Research in Professor Tilton's group addresses biopharmaceutical formulations, microfluidic biotechnologies, and nanotechnologies for environmental remediation, as well as fundamental studies of the influence of surfaces on macromolecular structure, dynamics and function. These diverse applications are linked in the sense that each of them is controlled by interfacial physical chemistry. The following are examples of current projects.
Microfluidic Cell Sorting
Micropatterned electrode technologies are being developed to sort different cell types, vesicles and/or colloidal particles in microfluidic devices. Cells adopt particular locations in nonuniform fields based on a coupling of dielectrophoretic and electrohydrodynamic forces. In this way, cell mixtures can be sorted for diagnostic purposes on the basis of differences in their dielectric properties. These ideas are being extended to microfluidic bioreactors based on biofunctionalized colloids and vesicles.
Targeted Remediation of Chlorinated Solvent Residuals in Groundwater
Inspired by targeted drug delivery technologies, we are developing polymer-functionalized iron nanoparticles that transport through microporous aquifers and preferentially accumulate at the interface between water and chlorinated organic solvent residuals. This effectively concentrates the contaminant remediation at the underground source, promising more rapid decontamination than current "pump and treat" technologies can offer.
The pharmaceutical efficacy of many protein therapeutics is significantly enhanced by grafting poly(ethylene glycol) chains to the proteins. We are investigating how PEG modification alters the underlying colloidal and interfacial behaviors of proteins and using the information to optimally formulate PEG-proteins for sustained release drug delivery.