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Self-assembly at ionic liquid-based interfaces: fundamentals and applications

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Liquid-liquid interfaces serve as ideal 2-D templates on which solid particles can self-assemble into various structures. These self-assembly processes are important in fabrication of micron-sized devices and emulsion formulation. At oil/water interfaces, these structures can range from close-packed aggregates to

Liquid-liquid interfaces serve as ideal 2-D templates on which solid particles can self-assemble into various structures. These self-assembly processes are important in fabrication of micron-sized devices and emulsion formulation. At oil/water interfaces, these structures can range from close-packed aggregates to ordered lattices. By incorporating an ionic liquid (IL) at the interface, new self-assembly phenomena emerge. ILs are ionic compounds that are liquid at room temperature (essentially molten salts at ambient conditions) that have remarkable properties such as negligible volatility and high chemical stability and can be optimized for nearly any application. The nature of IL-fluid interfaces has not yet been studied in depth. Consequently, the corresponding self-assembly phenomena have not yet been explored. We demonstrate how the unique molecular nature of ILs allows for new self-assembly phenomena to take place at their interfaces. These phenomena include droplet bridging (the self-assembly of both particles and emulsion droplets), spontaneous particle transport through the liquid-liquid interface, and various gelation behaviors. In droplet bridging, self-assembled monolayers of particles effectively "glue" emulsion droplets to one another, allowing the droplets to self-assembly into large networks. With particle transport, it is experimentally demonstrated the ILs overcome the strong adhesive nature of the liquid-liquid interface and extract solid particles from the bulk phase without the aid of external forces. These phenomena are quantified and corresponding mechanisms are proposed. The experimental investigations are supported by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, which allow for a molecular view of the self-assembly process. In particular, we show that particle self-assembly depends primarily on the surface chemistry of the particles and the non-IL fluid at the interface. Free energy calculations show that the attractive forces between nanoparticles and the liquid-liquid interface are unusually long-ranged, due to capillary waves. Furthermore, IL cations can exhibit molecular ordering at the IL-oil interface, resulting in a slight residual charge at this interface. We also explore the transient IL-IL interface, revealing molecular interactions responsible for the unusually slow mixing dynamics between two ILs. This dissertation, therefore, contributes to both experimental and theoretical understanding of particle self-assembly at IL based interfaces.

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2013

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Improving yields and productivity of microbe-catalyzed production of targeted bio-molecules using in-situ adsorption

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With the aid of metabolic pathways engineering, microbes are finding increased use as biocatalysts to convert renewable biomass resources into fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other valuable compounds. These alternative, bio-based production routes offer distinct advantages over traditional synthesis methods,

With the aid of metabolic pathways engineering, microbes are finding increased use as biocatalysts to convert renewable biomass resources into fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other valuable compounds. These alternative, bio-based production routes offer distinct advantages over traditional synthesis methods, including lower energy requirements, rendering them as more "green" and "eco-friendly". Escherichia coli has recently been engineered to produce the aromatic chemicals (S)-styrene oxide and phenol directly from renewable glucose. Several factors, however, limit the viability of this approach, including low titers caused by product inhibition and/or low metabolic flux through the engineered pathways. This thesis focuses on addressing these concerns using magnetic mesoporous carbon powders as adsorbents for continuous, in-situ product removal as a means to alleviate such limitations. Using process engineering as a means to troubleshoot metabolic pathways by continuously removing products, increased yields are achieved from both pathways. By performing case studies in product toxicity and reaction equilibrium it was concluded that each step of a metabolic pathway can be optimized by the strategic use of in-situ adsorption as a process engineering tool.

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2014

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Exploring growth essential genes in E. coli using synthetic small RNA to enhance production of phenylalanine

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Biomass synthesis is a competing factor in biological systems geared towards generation of commodity and specialty chemicals, ultimately limiting maximum titer and yield; in this thesis, a widely generalizable, modular approach focused on decoupling biomass synthesis from the production of

