Energetics, elements and environments.

College of Engineering Professor Dibyendu Mukherjee and his students are currently involved in the research of characterizing bio-hybrid photovoltaic devices and the use of nano-bio materials for energy.

Conducted by both undergraduate and graduate students, the focuses of this research include Scanning Tunneling Microscope tip preparation, the toxicity of metallic nano particle and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy.

Neil Brown, a senior in chemical engineering, said a typical day in a lab varies widely, keeping things interesting for the researchers.

"I spend the bulk of my time researching my current topic, setting up and running experiments, collecting and analyzing data from those experiments and then using the conclusions to move forward and start the cycle over again," Brown said.

On Monday, students conducted an experiment that could potentially be useful for biosensor and even solar power devices.

Tyler Bennett, a third-year graduate student in the chemical and biomolecular engineering department, explained the details of the experiment.

"We are working with Photosystem I, which is this big protein complex found in bacteria and plants that does the work of converting sunlight into useful energy," Bennett said. "What we are doing in this lab is taking that photosystem device out of the plants and putting it onto a metal surface so it can generate electricity directly. The conversion of light to electricity is done through electrochemical testing."

David Morse, junior in College Scholars studying bio-physics, is currently doing research on the toxicity of metallic nanoparticles and the interaction of these nanoparticles with lipid bilayers.

"A day in the lab includes ... using Transmission Electron Microscope imaging to view my nanoparticles," Morse said. "Electron microscopes are a necessity when viewing small nanoparticles because these nanoparticles are smaller than the wavelength of light."

Brown deems his long hours spent in the labratory, specifically his lab research, as particularly rewarding.

"I thoroughly enjoy getting to work with all these students, as well as my advisers," Brown said. "As testament to our good working environment, Hannah and I placed third in last year's NDConnect Nanoscience and Nanoengineering poster competition."

Working with other students can also improve one's own knowledge of the material. Ali Davari, senior in chemical engineering, works with one of her first friends in Knoxville.

"I work with my lab mate, Sheng Hum," Davari said. "Our work is kind of dependent on each other. He synthesized the material, and I characterize them."

Sheung Hu, a graduate student in chemical engineering, looks forward to continuing his research on the synthesis of nanoparticles in his life after UT.

"I would like to work in industry," Hu said. "For instance, companies manufacturing catalyst-related nanoparticles in the field of new power energy."