Materials and Nanoscience is a very strong program at UCLA, and it spans a wide range of research areas, including nanomaterials, materials, inorganic materials, and biomaterials.
We produce and study nanoscale architectures for applications in nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, nanomagnitics, and even as novel mechanical materials.
Our work in nanostructured materials takes advantage of strong collaborations with the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). Our sample work includes:
- self-organized nanoscale materials (Tolbert)
- control of surfaces and interfaces (Gimzewski)
- sol-gel derived materials (Zink)
Work in the area of Materials and polymeric materials is also quite varied and spans the field from electronic polymers to polymer emulsions. Some specific areas of expertise include:
- work on the photophysics of semiconducting polymers (Schwartz)
- semiconducting polymer based solar-cells (Schwartz and Tolbert)
- nanoscale emulsions (Mason)
Finally, the materials effort interfaces with our strength in bio-physical chemistry in the use of nanoscale materials as optical probes (Weiss).
The materials emphasis in physical chemistry is complemented by the strength in synthetic materials throughout the department. This includes expertise in:
These research groups are highly collaborative and offer a diverse range of opportunities to combine materials physical chemistry, materials processing, materials physics, and materials synthesis.
At UCLA, our Materials chemistry research can lead to practical applications such as:
- Superhard Materials
- Thermoelectric materials
- Chemical Sensors
- Creation of new synthetic polymers
- Memory Devices and High Density Electronics
- Transparent Conductors
Faculty Research Summaries
Professor Anastassia N. Alexandrova
Professor Anastassia Alexandrova and her group work on theory and computation of materials, ranging from novel catalytic interfaces to artificial enzymes, and to small clusters in the gas phase and variety of other contexts. The group explores the last frontier of inorganic chemistry, in terms of their electronic structure and chemical bonding. They also develop new computational methods for multi-scale modeling of complex materials in realistic conditions relevant to their use in technology,
Professor Anne M. Andrews
Professor Anne Andrews’s Lab seeks to understand how neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, encode information related to anxiety, mood, and stress responsiveness. Nanoscale aptamer-field-effect transistor sensors, microelectrode voltammetry, and microdialysis methods are developed to probe neurochemical signaling at high spatial, temporal, and chemical resolution in vivo. Genetics, pharmacology, and developmental timing are used to investigate the etiology and treatment of anxiety and mood disorders and to advance personalized predictive medicine.
Professor Louis S. Bouchard
Professor Louis Bouchard and his group conduct experimental research in physical & analytical chemistry, materials science and bioengineering. The group has projects that deal with the development of novel materials, contrast agents & drug delivery systems for biomedical imaging, the study of flows in biological systems, high frequency electromagnetics, condensed matter and heterogeneous catalysis. His research group combines a range of laboratory and techniques from chemical synthesis to instrumentation development and various spectroscopies based on specific needs of the research. Projects are available for chemistry and engineering students.
Professor Justin R. Caram
Professor Justin Caram’s research leverages the detection, sorting, and timing of individual photons to unravel heterogeneity, complex chemical processes, and energy flow in nanomaterial and biological systems. He combines time correlated single photon counting (TCSPC) and path length interferometry to develop new spectroscopies that probe chemical systems across the visible and shortwave infrared. His group studies the influence of energetic disorder on optoelectronic materials and the complex chemistry of oxidative stress. His research has broad applications,from creating efficient light harvesting materials to understanding disease modalities.
Professor Timothy J. Deming
The Deming group is focused on synthesis, processing, characterization and evaluation of biological and biomimetic materials based on polypeptides. His group utilizes innovative chemistry techniques to synthesize materials with properties that rival the complexity found in biological systems.
Professor Xiangfeng Duan
Professor Xiangfeng Duan and his group’s interests include nanoscale materials, devices and their applications in future electronics, energy science and biomedical science.
Professor Miguel A. Garcia-Garibay
Research in the Garcia-Garibay group is based on a deep knowledge of molecular and supramolecular structure to addresses questions of chemical reactivity and molecular dynamics in the solid state. By controlling reactivity and motion, they are able to engineer reactions in crystals, develop green chemical processes, and, with fine-tuned amphidynamic crystals, advance the development of artificial molecular machines.
Professor James K. Gimzewski
Professor James Gimzewski focuses on nanoscale science and technology with an emphasis on mechanics on the nanoscale. His research consists of: (1) Nanomechanical dynamics and nanoarchitechtonics of living cells. This work is related to cancer, the action of drugs, environmental factors and other mutations in individual cells. The research pioneers the role of mechanics and cellular motion with the aim of developing new forms of medical diagnoses at the single cell level. (2) Use of biochemistry and AFM to gene profile DNA on the single molecule level. (3) Production of compact high energy beams of neutrons, photons, ions, and electrons using point source emitters coupled with piezoelectric and pyroelectric effects.
Professor Richard B. Kaner
Professor Richard Kaner and his group is interested in all aspects of conducting polymers, ranging from the fundamental science of these materials to their development for a wide variety of applications.
Professor Chong Liu
Professor Chong Liu’s research group is an inorganic chemistry lab with specific interests in electrochemical systems for energy, biology, and environments. Combining his expertise in inorganic chemistry, nanomaterials, and electrochemistry, his research group aims to address some of the challenging questions in catalysis, energy conversion, CO2/N2 fixation, and microbiota. Their research focus includes advanced bioelectrochemical systems of CO2/N2 fixation as well as electrochemical nanodevices enabling the study of biological, medical, environmental applications.
