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SwRI, UTSA award $200K for photoresponsive nanomaterials research

Texas Business reports:  Kelly Nash, assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Benjamin Furman, a research engineer in the Southwest Research Institute Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, have been selected to receive $200,000 in seed funding for their collaborative research proposal, “Photoresponsive Polymeric Composites Utilizing UV-Light Harvesting from Upconverting Nanoplatelets.”

Nash and Furman will use the funding to develop and characterize photoresponsive polymer-matrix nanocomposites that incorporate highly luminescent up-converting nanoplatelets (UNPs).

They expect the UNPs to offer mechanical reinforcement and stimulate bond rearrangement using inexpensive visible-light sources, such as green laser diodes.

The development of the nanocomposites, in conjunction with newly designed opto-acoustic instrumentation, will promote new capabilities in targeted drug release and offer a new fundamental method to investigate the structure/property relationships of multifunctional nanocomposites in general. The proposed project will focus on hydrogels for applications in drug release.

“We are extremely pleased by the quality and quantity of Connect program proposals submitted for this third round of funding. We believe that the outstanding response represents a substantial growth of interest in institutional collaboration that we intended the Connect program to stimulate,” said Walt Downing, SwRI executive vice president, in a prepared statement. “It was difficult to select a single winner from the field of excellent proposals. Ultimately, we chose a project that builds upon the respective strengths of UTSA and the institute to conduct research in photoresponsive nanomaterials that might lead to revolutionary breakthroughs in drug delivery and other biomedical applications.”

“Doctors Nash and Furman's Connect proposal will have tremendous value not only to industry and the university but to the nation,” said Jim Massaro, UTSA assistant vice president for research development. “It is a perfect example of the importance of collaboration and what two outstanding entities in their own right can accomplish together. Connect has proven its worth time and again.”

This is the third project to be funded under Connect, a program established in 2010 to stimulate inter-organizational research between SwRI and UTSA in fields such as advanced materials, chemistry and chemical engineering, energy, environment, security and manufacturing, among others.