a collection of multidisciplinary projects that are focused broadly on the preparation of interesting or useful materials. These include biomaterials, supercapacitors, and nanomaterials.

Cheap Magnetic DNA Extraction

DNA extraction has always been a rather tedious process requiring many cleaning and purification steps with long incubation periods. New systems circumvent all that by dropping magnetic silica beads into a sample as well as some chaotropic salts. Under salty condtions free DNA in the solution sticks to the beads while everything else remains in solution. The beads can then be pelleted using a magnet, cleaned, and then dropped into distilled water where they release their captured DNA. We've developed a method to make these beads for a few dollars worth of starting materials which are availiable from common demestic sources. The particles are highly magnetic and in preliminary tests have shown the ability to carry at least 1ug of DNA between solutions using only 4mg of beads. READ MORE 

Bacterial Leather-like Materials

There exists a material that is as strong as nylon but can be easily grown using only 2 tea bags and a cup of sugar. The material is known as bacterial nanocellulose and can be grown through the use of a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY for short). The colony produces a thick cellulose matte at the surface of the growth tank which can be harvest and dried followed by treatment with a mixture of wax and oil to preserve it. If cared for properly the material can be kept and used continuously for potentially years. Through various post harvest treatments and adjustments to the growth media, a large variety of textures, and properties can be achieved in the final "leather". VIDEO

Supercapacitor Energy Storage

As the world transitions away from fossil fuel sources it is becoming increasingly apparent that if we don't find a way to store power at industrial scale, we'll have some very serious power delivery problems when renewable sources aren't available. Solar for example overproduces power during the day and produces no power at night. Saving the extra energy during the day for use at night would be immensely beneficial and increase efficiency. But current lithium batteries are to expensive and have too low of a life expectancy to fill that need. Enter supercapacitors which are one of the candidates for the next generation of energy storage devices. Non toxic, all carbon, water based cells are very possible. The challenge is to improve their performance to lithium ion levels. READ MORE