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CBES: Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science

Research Highlights

Selective photoreduction of acetylene to ethylene powered by visible light and water at room temperature using molecular or semiconductor photosensitizers and cobalt molecular catalyst

A Greener, Photochemical, Route to Polymer-grade Ethylene

A visible light-powered cobalt porphyrin catalyzes near 100% conversion of acetylene to ethylene with >99% selectivity.

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Photocatalytic Aqueous CO2 Reduction to CO and CH4 Sensitized by Ullazine Supramolecular Polymers

Self-assembled organic molecules photosensitize a cobalt molecular catalyst to reduce CO2 to CO and CH4 in water.

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Diareno-ullazine molecules undergo self-assembly in water to form fibrous supramolecular polymers. Under visible light, these assemblies sensitize a cobalt molecular catalyst and convert CO2 to CO and CH4.
This triple-double gyroid is a new colloidal crystal structure that has never been found in nature or synthesized before. The translucent red/green/blue balls show the positions of programmable atom equivalents (PAEs), while the dark grey balls and sticks show locations of electron equivalents (EEs).

Emergence of Valency in Colloidal Crystals through Electron Equivalents

A new route to symmetry breaking in lattices of programmable atom equivalents (PAEs) was uncovered using nanoconstructs with particle cores and highly oriented DNA shells.

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Record Photoreduction of CO2 in Water Sensitized by Quantum Dots

CuInS2 quantum dots (QDs) photosensitize a Co-porphyrin catalyst to reduce CO2 to CO in pure water at pH 6-7 with turnover number (TONCO) >80,000, quantum yield (QYCO) >5.2%, and selectivity (SCO) >99%.

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Quantum dots/porphyrin system effectively converts CO2 with respect to all three key metrics (TONCO, QYCO and SCO). The performance of the QD system greatly exceeds that of the benchmark [Ru(bpy)3]2+-CoTPPS aqueous system due primarily to electrostatic attraction of the QD to the catalyst, which promotes fast multielectron delivery, and termination of the QD’s ligand shell with free amines, which pre-activate CO2 as carbamic acid.
An accordion device can be pulled with laser tweezers unzipping the complementary DNA strands  at the vertex hinges. On release the stored energy can move attached colloids at many μm/s.

Micromechanical Devices Using DNA Hybridization

We demonstrate that DNA and RNA can be used as a fuel and for energy storage in nano/microscale machines.

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Flexing Muscles: Hybrid Materials with Actuatable, Hierarchical Topography for Multifunctional Surface Design

Using Magnetic Fields to Control Elastic Sheets


Shape-Directed Micromotors via Catalytic Self-Electrophoresis


Transitional Bonding in Colloidal Systems


Shape-Directed Dynamics of Active Colloids

Self-Assembled Three-Dimensional Chiral Colloidal Architecture: Uniquely Left or Uniquely Right Handed

A Silicon Ratchet to Produce Power from Below-Bandgap Photons

A Light-Responsive Organic Electron Flashing Ratchet


Contractile Actuation and Dynamical Gel Assembly of Paramagnetic Filaments in Fast Precessing Fields

Self-Replication with Dipolar Colloids

"Soft" Amplifier Circuits Based on Field-Effect Ionic Transistors

Interactions Between Polyelectrolyte-Gel Surfaces

Electrically Driven Pumps Based on Conical Pores have High Rectification; Could be of Interest for Pumping Salt

Identification of Two Mechanisms for Current Production in a Biharmonic Flashing Electron Ratchet

Transmutable Nanoparticles with Reconfigurable Surface Ligands

Enzymatic Reactions Convectively Aggregate Microcapsules Modeling Self-Assembly of Protocells

Coarsening Dynamics of Binary Liquids with Active Rotation

Controlling Shape and Pattern in Active Colloidal Cells

Morphological Phases in Ionic Liquids Induce High Conductivities at Low Temperatures

Energy Landscapes and Functions of Self-Assembling Peptide Amphiphile Nanofibers

Salt Pumping by Voltage-Gated Nanochannels

Energy Conversion in Polyelectrolyte Hydrogels

Plasmonic Photonic Crystals Realized through DNA Programmable Assembly

Harnessing Self-Assembly to Make Photonic Nanowires

Dissipative Self-Assembly of Particles Interacting through Time-Oscillatory Potentials