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For big solutions think small: from nanocrystals to nucleic acids

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 12:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • Other

Seminar Location Other: 

Duane Physics Room G126

Speaker Name(s): 

Prashant Nagpal

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

University of Colorado Boulder
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Condensed Matter Seminar

Event Details & Abstract: 

Sun provides more than 150,000 TW of incident radiation on earth which can easily provide us a carbon neutral source of renewable energy to meet our current needs (~15 TW). However, energetically broad distribution of the emitted electromagnetic radiation from the sun poses significant scientific challenges to harvest this energy economically. Here, I will discuss two efforts in my group to bridge this gap: utilizing low-energy infrared radiation efficiently, and using the “excess” energy from photons (mismatch between energy of incident photon and nominal semiconductor bandgap) as “hot” carriers. These efforts in developing chemical feedstock or solar fuels and electricity from sunlight can lead to development of clean energy sources. Similar studies in nanoscale electronics of single molecule nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) have led to a novel Quantum Molecular Sequencing (QM-Seq) technique, using unique “electronic and optical fingerprints,” to directly determine the sequence of single molecules of RNA, DNA and other biomolecules. The sequences and structure of nucleic acids in bio-macromolecules like DNA and RNA define biological function and control the downstream expression of genes, proteins, and other cell-regulatory functions. Small variations in this genetic coding in individual cells can lead to mutations, which can play a key role in physiology. Current DNA sequencing techniques rely on enzymatic amplification of samples and provide a statistically significant ensemble-averaged sequence, which lacks both information vital to understanding their function and critical insights for medical intervention. Our transformative QM-Seq method will be invaluable to sequencing rare biomolecule species (e.g., circulating tumor cells, free DNA in blood, and drug-resistant pathogens); answering important biological questions on genetic encoding (e.g., role of gene silencing in cancer or role of genetics in ageing); identifying the molecular markers responsible for diseases; and developing a versatile tool for studies in personalized medicine and gene therapy.