Biomass synthesis is a competing factor in biological systems geared towards generation of commodity and specialty chemicals, ultimately limiting maximum titer and yield; in this thesis, a widely generalizable, modular approach focused on decoupling biomass synthesis from the production of the phenylalanine in a genetically modified strain of E. coli BW25113 was explored with the use of synthetic trans-encoded small RNA (sRNA) to achieve greater efficiency. The naturally occurring sRNA MicC was used as a scaffold, and combined on a plasmid with a promoter for anhydrous tetracycline (aTc) and a T1/TE terminator. The coding sequence corresponding to the target binding site for fourteen potentially growth-essential gene targets as well as non-essential lacZ was placed in the seed region of the of the sRNA scaffold and transformed into BW25113, effectively generating a unique strain for each gene target. The BW25113 strain corresponding to each gene target was screened in M9 minimal media; decreased optical density and elongated cell morphology changes were observed and quantified in all induced sRNA cases where growth-essential genes were targeted. Six of the strains targeting different aspects of cell division that effectively suppressed growth and resulted in increased cell size were then screened for viability and metabolic activity in a scaled-up shaker flask experiment; all six strains were shown to be viable during stationary phase, and a metabolite analysis showed increased specific glucose consumption rates in induced strains, with unaffected specific glucose consumption rates in uninduced strains. The growth suppression, morphology and metabolic activity of the induced strains in BW25113 was compared to the bacteriostatic additives chloramphenicol, tetracycline, and streptomycin. At this same scale, the sRNA plasmid targeting the gene murA was transformed into BW25113 pINT-GA, a phenylalanine overproducer with the feedback resistant genes aroG and pheA overexpressed. Two induction times were explored during exponential phase, and while the optimal induction time was found to increase titer and yield amongst the BW25113 pINT-GA murA sRNA variant, overall this did not have as great a titer or yield as the BW25113 pINT-GA strain without the sRNA plasmid; this may be a result of the cell filamentation.

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2016

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Synthesis, characterizations and applications of mesoporous carbon composites

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This dissertation provides a fundamental understanding of the properties of mesoporous carbon based materials and the utilization of those properties into different applications such as electrodes materials for super capacitors, adsorbents for water treatments and biosensors. The thickness of mesoporous

This dissertation provides a fundamental understanding of the properties of mesoporous carbon based materials and the utilization of those properties into different applications such as electrodes materials for super capacitors, adsorbents for water treatments and biosensors. The thickness of mesoporous carbon films on Si substrates are measured by Ellipsometry method and pore size distribution has been calculated by Kelvin equation based on toluene adsorption and desorption isotherms monitored by Ellipsometer. The addition of organometallics cobalt and vanalyl acetylacetonate in the synthesis precursor leads to the metal oxides in the carbon framework, which largely decreased the shrink of the framework during carbonization, resulting in an increase in the average pore size. In addition to the structural changes, the introduction of metal oxides into mesoporous carbon framework greatly enhances the electrochemical performance as a result of their pseudocapacitance. Also, after the addition of Co into the framework, the contraction of mesoporous powders decreased significantly and the capacitance increased prominently because of the solidification function of CoO nanoparticles. When carbon-cobalt composites are used as adsorbent, the adsorption capacity of dye pollutant in water is remarkably higher (90 mg/g) after adding Co than the mesoporous carbon powder (2 mg/g). Furthermore, the surface area and pore size of mesoporous composites can be greatly increased by addition of tetraethyl orthosilicate into the precursor with subsequent etching, which leads to a dramatic increase in the adsorption capacity from 90 mg/g up to 1151 mg/g. When used as electrode materials for amperometric biosensors, mesoporous carbons showed good sensitivity, selectivity and stability. And fluorine-free and low-cost poly (methacrylate)s have been developed as binders for screen printed biosensors. With using only 5wt% of poly (hydroxybutyl methacrylate), the glucose sensor maintained mechanical integrity and exhibited excellent sensitivity on detecting glucose level in whole rabbit blood. Furthermore, extremely high surface area mesoporous carbons have been synthesized by introducing inorganic Si precursor during self-assembly, which effectively determined norepinephrine at very low concentrations.

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2012

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Microalgal biofilms for treatment of domestic wastewater and resource recovery

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The application of microalgal biofilms in wastewater treatment has great advantages such as abolishing the need for energy intensive aerators and recovering nutrients as energy, thus reducing the energy requirement of wastewater treatment several-fold. A 162 cm2 algal biofilm reactor

