Innovations in Health, Energy, and Sustainability

Our research leverages deep fundamental insights to develop solutions to problems facing humanity in health, energy, and sustainability.

We create new materials with properties tailored to specific applications, novel devices engineered to exploit chemical and biological principles, and computational models — from molecular to continuum to societal scales — that inform and guide our work.

Faculty in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering are engaged in collaborative research and innovation. Our work is supported by major funding agencies, companies, and foundations. We disseminate our research in leading journals, translate it into high-impact intellectual property, and take pride in the successes achieved by our students at every level.

Research in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering falls into four core focus areas.

Energy and Sustainability

Providing energy, water, and material goods to the world — in ways that are affordable, sustainable, and environmentally responsible — is among the greatest challenges facing humanity. Our research focuses on leveraging innovations in materials and devices to enable solutions to these challenges.

Signature efforts include:

  • highly efficient water purification and gas separations enabled by novel membranes
  • high-efficiency battery technologies based on new electrolytes and alternatives to lithium active materials
  • new approaches to fuels and chemicals enabled by integration of heterogeneous catalysts with low-temperature plasma
  • sustainable use of abundant shale gas as a bridge fuel to the future

Progress on these areas benefits from collaborations among our research groups and other departments and University centers, such as ND Energy, the Notre Dame Energy Center.

We also leverage resources through strategic external partnerships, including the Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformations of Alkane Resources (CISTAR), a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center, and the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, an Energy Innovation Hub of the Department of Energy.

Research Areas

  • Materials for water purification
  • Electrochemical energy storage and conversion
  • Membranes for gas separations
  • Biomass conversion
  • Responsible shale gas use
  • Direct air capture of greenhouse gases
  • Plasma-enabled chemical conversions
  • Computational materials design
  • Photovoltaic materials

Faculty Researchers

Bioengineering and Diagnostics

Longstanding and emerging challenges in health care, agriculture, and the biological ecosystem require creative solutions. These problems require multidisciplinary engineers with advanced training and rigorous, quantitative education. Our research in bioengineering is leading to new approaches and technologies that can meet these challenges.

Key efforts include:

  • engineering therapeutics to treat allergies and cancer
  • using state-of-art nanotechnology for precision medicine
  • developing membranes for protein purification
  • leveraging basic principles of electrophoresis and electrokinetics for biosensing applications
  • creating new materials for biomedical applications
  • engineering supramolecular interactions for advanced drug delivery
  • systems engineering analysis of tissue formation and regeneration

These multi-disciplinary research projects are advancing our capabilities in biological engineering.

Our researchers are leveraging resources and partnerships with the Warren Center for Drug Discovery, Notre Dame’s Institute for Precision Health, the Harper Cancer Research Institute, the Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility, the Center for Bioanalytic Metrology, and the Notre Dame Center for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine.

Additional resources within the biological research ecosystem that are available to our researchers include the W.M. Keck Center for Transgene Research, the Genomics and Bioinformatics Core Facility, and the Notre Dame Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Core Facility.

Research Areas

  • Biological inhibitors and sample pretreatment
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomolecular engineering
  • Developmental biology
  • Digital droplet assays for single-molecule detection
  • Drug delivery
  • Electrokinetics for analyte concentration and isolation
  • Electronic nose/tongue
  • Extraction of receptor-specific exosomes for liquid biopsy
  • Ion channel-growth factor coupling in angiogenesis
  • Mechanobiology and single-cell encapsulation
  • Microbial communities
  • MicroRNA profiling for liquid biopsy
  • Nanopore single-molecule sensors with ion-current tags
  • Nanomagnetic Immunoassay of cellular communication
  • Plasmonically enhanced fluorescence
  • Protein therapies
  • Systems bioengineering
  • Tissue engineering

Faculty Researchers

Soft Matter and Nanomaterials

Soft matter and nanostructured materials play a significant role in addressing the most pressing technological challenges in a variety of fields, ranging from chemical separations, energy harvesting and storage devices, to biosensing, health care and human welfare, to electronics devices, sensors and catalysis.

Our researchers work at the forefront of materials research, developing novel materials with multiple functionalities, precisely controlled structures, and predictable and tailorable properties customized for specific applications and performance requirements.

The integration of novel synthesis techniques, state-of-the-art characterization tools and facilities, and advanced fabrication processes enables interdisciplinary research projects to stretch the performance limits of existing materials or create new materials using sustainable processes and strategic use of raw materials.

Signature efforts include:

  • energy-efficient chemical separations enabled by novel polymeric membrane
  • high-efficiency battery and fuel cell technologies based on new polyelectrolytes therapeutic and diagnostic molecules as novel solutions to complex diseases
  • supramolecular biomaterials for drug delivery applications
  • nanoengineered materials for next generation electronic devices and sensors
  • new catalysts for cleaner energy processes
  • sophisticated materials design-assisted by non-equilibrium theories and modern computer simulations

Research Areas

  • Membranes for challenging chemical separations
  • Electrokinetics of perm-selective membranes and biosensing
  • Gel encapsulation of cells for mechanotransduction
  • Smart membrane and gel microfluidics for ionic and pH control
  • Memristors and hybrid bioelectronic systems
  • Superparamagnetic nanobeads and membranes
  • Nanoparticle precipitation sensors
  • Conic ion-track nanopore membranes for high-throughput ultrafiltration
  • Carbon capture
  • Membrane Materials for water purification
  • Electrochemical energy storage and conversion
  • Battery electrolytes
  • Biomaterials for drug delivery
  • Imaging/diagnosing/treating disease
  • Bio-nano sensors
  • Catalysts for cleaner energy processes

Faculty Researchers

Molecular Simulation and Data Science

Data science and computer simulations have transformed the way chemical and biomolecular engineers approach and solve almost any problem. Our researchers are at the forefront of harnessing emerging computational and algorithmic tools to drive that transformation.

Our research program applies data science and computer simulation to problems that span energy and sustainability, soft matter and nanomaterials, and bioengineering and diagnostics. Many of our projects involve collaboration between computational and experimental research groups, leveraging the power of computational models to arrive at better solutions faster.

We have signature efforts in:

  • development of new, efficient, open-source molecular-level simulation tools
  • using molecular to continuum models to predict highly selective gas or ion separation membranes and architectures, porous materials with novel electronic properties, robust battery materials, or catalysts that enable novel chemical reactions.

We develop and apply advanced optimization techniques to design the processes that can take advantage of new materials. And we inform and accelerate this work with the latest advances in machine learning and data science.

The core of the Molecular Simulation and Data Science group shares the state-of-the-art Computational Molecular Science and Engineering Laboratory.

We partner closely with the Center for Research Computing and with national centers for our high-performance computing needs and contribute to national open-source software development consortia to ensure that our tools are readily available to the entire research community.

Research Areas

  • Advanced sampling algorithms
  • Machine learning for property predictions
  • Optimization strategies for large-scale simulations
  • Computational design of catalytic materials
  • Reaction network prediction and kinetic modeling
  • Materials for plasma catalytic transformations
  • Mechanisms of selective ion transport in membranes
  • High-performance battery electrolytes
  • Deep eutectic solvents
  • Mechanisms of glass corrosion
  • Protein denaturation and aggregation
  • Single-molecule physics in nanopore confinement
  • Systems biology

Faculty Researchers