Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Facilities

Biomolecular Engineering Laboratories

The laboratories are equipped for cutting-edge genetic, biomolecular, and cellular engineering teaching and research. Facilities and equipment include bioreactors, fluorescence microscopy, real-time PCR thermocycler, UV-visible and fluorescence spectrophotometers, HPLC and LC-mass spectrometer, aerobic and anaerobic bioreactors from bench top to 100-liter pilot scale, protein purification facility, potentiostat/galvanostat and impedance analyzer for electroenzymology, membrane extruder and multiangle laser light scattering for production and characterization of biological and semi-synthetic colloids such as micelles and vesicles, and phosphoimager for biochemical assays involving radiolabeled compounds.

Microbial cells are genetically and metabolically engineered to produce compounds that are used as fuel, chemicals, drugs, and food additives. Novel gene-metabolic circuits are designed and constructed in microbial cells to perform complex and non-native cellular behavior. These designer cells are cultured in bioreactors, and intracellular states are monitored. Such investigations are coupled with genomic and proteomic efforts, and mathematical modeling, to achieve system-wide understanding of the cell.

Protein engineering is being used to generate completely novel compounds that have important pharmaceutical value. Bacteria are being custom-designed to synthesize important therapeutic compounds that have anticancer, cholesterol-lowering, and/or antibiotic activities. Biosensors are being micromachined for detecting neurotransmitters in vivo. New biosensing schemes also are being invented for the detection of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment and for the high-throughput screening of drug candidates. Naturally occurring protein nanocapsules are being redesigned at the genetic level for applications in drug delivery and materials synthesis. Finally, the enzymology of extremely thermophilic microbes is being explored for applications in specialty chemical synthesis.

Chemical Kinetics, Catalysis, and Reaction Engineering Laboratory

The laboratory is equipped with advanced research tools for experimental and computational studies of chemical kinetics, reaction engineering, and catalytic and adsorptive materials. Analytical instruments include a quadrupole mass spectrometer (QMS) system to sample reactive systems with electron impact and photoionization capabilities; several fully computerized gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) systems for gas analysis; a computerized gas chromatograph/sulfur chemiluminescence detector (GC/SCD) system for gas analysis of sulfur-containing compounds; and fully computerized array channel microreactors and plug-flow reactors for catalyst discovery and optimization.

The laboratory also presents a strong expertise in computational catalysis and surface chemistry. It is equipped with state-of-the-art atomic-scale modeling software used to understand the properties of solids and the catalytic reactivity of surfaces, nanoparticles, and clusters. Codes include VASP, CP2K, and SIESTA. Applications domains are linked with chemistry and energy challenges and range from heterogeneous catalysis to photocatalysis, electrocatalysis, depollution, and electricity storage. Original simulation methods, developed by the researchers, are available for the modeling of electrocatalysis. A high-performance cluster is available for research and teaching. Campuswide computers are also available to laboratory researchers.

Electrochemical Engineering and Catalysis Laboratories

With instrumentation such as rotating ring-disk electrodes, electrochemical packed-bed flow reactors, gas chromatographs, potentiostats, and function generators, the laboratories are used to study metal, alloy, and semiconductor corrosion processes, electro-deposition and electroless deposition of metals, alloys, and semiconductors for GMR and MEMS applications, electrochemical energy conversion (fuel cells) and storage (batteries), and bioelectrochemical processes and biomedical systems.

The electroorganic synthesis facility is for the development of electrochemical processes to transform biomass-derived organic compounds into useful chemicals, fuels, and pharmaceuticals. The catalysis facility is equipped to support various types of catalysis projects, including catalytic hydrocarbon oxidation, selective catalytic reduction of NOx, and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

Electronic Materials Processing Laboratory

The laboratory focuses on the synthesis and patterning of mutlifunctional complex oxide films and nanostructures with tailored electronic, chemical, thermal, mechanical, and biological properties. Experimental and theoretical studies are combined to understand the process chemistry and surface kinetics in atomic layer deposition, plasma etching and deposition processes, gas-phase surface functionalization, and solution phase synthesis. Novel devices including advanced microelectronics, optoelectronics, chemical sensors, and energy storage devices are realized at nano-dimensions as the technologies become more enabling based on these fundamental studies.

The laboratory is equipped with a state-of-the-art advanced rapid thermal processing facility with in-situ vapor phase processing and atomic layer deposition capabilities; advanced plasma processing tools including thin film deposition and etching; and diagnostics including optical emissions spectroscopy, Langmuir probe, and quadruple mass spectrometry; a surface analytical facility including X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Auger electron spectroscopy, ultra-violet photoelectron spectroscopy, reflection high energy electron diffraction, spectroscopic ellipsometry, photo-luminescence, and infrared spectroscopy; and a complete set of processing tools available for microelectronics and MEMS fabrication in the Nanoelectronic Research Facility. With the combined material characterization and electronic device fabrication, the reaction kinetics including composition and morphology, and the electrical property of these materials can be realized for applications in the next generation electronic devices and chemical or biological MEMS.

