An important challenge in many applications ranging from biomedical devices to ship hulls is the prevention of nonspecific biomolecule and microorganism attachment onto surfaces. This attachment can be prevented by using a "nonfouling" surface. Our goals are to provide a fundamental understanding of molecular-level nonfouling mechanisms and to develop biocompatible and environmentally benign nonfouling materials using molecular design principles.
Over the last few years, we have demonstrated that zwitterionic and mixed charge materials are unique, effective and robust for a wide range of applications. In addition to their excellent nonfouling properties, zwitterionic carboxybetaine-based materials have abundant functional groups for ligand immobilization. Superhydrophilic zwitterionic materials are fully compatible with biomolecules, cells and tissues. Cationic and hydrolysable zwitterionic ester precursors have self-sterilizing capabilities and other unique properties. Our results show that the strong hydration of zwitterionic materials is responsible for their excellent nonfouling properties.
We take a unique holistic approach to our research by performing both simulations and experiments. Novel materials are designed, synthesized, tested and improved upon all within our group. This collaborative approach allows us to always strive towards understanding nature at all levels. Creative ideas and innovative technologies are always our emphasis.
Our group is a diverse mix with people from New York to Beijing and in between. We are engineers, chemists, biologists, and simulators. About one third of our group focuses on simulating a diverse range of problems from interfaces and designing new materials. The next third focuses on synthesizing new polymers and other molecules. The last third focuses on biosensing, drug delivery, implanted materials and devices, marine coatings, and many other applications of materials. Our materials are unique due to not only their ultra low fouling, but also their multi-functional properties. Creating such materials is helping fields from medical devices to warship coatings.