Department: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Position: Associate Professor
Address: Mountaintop Campus
111 Research Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Areas of Research
Mark Snyder's research focuses on rational and directed design of novel inorganic nanomaterials for efficient separation and reaction technologies, with applications from energy (e.g., integrated biorefinery) to sensing and imaging. Broadly, he is interested in engineering functional inorganic nanoparticles and the porosity, morphology, and functionality of a range of inorganic thin films. Toward this end, he integrates materials synthesis and characterization with molecular and multiscale modeling of phenomena spanning molecular transport to device performance.
One current effort in his lab seeks rational design of crystalline inorganic membranes for high-selectivity separations. The need for low-energy techniques to separate high-value chemicals from complex process streams (e.g., in the biorefinery) underscores the potential impact of fundamental separations-driven materials research aimed at designing viable membrane technology. While membranes composed of oriented and intergrown microporous zeolite crystals have been investigated for decades, Snyder focuses on narrowing the materials gap (i.e., single-crystal vs. polycrystalline selectivity) that has, in part, stifled their rapid commercialization for large-scale separations. He and his team target fundamental efforts at the materials engineering level, aiming to elucidate molecular transport in grain boundaries and to uncover the chemical nature of such polycrystalline features in order to guide their in situ and post-synthesis engineering.
Another current project investigates the engineering of membrane selectivity, functionality, and versatility on porous, nanoparticulate films. As an alternative to polycrystalline and surfactant directed inorganic films, we aim to engineer robust, ordered nanoparticulate films (i.e., on porous supports or as self-supported capsules) and their replicas for applications in high-resolution separations and sensing. Nanoparticle composition, size control, functionality, and assembly are employed as handles for realizing films with finely controlled and/or autonomously actuated (i.e., by the local environment) pore sizes, molecule-specific selectivity, and simultaneous reaction-diffusion capabilities.
Lastly, Snyder's lab seeks to understand functionalized inorganic nanoparticles for dispersed and assembled applications. Work in his lab depends upon the existence of nanoparticles with tailored composition and functionality (e.g., tethered organic molecules, reactive metal centers, occluded fluorophores). As such, the team carries out fundamental research on nanoparticle synthesis (e.g., biomimetic routes) in order to elucidate synthesis-structure-properties relations governing, for example, nanoparticle stability, triggered and controlled assembly, and catalytic activity in assembled (i.e. thin films, nanoparticle clusters) and dispersed nanoparticle applications.