Materials and Plasma Chemistry Laboratory

The laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments for studying the molecular processes that occur during chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and plasma processing. CVD is a key technology for synthesizing advanced electronic and optical devices, including solid-state lasers, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet detectors and emitters, solar cells, heterojunction bipolar transistors, and high-electron mobility transistors. The laboratory houses a commercial CVD reactor for the synthesis of III-V compound semiconductors. This tool is interfaced to an ultrahigh vacuum system equipped with scanning tunneling microscopy, low-energy electron diffraction; infrared spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. This apparatus characterizes the atomic structure of compound semiconductor heterojunction interfaces and determines the kinetics of CVD reactions on these surfaces.

The atmospheric plasma laboratory is equipped with multiple plasma sources and state-of-the-art diagnostic tools. The plasmas generate, at low temperature, beams of atoms and radicals well-suited for surface treatment, cleaning, etching, deposition, and sterilization. Applications are in the biomedical, electronics, and aerospace fields. The laboratory is unique in that it characterizes the reactive species generated in atmospheric plasmas and their chemical interactions with surfaces.

Nanoparticle Technology and Air Quality Engineering Laboratory

Modern particle technology focuses on particles in the nanometer (nm) size range with applications to air pollution control and commercial production of fine particles. Particles with diameters between 1 and 100 nm are of interest both as individual particles and in the form of aggregate structures. The laboratory is equipped with instrumentation for online measurement of aerosols, including optical particle counters, electrical aerosol analyzers, and condensation particle counters. A novel low-pressure impactor designed in the laboratory is used to fractionate particles for morphological analysis in size ranges down to 50 nm (0.05 micron). Also available is a high-volumetric flow rate impactor suitable for collecting particulate matter for chemical analysis. Several types of specially designed aerosol generators are also available, including a laser ablation chamber, tube furnaces, and a specially designed aerosol microreactor.

Concern with nanoscale phenomena requires the use of advanced systems for particle observation and manipulation. Students have direct access to modern facilities for transmission and scanning electron microscopy. Located near the laboratory, the Electron Microscopy facilities staff provide instruction and assistance in the use of these instruments. Advanced electron microscopy has recently been used in the laboratory to make the first systematic studies of atmospheric nanoparticle chain aggregates. Such aggregate structures have been linked to public health effects and to the absorption of solar radiation. A novel nanostructure manipulation device, designed and built in the laboratory, makes it possible to probe the behavior of nanoparticle chain aggregates of a type produced commercially for use in nanocomposite materials; these aggregates are also released by sources of pollution such as diesel engines and incinerators.

Polymer and Separations Research Laboratory

The laboratory is equipped for research on membranes, water desalination, adsorption, chemical sensors, polymerization kinetics, surface engineering with polymers and the behavior of polymeric fluids in confined geometries. Instrumentation includes a high resolution multiprobe atomic force microscope (AFM) and a quartz crystal microbalance system for membrane and sensor development work. An atmospheric plasma surface structuring system is available for nano-structuring ceramic and polymeric surfaces for a variety of applications that include membrane performance enhancement and chemical sensor arrays. Analytical equipment for polymer characterization includes several high-pressure liquid chromatographs for size exclusion chromatography equipped with different detectors, including refractive index, UV photodiode array, conductivity, and a photodiode array laser light scattering detector. The laboratory has a research-grade FTIR with a TGA interface, a thermogravimetric analysis system, and a dual column gas chromatograph. Equipment for viscometric analysis includes high- and low-pressure capillary viscometer, narrow gap cylindrical couette viscometer, cone-and-plate viscometer, intrinsic viscosity viscometer system and associated equipment. Flow equipment is also available for studying fluid flow through channels of different geometries (e.g., capillary, slit, porous media). The evaluation of polymeric and novel ceramic-polymer membranes, developed in the laboratory, is made possible with reverse osmosis, pervaporation, and cross-flow ultrafiltration systems equipped with online detectors. Studies of high recovery membrane desalination are carried out in a membrane concentrator/crystallizer system. Resin sorption and regeneration studies can be carried out with a fully automated system.

Process Systems Engineering Laboratory

The laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art computer hardware and software used for the simulation, design, optimization, control, and integration of chemical processes. Several personal computers and workstations, as well as an 8-node dual-processor cluster, are available for teaching and research. SEASnet and campuswide computational facilities are also available to laboratory members. Software for simulation and optimization of general systems includes MINOS, GAMS, MATLAB, CPLEX, and LINDO. Software for simulation of chemical engineering systems includes HYSYS for process simulation and CACHE-FUJITSU for molecular calculations. UCLA-developed software for heat/power integration and reactor network attainable region construction is also available.