Professor Thomas G. Mason
Professor Thomas Mason and his group design and fabricate novel colloidal architectures and study their physical properties. The group specializes in making advanced uniform dispersions of solid particulates and liquid droplets. They have an active research program in microrheology, nanoemulsions, light and neutron scattering, microfluidics, and custom-shaped particle dispersions.
Professor Heather D. Maynard
The Maynard group focuses on polymer chemistry and nano medicine. We design and synthesize polymeric mimics of natural molecules with the purpose of stabilizing proteins and siRNA. These materials are applied to wound healing, diabetes, and for the treatment of cancer. We also prepare polymers for conjugation of proteins to surfaces in specific orientations for diagnostics and biomaterials that control cell behavior.
Professor Prineha Narang
The Narang Lab is an interdisciplinary group working on topics at the vibrant intersection of computational science, condensed matter theory, quantum photonics, and quantum information science. Topics in our group unify and push new directions in ab initio materials theory and transport methods, excited-state nanophotonics, ultrafast and nonequilibrium dynamics, computational condensed matter physics, topological materials science, and defects in quantum materials. We also have an active and growing effort in quantum information science, spanning quantum algorithms for quantum computation as well as simulation and emulation directions in quantum network science.
Professor Matthew Nava
The Nava lab is interested in understanding how to efficiently translate molecular structure and reactivity to address challenges at the frontiers of materials, biological and energy conversion chemistries. Two broad thrusts will form the basis of the program: understanding and harnessing metals, particularly those in unusual oxidation states, in materials or biological systems and facilitating reversible chemical conversions to enable new energy storage technologies. In order to achieve these idealized goals, advancements must be made in the art of synthetic inorganic chemistry and accordingly, work in the Nava lab will focus at the interface of chemical synthesis and application.
Professor Jose A. Rodriguez
Professor Jose Rodriguez studies the complex architecture of biological systems – from single biomolecules to cellular assemblies – at high resolution. His work is largely based on diffraction phenomena and combines computational, biochemical and biophysical experiments. The development of new methods is central to this work, particularly using emerging technologies in cryo-electron microscopy, nano and coherent x-ray diffraction, and macromolecular design. Combined, these tools can reveal undiscovered structures that broadly influence chemistry, biology, and medicine.
Professor Yves F. Rubin
Professor Yves Rubin develops novel derivatives of fullerenes and synthesizes carbon-based materials for applications such as organic solar cells and nanocomputing devices. These projects round out this unusually strong group designing and synthesizing architecturally novel organic materials.
Professor Philippe Sautet
Professor Philippe Sautet’s research focuses on modeling surfaces and nanomaterials for energy, catalysis and biomolecular applications.
His group’s activity is centered on first-principles simulations of surfaces (in the form of model planar systems or of the surface of nanomaterial), of the interaction and organization of molecules at these surfaces and of their chemistry and catalytic reactivity. A large part of the activity aims at understanding molecular reactivity on the surface of heterogeneous catalysts from a computational chemistry approach.
Professor Ellen M. Sletten
The Sletten Group exploits the unique properties of fluorinated materials to develop diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. Research within the group encompasses an interdisciplinary mix of organic synthesis, fluorous chemistry, chemical biology, nanoscience, supramolecular chemistry, polymer synthesis, photophysics and pharmacology.
Professor Benjamin J. Schwartz
Research in Professor Benjamin Schwartz’s group focuses on understanding electronic dynamics in disordered systems. In one main thrust, we investigate the electronic structure of semiconducting polymers. We build photovoltaic and other devices out of these materials, and use a variety of materials characterization and spectroscopic techniques to better understand the physics of how these devices operate at the molecular level. Students working in this area build expertise in semiconductor device processing as well as fundamental physical chemistry. In our other main thrust, we study fundamental photochemical processes, such as photoinduced electron transfer, in solution environments. We use a combination of ultrafast spectroscopy and quantum non-adiabatic molecular dynamics simulations to build a fully molecular-level understanding of the role of the solvent in controlling the dynamics of photochemical reactions. Students working in this area have the opportunity to work with both experimental and theoretical techniques at the cutting edge of condensed-phase chemical reaction dynamics.
Professor Alexander M. Spokoyny
Research in the Spokoyny laboratory is devoted towards establishing new synthetic avenues, structural understanding, and applications for inorganic and organomimetic clusters. These efforts will reveal novel and potentially useful solutions to important problems in the field, including: catalysis, energy storage and selective recognition and labeling of biomolecules.
Professor Sarah H. Tolbert
Professor Sarah Tolbert and her group focus on the intertwined goals of producing new nanostructured materials by solution-phase self-assembly, and using nanoscale architectures to control device physics. Her research topic includes: 1) materials for energy harvesting, 2)materials for energy storage, 3) magnetic/piezoelectric materials, 4) structural materials, and 5) biomaterials.
Professor Paul S. Weiss
Professor Paul Weiss leads an interdisciplinary research group which includes chemists, physicists, biologists, materials scientists, electrical and mechanical engineers, and computer scientists. Their work focuses on the atomic-scale chemical, physical, optical, mechanical and electronic properties of surfaces and supramolecular assemblies. He and his students have developed new techniques to expand the applicability and chemical specificity of scanning probe microscopies. They have applied these and other tools to the study of catalysis, self- and directed assembly, physical models of biological systems, and molecular and nano-scale electronics. They work to advance nanofabrication down to even smaller scales and greater chemical specificity in order to connect, to operate, and to test molecular devices.
Professor Jeffrey I. Zink
Professor Jeffrey Zink and his research group work primarily in four different areas: excited state properties of large molecules; laser assisted chemical vapor deposition of nano-particles and structures; functional (optical and electrical) nano-structured materials; and nano-machines.