A number of chemical sensing and separation applications can be realized by the continued development of structured mesoporous materials. We are studying composite materials made from closely-packed silica nanospheres (also known as colloidal crystals) modified with a variety of physi-and chemi-sorbed thin films which add chemical functionality to the interesting physical properties associated with the well-ordered mesoporous silica substrate. Much of the current work focuses on using lipid bilayers as the modifying films, where the colloidal crystal serves as a protective scaffold for the very delicate lipid films (which are structurally similar to a soap bubble) conferring several remarkable measures of stability and a dramatic increase in membrane surface area.
Research opportunities are available for students in the areas of analytical and colloid & surface chemistry in Dr. Ross's laboratory. Methodology for assembly of lipid bilayers on sub-micron silica colloids and the ordered packing of these colloids within microcapillaries has been recently developed in our laboratory. The next step in this project is the application of the materials to the study of bilayer partition events using a liquid chromatography (LC) format. The goal for this semester is the chromatographic resolution of model compounds on lipid-modified silica stationary phases. The project will utilize ICP-MS as a detection method for eluting compounds that contain heavy halogen or metal atoms. Over the HHMI or summer award period, the student will be expected to become proficient in methodology and operation of a capillary-LC system that utilizes ICP-MS detection.