The application of microalgal biofilms in wastewater treatment has great advantages such as abolishing the need for energy intensive aerators and recovering nutrients as energy, thus reducing the energy requirement of wastewater treatment several-fold. A 162 cm2 algal biofilm reactor with good wastewater treatment performance and a regular harvesting procedure was studied at lab scale to gain an understanding of effectual parameters such as hydraulic retention time (HRT; 2.6 and 1.3 hrs), liquid level (LL; 0.5 and 1.0 cm), and solids retention time (SRT; 3 and 1.5 wks). A revised synthetic wastewater “Syntho 3.7” was used as a surrogate of domestic primary effluent for nutrient concentration consistency in the feed lines. In the base case (2.6 hr HRT, 0.5 cm LL, and 3 wk SRT), percent removals of 69 ± 2 for total nitrogen (TN), 54 ± 21 for total phosphorous (TP), and 60 ± 7 for chemical oxygen demand (COD) were achieved and 4.0 ± 1.6 g/m2/d dry biomass was produced. A diffusion limitation was encountered when increasing the liquid level, while the potential to further decrease the HRT remains. Nonlinear growth kinetics was observed in comparing SRT variations, and promoting autotrophic growth seems possible. Future work will look towards producing a mathematical model and further testing the aptness of this system for large-scale implementation.

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2016

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The Study of Cyanobacterial Bicarbonate Transporters and Applications of Microcrystal Electron Diffraction

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Cyanobacteria contribute to more than a quarter of the primary carbon fixation worldwide. They have evolved a CO2 concentrating mechanism (CCM) to enhance photosynthesis because inorganic carbon species are limited in the aqueous environment. Bicarbonate transporters SbtA and BicA are

Cyanobacteria contribute to more than a quarter of the primary carbon fixation worldwide. They have evolved a CO2 concentrating mechanism (CCM) to enhance photosynthesis because inorganic carbon species are limited in the aqueous environment. Bicarbonate transporters SbtA and BicA are active components of CCM, and the determination of their structures is important to investigate the bicarbonate transport mechanisms. E. coli was selected as the expression host for these bicarbonate transporters, and optimization of expression and protein purification conditions was performed. Single particle electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) or protein crystallography was carried out for each transporter. In this work, SbtA, BicA and SbtB, a regulator protein of SbtA, were heterologously expressed in E. coli and purified for structural studies. SbtB was highly expressed and two different crystal structures of SbtB were resolved at 2.01 Å and 1.8 Å, showing a trimer and dimer in the asymmetric unit, respectively. The yields of SbtA and BicA after purification reached 0.1 ± 0.04 and 6.5 ± 1.0 mg per liter culture, respectively. Single particle analysis showed a trimeric conformation of purified SbtA and promising interaction between SbtA and SbtB, where the bound SbtB was also possibly trimeric. For some crystallization experiments of these transporters, lipidic cubic phase (LCP) was used. In the case of LCP, often times the crystals grown are generally too tiny to withstand radiation damage from the X-ray beam during an X-ray diffraction experiment. As an alternative approach for this research, the microcrystal electron diffraction (MicroED) method was applied to the LCP-laden crystals because it is a powerful cryo-EM method for high-resolution structure determination from protein microcrystals. The new technique is termed as LCP-MicroED, however, prior to applying LCP-MicroED to the bicarbonate transporters, methods needed to be developed for LCP-MicroED. Therefore the model protein Proteinase K was used and its structure was determined to 2.0 Å by MicroED. Additionally, electron diffraction data from cholesterol and human A2A adenosine receptor crystals were collected at 1.0 Å and 4.5 Å using LCP-MicroED, respectively. Other applications of MicroED to different samples are also discussed.

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2021

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Separations of Biofuels and Bioproducts via Magnetic Mesoporous Carbons

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The aims of this project are to demonstrate the design and implementation of separations modalities for 1) in situ product recovery and 2) upstream pretreatment of toxic feedstocks. Many value-added bioproducts such as alcohols (ethanol and butanol) developed for the

