Nanotechnology, Biochemical Sensors Among UH Chemical Research Projects

‘Chemistry Is Cool' Theme of American Chemical Society Summer Meeting 

From applications in sonar and computers to gas grills and cigarette lighters, one University of Houston chemist is on his way to creating a ‘recipe' for making ‘better' material.

Currently, engineers take materials that someone else has made and improve them through processing techniques. P. Shiv Halasyamani, associate professor of chemistry at UH, is creating new compounds to better understand structural nuances that result in superior materials behavior. Halasyamani has been invited to present his research - "Structure-property relationships in new oxide materials: piezoelectric, ferroelectric, and second-harmonic generating characterization" - at the American Chemical Society (ACS) 230th National Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Aug. 28 to Sept. 1. More than 12,000 scientists are expected to attend the national meeting.

Founded in 1876, the ACS is the world's largest scientific society dedicated to a single discipline, with more than 158,000 members. Chartered by the U.S. Congress, it is a world leader in fostering chemical education and research.

The research Halasyamani will present focuses on new oxide materials his UH group has created to exhibit particular properties, specifically piezoelectricity - the ability of certain crystals to generate a voltage in response to applied mechanical stress. Some common applications include the production and detection of sound in microphones and sonar; the generation of high voltages to ignite the gas in electric cigarette lighters and portable gas grills and stoves; electronic frequency generation used in quartz clocks, radio transmitters/receivers and computers; and ultra-fine focusing of optical assemblies.

Small changes in materials' structures can radically change their properties, and Halasyamani is creating new compounds in order to fundamentally understand their physical properties. Much of the research involving piezoelectric materials focuses on known materials, such as quartz or lead zirconate, and adjusting their composition to produce superior performing materials. Halasyamani's research is another approach to creating superior materials and will have possible applications in transducers, sensors and imaging systems.

"It is known that small changes in a material's structure can radically change its properties," Halasyamani said. "If we make a new compound, understand its structure and then do some measurements, we can ideally relate the measurements to the structure. Our ultimate goal is to imagine the composition of a material, predict what its properties will be and then make the material. If we could do this, then we would basically have a ‘recipe' for making a ‘better' material."

Halasyamani's presentation will begin at 8 a.m., Tuesday, August 30 in room 142 of the Washington Convention Center. Additional faculty presenters from the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and UH Cullen College of Engineering include the following:

Rigoberto C. Advincula, an associate professor of chemistry, is presenting three projects related to current group efforts on nanostructured materials and funded by the National Science Foundation, titled "Highly sensitive picomolar SPR/potentiometric sensing of nerve agents using electrochemically crosslinked PAMAM dendrimer/Cu ion complexes," "Nanopatterning and nanocharge writing in layer-by-layer ultrathin films," and "Telechelic polymer velcros or brushes:Synthesis, characterization, and adsorption studies."

James M. Briggs, an assistant professor of biology, is presenting "Water clusters at the dimmer interface of alanine racemases: Structure and function."

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, a professor of chemical engineering and chemistry and associate dean for research, is presenting "Dispersion and properties of carbon nanotube based polymer nanocomposites."

T. Randall Lee, a professor of chemistry and chemical engineering, is presenting "Specifically fluorinated organic thin films: Tailored coatings for nanoscale applications."

B. Montgomery Pettitt, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at UH, is presenting "Fast multipole communications scaling" and "Activity modeling."

For more information about the ACS meeting and to access a schedule of presenters and presentations, visit

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