Semiconductor nanocrystals (quantum dots; QDs) have unique optical properties that make them attractive for use in biomedical imaging, photovoltaics , lighting and display technologies. While commercial interest in using these materials is high, the prohibitive cost associated with their chemical synthesis has limited their commercial use. Current chemical processes require high operating temperatures, high pressures and toxic solvents for synthesis, which increases both operating costs and environmental clean-up costs. Thus, in order to realize the potential of semiconductor nanocrystals in commercial technologies, improved methods for their cost-effective, scalable synthesis is required.
In this study, we describe the directed evolution of a gram-negative bacteria, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, to produce cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanocrystals (quantum dots; QDs) directly from cell culture. By producing nanoparticles through biosynthesis, we will be exploring a novel, less expensive way to produce these catalysts. Biological synthesis procedure operates at low temperatures, ambient pressures, thereby reducing capital costs associated with large-scale production. If we were able to produce these particles efficiently, inexpensively, and on a large scale, we could potentially produce QDs at a scale and cost compatible with commercial applications such as photovoltaics and biomedical imaging, and do so with little environmental impact.
Tori Berard is a senior at Lehigh University graduating with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Business. She has been working for almost two years as a Research Assistant for Professor Berger and Professor McIntosh in the Chemical Engineering Department. Her researched has focused on the production of quantum materials through biosynthesis. In addition to working in a lab, Tori has been a member of the Society of Women Engineers, a Residential Advisor, a member of the Women’s Cross Country team, and a long distance runner on the Women’s Track & Field team at Lehigh.