Dr. Gang Feng Secures $60K from the Nanotechnology Institute for Nanoparticle Thin Film Research Project

Dr. Gang Feng

The Nanotechnology Institute (NTI) has awarded Dr. Gang Feng, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, a $60,000 one-year research grant to study “low-temperature mechanical reinforcement of nanoparticle thin films.” Dr. Feng, co-principal investigator, developed this project in partnership with Dr. Daeyeon Lee, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

The NTI draws corporate partners, research institutions, and economic development organizations together through sponsored research initiatives that spark long-term partnerships or create new enterprises around nano-related efforts.

“When Dr. Lee visited Villanova for an invited talk as part of the Mechanical Engineering Department Seminar Series, we immediately discovered the great potential of our collaboration,” says Dr. Feng. “Dr. Lee is an expert on synthesizing nanomaterials, while I am an expert on nanomechanical characterization of nanomaterials. So by working together, we are able to pinpoint the properties of certain nanomaterials and optimize their processing to achieve best performance.”

Dr. Feng’s research to strengthen nanoparticle thin films (NTFs) will enable the commercialization of nanotechnology-based products for energy conversion and storage, display, water purification, and biomedicine. Currently, the major barrier preventing commercial applications of NTFs is their poor mechanical reliability and durability. This study will also further develop and optimize Dr. Lee’s recently created low-temperature mechanical reinforcement method, which fortifies NTFs through atomic layer deposition (ALD).

Dalmas Wambura ME ’10, a current graduate student in Chemical Engineering, and William Albert ME ’12 work with Dr. Feng to conduct characterization experiments on NTF samples from Dr. Lee’s group using state-of-the art instrumentation such as the AgilentTM G200 Nano IndenterTM, AgilentTM 5500 Atomic Force Microscope, and Hitachi S-4800 Field-Emission Scanning Electron Microscope. They then conduct analytical and numerical analyses to understand the behavior of the NTF samples, which allows them to provide quantitative evaluations and suggestions for Dr. Lee’s group to optimize the NTF processing procedures.

The NTI grant will be administered in two $30,000 increments, contingent on a series of milestones: that the NTFs can be mechanically reinforced using ALD, a quantitative analysis of the change in their mechanical properties during ALD treatment, and a demonstration of how to optimize the processing parameters to maximize NTF performance.

“In the Nano-Bio-Mechanical Characterization Laboratory, we emphasize comprehensive understandings of mechanical behavior of nanomaterials, biomaterials, and biosystems through experimental techniques and theoretical modeling,” says Dr. Feng. “We also aim to develop rational design of nanomaterials and nanostructures based on fundamental understanding and principles. This grant will contribute greatly to the strength of nano-mechanical characterization and will support the long-term objective of rational design of
nanomaterials and nanostructures.”

Dr. Feng and Dr. Lee’s work has been published in American Chemical Society’s ACS Nano, an international academic journal ranked among the top five publications in the nanoscience and nanotechnology, and the multidisciplinary materials science categories. They have also submitted proposals to multiple funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation.