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Dr. Mark Allen

University of Maryland Baltimore County

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Friday, September 13 -Fall Seminar

12 Noon Meyerhoff Chemistry Building, Room 120


Naturally Synthetic: Making Hard Connections using Soft Materials

Nature has often confronted challenges that eventually were surmounted through an application of natural selection. By modifying the chemical functionalities present in proteins and other biomolecules, life has thrived under disparate conditions. The tools in the biological toolbox include nucleic acids, lipids, polysaccharides, and proteins, each of which has been further directed toward applications far different from their defined purposes to make sensors or other electronic devices. Proteins in particular represent nature’s most diverse polymer with a range of functionality determined by 20 naturally encoded amino acids. In this presentation I will discuss the application of proteins or polypeptides for the purpose of addressing challenges related to how biomolecules interact with hard inorganic materials.


While natural selection ends at modifications to the environment that allow generations of organisms to continue, our lab uses a form of artificial selection called phage display in order to address technological problems that are not commonly thought of as relevant to nature. The toolbox remains the same however the application of the tools is to identify solid binding polypeptides that have very strong but specific interactions with electroactive materials and to identify and exploit these interactions in order to improve devices with an emphasis on the improvement of lithium ion batteries.


This talk will present findings that describe how solid binding polypeptides interact with and improve the performance of functional inorganic materials. The application that is always on the horizon is the improvement in lithium ion batteries; however, fundamental organic/inorganic interactions will be explored and data will be presented that focus on how the polypeptides interact with the surface of the particles.