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1804 Fund grant to support Russ College nanotech research

Elisabeth Weems and Colleen Carow | Oct 13, 2017
1804 Fund grant to support Russ College nanotech research

1804 Fund grant to support Russ College nanotech research

Elisabeth Weems and Colleen Carow | Oct 13, 2017

Ohio University’s 1804 Fund provides grants to further OHIO’s ability to produce in-house research. Awarded to both undergraduate and graduate research proposals by the Ohio University Foundation, grants are active for two years. Thus far, the foundation has awarded more than $383,000 to fund research for the 2017-2018 academic year.

The 1804 Fund is made possible through an endowment from C. Paul Stocker, BSEE ’26. Since 1980, the fund has made awards of more than $15 million.

Nanotechnology researchers in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology and the College of Arts and Sciences have received an Ohio University 1804 Fund grant that will support nanotechnology research.

Made possible with a $49,371 grant, the Zetasizer measures both the size and surface charge of small particles by scattering light through them. Those particles might be anywhere between 0.3 nanometers to 10 micrometers – for reference, 1 nanometer is 1 million times less than the thickness of human hair.

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Amir Farnoud, who was principal investigator on the interdisciplinary proposal, said he has been working to procure a Zetasizer since he joined the Russ College in August 2015. He collaborated with Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Doug Goetz, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering John Staser, and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Keerti Kappagantula, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Hugh Richardson, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Eric Stinaff and Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Jessica White.

“I’m grateful to all of the people who decided to join me,” Farnoud said. “The fact that we had 12 people wanting this instrument tells you how much it was needed.”

Farnoud plans to use the Zetasizer to advance his research on targeted drug delivery of anti-fungal medicine, therefore reducing patient risk for systemic toxicity. He noted that other medical advancements, such as inhalable insulin and creating antigens in vaccines, have only been made possible directly due to nanotechnology.

Meanwhile, co-investigator Staser will use the new technology to develop nanomaterials for UV sensors. He said the purchase of the Zetasizer, due to its broad application, aligns with nanotechnology’s current resurgence.

“Nanotechnology in general is enjoying a renaissance of sorts because these types of materials have impact in energy production, energy storage and medicine,” Staser said. “If we can accurately measure the size of the nanomaterials we generate, we’ll be able to relate those properties to material performance, which is always critical to predicting material behavior. This capability makes us more competitive in securing research grants simply because it does provide us a tool to better understand material performance, really on a fundamental level.”

While researchers already had the ability to create particles, they are are now able to characterize the particles almost immediately. Other institutions in the region Kentucky State University, including Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati also have Zetasizers, but Farnoud said it was difficult to send particles elsewhere for characterization because of agglomeration, which alters particulate properties.

“People make particles all the time,” Farnoud said. “What differentiates us from someone else who is making particles is how well we can characterize them, and we previously didn’t have a good tool.”