Friday, April 4, 2014

URSP Student Rachael-Ahn Wilson Researches Noncovalent Sociation and Separation of n-Alkylbenzenes with Molecularly Decorated Gold Nanoparticles

Utilization of gold nanoparticles has become of great interest to researchers for a variety of applications ranging from electronics and non-toxic industrial catalysts to cancer detection and drug delivery. The ability of these gold nanoparticle technologies to function properly is dependent on the aggregation tendencies of the particles. Therefore, it is essential to understand both the interactions of gold nanoparticles with other gold nanoparticles and with other compounds. The goal of this research is to determine the nature of gold nanoparticle aggregation as well as association with n-alkylbenzenes, a type of non-polar organic compounds. These are fundamental thermodynamic questions that can be answered through a very precise headspace gas chromatography (HSGC) technique. Gas chromatography is a process by which gases can be separated and quantized.

I became interested in this project after joining Dr. Hussam’s research group in Fall 2013 and doing similar experiments with humic acid, a common organic material prevalent in the environment. I plan on studying analytical chemistry and instrumentation in graduate school, so working on this project has given me invaluable experience in utilization and understanding of gas chromatography as well as experience with the research process, including data processing and literature review.

Generally, I begin the week by synthesizing the particular nanoparticles that I will be utilizing and later in the week I run the experiment using HSGC. I spend the rest of the week processing the data and reviewing literature. One thing I discovered this week was how unstable gold nanoparticles can be! For this reason, I have to run the experiments relatively quickly after synthesizing the nanoparticles. I really enjoy working on this project and I am looking forward to the end results.