Campbell student conducts Nano research in West Virginia

June 24, 2009 | Leave a Comment

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Buies Creek, N.C.- Campbell University student Zachary Jones received a research grant from the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program to study Janus particles this summer. Two-sided nano particles called Janus particles can be used in everything from anti-cancer therapies to solar cells. From May 26-July 31, Jones will be at the University of West Virginia conducting research on Janus particles in conjunction with autonomous motion.

The Clayton North Carolina native, who is a chemistry and math major, said the first week of his research wasn't exactly what he had expected.

"I had envisioned that I would go to a lab, put on a lab coat and then get told what to do," said Jones. "I couldn't have been more wrong!"

Jones's advisor Dr. Lloyd Carroll encouraged him to be an independent thinker. "When I went to discuss my project with him on the first day, he basically told me that I would be working on whatever I found to work on," said Jones. "I spent the better part of a week sitting in front of a computer researching what possible fuels would benefit from the automation of Janus particles."

Janus particles can be used in a variety of ways-as a drug delivery system, to target tumor cells, to help convert solar energy into electric current and other applications. These micro and nano scale reactions have the possibility to be "cargo carriers" through microfluidic chips, and there is even some research being done on the possibility of using these reactions to actually power the flow of a microfluidic device.

Jones' project requires him to work with silica beads (Janus particles) ranging in size from 150 nanometers to two microns. They are coated with a five-10 nanometer layer of Platinum on one side. Using a process called electron beam evaporation; the Platinum is heated in a vacuum. When the metal has evaporated, it shoots out and coats the exposed surface of the silica beads. Placed into a solution of Hydrogen Peroxide, the beads will actually be propelled like a motor through the solution by the oxygen produced from the mixture of Platinum and Hydrogen Peroxide. The objective of Jones' research is the characterization of the motion of the beads in various concentrations of Hydrogen Peroxide to identify the concentrations that create the most rapid motion and to find other substances that can work as "fuels" for these Janus particles.

Janus particles can be used in a variety of ways-as a drug delivery system, to target tumor cells, to help convert solar energy into electric current, among other applications. These micro and nano scale reactions have the possibility to be "cargo carriers" through microfluidic chips, and there is even some research being done looking at the possibility of using these reactions to actually power the flow of a microfluidic device.

"This internship has opened my eyes in many ways," Jones said. "I now plan to pursue my education and earn a Ph.D. in chemistry so that I can continue to do research."

Photo Copy: Campbell University student Zack Jones observes Janus particles under a high-powered microscope.

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