In the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) at Iowa State University, engineers create devices that make huge impacts on people’s lives, but sometimes the devices themselves are quite small.
Rana Biswas, ECpE and physics adjunct professor, and Jaeyoun Kim, ECpE associate professor, recently received a $400,000, three year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant toward research for creating a miniscule, nanoscale structure with new functionalities for both manufacturing and bio-medical applications..
“We are making very, very intricate structures. And these features are much less than one micron,” Biswas said.
The surprising finding is that the surfaces are decorated by an electric charge, which forms into an unusual three-dimensional structure. The team will research how these chargers on the nanometer scale can be utilized in new areas of science and engineering.
“Usually the surface is totally flat, but with nanotexturing, there are patterns making the surface uneven,” said Kim.
As of now, the ECpE team is specifically doing research toward nanotexturing.
“We plan to achieve it without any physical contact. The target polymer will
be left uncured. We then bring in nanoscale patterned electric charges like electrons,” Kim said. “And when the charges approach the surface, the charges attract the polymer, and the polymer is formed into three-dimensional structures.”
As the electric charges pull the uncured target polymer surface, it will get shaped at the nanoscale. This allows for scientists to experiment with the nanotexture and alter it specifically to a person’s needs.
When such patterned surfaces are coated with medications, the pattern on surfaces can control the flow of liquid throughout the structure. With this control, the nano-patterned structure has potential for controlling the drug flow in the body according to the patient’s needs. For example, this nanotexturing method can be used to help treat cardiac issues with arteries. The patterned surface can thin the blood by causing medication to come out slower and for longer.
“In cardiac treatments ,” said Biswas. “Doctors will put a medication on the surface of the stent, and this medication can slowly get released.”
“Our research will impact a lot of lives, and a lot of different aspects of people’s lives,” Kim said.