Collaborative Research: IIBR Instrumentation: The Nanosizer - A new tool for the preparation of arbitrary bioactive surfaces

Project: Research project

Project Details


OVERVIEW. IIBR Keywords: nanolithography, microarrays, omics, interfaces, nanotechnology.
A major obstacle that constrains the ability to address fundamental questions in the biological sciences is the inability to easily and rapidly prepare patterned interfaces modified with biological matter at nanoscale resolution and at the point-of-need. The primary objective of this proposal is to combine advanced cantilever-free tip-based photolithography, microfluidics, and organic surface chemistry to develop a printer that can create arbitrary nanopatterns of delicate, biologically-active materials. This new tool will serve the immediate needs of the glycobiology, embryology, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, biophysics, and diagnostics communities.
INTELLECTUAL MERIT. An instrument to create ultradense nanopatterns of biologically active molecules will be developed to model the spatial and chemical complexity of biological systems or create arrays for determining gene, protein, or glycan expression. The goal of the proposed research is to combine new surface chemistries with new instrument capabilities which will result in The Nanosizer becoming the go-to tool for the in situ synthesis of combinatorial arrays of oligonucleotides, oligopeptides, and oligosaccharides, as it will provide control over feature size and shape over cm2 areas, while maintaining nanometer scale resolution. The Nanosizer is enabled by two breakthrough advances to recently emerge from the Mirkin and Braunschweig groups in the context of a prior collaborative NSF IDBR award, namely 1) the development of cantilever-free nanoprinting techniques with large pen arrays (>105) that are individually addressable with light, thereby combining the advantages of massively parallel pen arrays with photolithography, and 2) new surface immobilization chemistries and photochemistries for the rapid printing of molecules onto surfaces. This proposal will combine these two features into an automated platform that can photoactivate a surface with individually addressable tips, expose it to a range of reagents, and then repeat these steps for several cycles to create spatially encoded combinatorial arrays or nanopatterns of biologically active molecules on surfaces. This instrument represents an entirely new approach to forming combinatorial arrays of soft matter based on the new technologies described above, and its development necessitates interdisciplinary research that combines chemistry, materials science, mechanical engineering, and nanotechnology. This versatile tool for spatially encoded synthesis directly on a surface will be capable of patterning most biologically active small molecules. This proposal describes new instrumentation designs and surface photochemistries that will be developed to synthesize molecular libraries in situ. Fundamental biological experiments enabled by this new instrument, including measuring gene, protein, or glycan expression, or studying cell adhesion and differentiation, will be described.
BROADER IMPACTS. The proposed research program, based on an extensive and significant body of preliminary and collaborative results, will be carried out at Northwestern University (NU) and the City University of New York (CUNY). Central to the completion of the proposed project is the training of graduate students in nanoscience, scanning probe lithography, surface chemistry, and instrument development. Consequently, they will acquire skills that will make them competitive in academia and industry. Over 50% of personnel for the CUNY PI in the last NSF IDBR
Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (DBI-2032180)


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