Michael Strano, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
From Energy Harvesting to Living Plants—Concepts in Biosensing and Energy Conversion Using Carbon Nanomaterials
Written by Daniel Gregory
As he presented an expansive variety of ideas currently under research, Michael Strano provided an excellent example of how modular and customizable nanomaterials can be. He began his talk with work on transitioning the extraordinary mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes and graphene into macroscopic materials. This was achieved by growing graphene from chemical vapor deposition on a substrate, then rolling or folding the substrate into a fiber or sheet, respectively. By doing this, Strano and his group were able to extend reinforcement throughout the dimensions of their material, greatly improving the reinforcement of the composite while reducing the volume fraction. Following this was a brief explanation of a thermal resonator, using the thermal effusivity of carbon nanomaterials to make a device capable of generating power from temperature fluctuations in ambient conditions. The talk moved swiftly on to the properties of nanoconfined water, using temporal Raman spectroscopy to observe fluids moving through nanotubes. The group was able to confirm previously described theoretical predictions and experimentally expand the understanding of highly distorted fluids. Pivoting, Strano gave a detailed description of his group’s ability to embed readable and writable circuits in colloidal nanoparticles using two different methods. After talking briefly about near-infrared fluorescent single-walled nanotubes and their applications in individual protein sensing, Strano concluded with a description of how nanotube-wrapped DNA molecules were shown to penetrate previously impenetrable membranes in plants, such as the chloroplast membrane. After developing models and equations to describe this motion, Strano finished with some intriguing applications in chemical sensing and bioluminescence.