Chris Kiely, Director of the Electron Microscopy and Nanofabrication Facility and Lehigh Microscopy School in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, on the team of Steven McIntosh, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering and Bryan Berger, Associate Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, together have had their discoveries on quantum dots published in the New York Times.
Quantum dots are tiny crystals that have the potential to offer sharper and brighter display screens for less money than current manufacturing processes. Their research centers on the creation of these dots by growing them in a lab using an enzyme found inside a species of bacteria known as Stenotrophomonas maltophila.
The discovery began in a serendipitous way when a superbug — a strain of bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotic drugs — was found thriving on metal surfaces in a hospital.
The Steno bacteria appeared to be converting electrical charges from the metal surface into metallic particles. Back in the lab, the team discovered that it was actually producing quantum dots after feasting on cadmium.
Later, their research showed they didn’t need to work with the potentially harmful superbug at all in order to create the dots, but rather just a specific enzyme inside it.
The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in April 2015. The lead author is Robert Dunleavy ’16, who will begin graduate studies at Cornell University in the fall. A co-author, Li Lu, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in materials science at Lehigh.