The aims of this project are to demonstrate the design and implementation of separations modalities for 1) in situ product recovery and 2) upstream pretreatment of toxic feedstocks. Many value-added bioproducts such as alcohols (ethanol and butanol) developed for the transportation sector are known to be integral to a sustainable future. Likewise, bioproduced aromatic building blocks for sustainable manufacturing such as phenol will be equally important. The production of these compounds is often limited by product toxicity at 2- 20 g/L, whereas it may desirable to produce 20-200 g/L for economically feasible scale up. While low-cost feedstocks are desirable for economical production, they contain highly cytotoxic value-added byproducts such as furfural. It is therefore desirable to design facile detoxification methods for lignocellulose-derived feedstocks to isolate and recover furfural preceding ethanol fermentation by Escherichia coli. Correspondingly it is desirable to design efficient facile in situ recovery modalities for bioalcohols and phenolic bioproducts. Accordingly, in-situ removal modalities were designed for simultaneous acetone, butanol, and ethanol recovery. Additionally, a furfural removal modality from lignocellulosic hydrolysates was designed for upstream pretreatment. Solid-liquid adsorption was found to serve well each of the recovery modalities characterized here. More hydrophobic compounds such as butanol and furfural are readily recovered from aqueous solutions via adsorption. The primary operational drawback to adsorption is adsorbent recovery and subsequent desorption of the product. Novel magnetically separable mesoporous carbon powders (MMCPs) were characterized and found to be rapidly separable from solutions at 91% recovery by mass. Thermal desorption of value added products was found efficient for recovery of butanol and furfural. Fufural was desorbed from the MMCPs up to 57% by mass with repeated adsorption/thermal desorption cycles. Butanol was recovered from MMCPs up to an average 93% by mass via thermal desorption. As another valuable renewable fermentation product, phenol was also collected via in-situ adsorption onto Dowex Optipore L-493 resin. Phenol recovery from the resins was efficiently accomplished with tert-butyl methyl ether up to 77% after 3 washes.

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2017

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Exploring microbial chain elongation for production of organics and hydrogen in soils

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This research explores microbial chain elongation as a pathway for production of complex organic compounds in soils with implication for the carbon cycle. In chain elongation, simple substrates such as ethanol and short chain carboxylates such as acetate can be

This research explores microbial chain elongation as a pathway for production of complex organic compounds in soils with implication for the carbon cycle. In chain elongation, simple substrates such as ethanol and short chain carboxylates such as acetate can be converted to longer carbon chain carboxylates under anaerobic conditions through cyclic, reverse β oxidation. This pathway elongates the carboxylate by two carbons. The chain elongation process is overall thermodynamically feasible, and microorganisms gain energy through this process. There have been limited insights into the versatility of chain elongating substrates, understanding the chain elongating microbial community, and its importance in sequestering carbon in the soils.

We used ethanol, methanol, butanol, and hydrogen as electron donors and acetate and propionate as electron acceptors to test the occurrence of microbial chain elongation in four soils with different physicochemical properties and microbial communities. Common chain elongation products were the even numbered chains butyrate, caproate, and butanol, the odd numbered carboxylates valerate and heptanoate, along with molecular hydrogen. At a near neutral pH and mesophilic temperature, we observed a stable and sustained production of longer fatty acids along with hydrogen. Microbial community analysis show phylotypes from families such as Clostridiaceae, Bacillaceae, and Ruminococcaceae in all tested conditions. Through chain elongation, the products formed are less biodegradable. They may undergo transformations and end up as organic carbon, decreasing the greenhouse gas emissions, thus, making this process important to study.

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2018

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Design of Metal-Organic Frameworks for Carbon Capture Applications: Approaches for Adsorptive Separation of CO2/N2 and O2/N2 Mixtures

Description

The large-scale anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere leads to many unintended consequences, from rising sea levels to ocean acidification. While a clean energy infrastructure is growing, mid-term strategies that are compatible with the current infrastructure should be

The large-scale anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere leads to many unintended consequences, from rising sea levels to ocean acidification. While a clean energy infrastructure is growing, mid-term strategies that are compatible with the current infrastructure should be developed. Carbon capture and storage in fossil-fuel power plants is one way to avoid our current gigaton-scale emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, for this to be possible, separation techniques are necessary to remove the nitrogen from air before combustion or from the flue gas after combustion. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a relatively new class of porous material that show great promise for adsorptive separation processes. Here, potential mechanisms of O2/N2 separation and CO2/N2 separation are explored.

First, a logical categorization of potential adsorptive separation mechanisms in MOFs is outlined by comparing existing data with previously studied materials. Size-selective adsorptive separation is investigated for both gas systems using molecular simulations. A correlation between size-selective equilibrium adsorptive separation capabilities and pore diameter is established in materials with complex pore distributions. A method of generating mobile extra-framework cations which drastically increase adsorptive selectivity toward nitrogen over oxygen via electrostatic interactions is explored through experiments and simulations. Finally, deposition of redox-active ferrocene molecules into systematically generated defects is shown to be an effective method of increasing selectivity towards oxygen.

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2019