Inorganic Biology Research

Chemistry research in designing components for inorganic cells. (2011 - 2014)

As part of a high school professional science research program from 2011 to 2014, I helped to advance the field of inorganic biology under the mentorship of Dr. Geoffrey Cooper, a member of the world's leading inorganic biology team at the University of Glasgow.

Abstract

In the emerging field of inorganic biology, which has the goal of creating an inorganic cell capable of lifelike function, scientists are working to develop an artificial microtubule to act as a structural and fluid-carrying component in a potential inorganic living architecture. Under the guidance of my mentor Dr. Geoffrey Cooper, I investigated the use of electrophoresis-induced growth patterns to direct the self-assembly of dissolved inorganic polyoxometalate (POM) clusters into robust, hollow tubular networks in real time. Spontaneous and rapid growth of these tubes occurs from crystals of the anionic POM metal immersed in an aqueous solution containing an organic cation. This self-assembly took place within a modified gel electrophoresis kit, in order to examine the effects of an electrical field on the tubes’ growth direction. Electrophoresis was found to have an impact on the growth direction of the tubular network system, and this effectiveness was in bulk, meaning the electrophoretic force was applied to the entire system. It is known that tube formation is not limited by POM type, and the tubes can be designed to have properties that reflect the parent POMs, including redox potential, catalytic activity, charge and photochemical properties. The hollow yet robust nature of these tubes can be utilized to develop devices and systems in which the self-assembled tubes act as microscopic flow channels, as well as in the self-assembly of metal oxide based semipermeable membranes. In conjunction with more localized control techniques, electrophoresis could be of use in the directed assembly of an inorganic living architecture.