Introduction

Although focused on biomedical engineering and materials science, the BEAMS group has many, varied research interests. Much of our research pertains to medical devices, such as image plates and image-enhancing nanoparticles. We perform characterization of bulk-amorphous and nanoscale materials both in-house and at national facilities. Our unique characterization technique is Mössbauer spectroscopy. Details on specific research projects can be found below.

Glass and Glass Ceramics

We are currently developing luminescent glass and glass-ceramic materials for radiographic imaging and dosimetry applications.  The luminescent properties of these materials can be tuned by varying composition and processing conditions. For example, the addition of elements with a high atomic number may result in the materials being more responsive to gamma and x-ray radiation, while the incorporation of certain isotopes such as 10B or 6Li makes the materials more sensitive to neutron radiation. We have developed both scintillators and storage phosphor materials. Scintillators spontaneously emit visible light upon exposure to ionizing radiation. In contrast, storage phosphors do not spontaneously luminesce during exposure and require optical or thermal stimulation to initiate emission.

a) a glass-ceramic material luminescing under UV excitation; b) an x-ray radiograph of an European hornet produced using a glass-ceramic imaging plate

 

 

 

Diamond-like Carbon

Diamond-like carbon (DLC) films are amorphous carbon films with a mixture of sp2 and sp3 hybrid bonding. DLC films can have properties similar to that of diamond, including high hardness, exceptional scratch resistance, low coefficient of friction, optical transparency, chemical inertness, and biocompatibility. These properties make DLC an ideal protective coating for such applications as automotive parts, optical windows, magnetic storage devices, micro-electromechanical devices (MEMS), and biomedical implants and instruments. Currently our research is focused on modifying the DLC matrix through the incorporation of dopants to create a long-lasting, super hydrophilic, antifogging coating for biomedical instruments.

An uncoated glass plate (a) fogs when held over steaming water, while a DLC-coated glass plate (b) remains transparent.

 

 

 

Iron nanoparticles

Iron nanoparticles are of interest in biomedical research for their versatility and magnetism properties. We are currently synthesizing and characterizing iron nanoparticles for biomedical applications. We use Dynamic Light Scattering and Mössbauer Spectroscopy to characterize the iron nanoparticles after synthesis at UTSI. Their applications include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents, hyperthermia therapies for hard to treat cancers like glioblastoma multiforme, and Magnetic Resonance guided Laser Induced Thermal Therapy (MRgLITT) to combine diagnostics and treatments.

(a) iron nanoparticles in suspension; b) a TEM micrograph of iron nanoparticles

 

 

 

 

Ion Batteries

The goal of our research is to achieve a greater understanding of the functionality of electrochemically active materials and the effects of composition, size, and structure as they are cyclically deconstructed and reconstituted through electrochemical processes. We are especially interested in materials relating to sodium ion batteries. Research into sodium ion materials may lead to safer, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly battery technology when compared to today’s lithium ion batteries.

(a) an unassembled cell; b) an assembled cell undergoing cyclic testing