Karl Johnson and Jill Millstone Awarded 1.5 M Grant to Identify and Destroy Hazardous Chemicals

  • By Aude Marjolin
  • 8 August 2016

Karl Johnson and Jill Millstone will collaborate with Pitt chemistry professor Nathaniel Rosi and Temple chemistry professor Eric Borguet on research funded by a grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's (DTRA) Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) within the United States Department of Defense. They will investigate the use of multifunctional metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) with plasmonic cores that can be used to detect and destroy chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals. 

Principal investigator J. Karl Johnson will lead the study by modeling multifunctional MOFs at the atomic scale. The team will design new MOFs that facilitate selective transport of toxic chemicals to a plasmonic nanoparticle core within the MOF, where they can be detected and neutralized. 

What we want to do is produce new hybrid materials that use light to detect chemical warfare agents,” said Johnson. “When you shine a light on plasmonic nanoparticles, electrons in the material are excited by the light. We can use these excited electrons to detect chemicals and carry out chemical reactions once the substances are identified.” 

Another key component of the research will be finding the right substances to make up the plasmonic core. Gold and silver are traditionally used because they exhibit the appropriate oscillating behavior when light is shone on them. However, their expense limits widespread use. Millstone will lead the research into finding other materials to replace gold and silver. 

About 99 percent of the plasmonic materials studied for these technologies have been made with either gold or silver,” said Millstone. “But, as promising as the plasmonic properties are, the expense is too high. Our work is to develop new materials from cheaper, earth abundant metals and metal combinations. Each component of this research is novel, and we are very excited to make significant contributions to our fields.” 

The DTRA funds academic research to find solutions for effective and affordable threat reduction, concentrating on combating weapons of mass destruction. The Pitt and Temple researchers will receive a grant for basic research worth $1.5 million over three years with the potential to be increased to $2.5 million over five years. 

Read the original article here.