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SEED Grants 2008

Crystal Growth of Oxide Semiconductors for Fundamental Studies of Solar H2 Production

Peter Khalifah
Department of Chemistry, SBU

Genda Gu
Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science (CMPMS) Department, BNL

John Tranquada
Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science (CMPMS) Department, BNL


We will collaborate to grow large single crystals of materials which are capable of using sunlight to produce H2 fuel from water through the process of photoelectrolysis (2H2O + light → 2H2 + O2). The water-splitting properties of these materials have previously been studied only in powder form, and high quality single crystals will enable new insights into the mechanisms and energetics of this process. The goal is to improve the efficiency of these materials in the visible light regime (currently quantum efficiencies are <3%). Measurements of the fundamental materials properties of single crystal samples (conductivity, carrier concentration, doping levels), will guide SBU students in optimizing the efficiencies. Crystal growth will be done in the labs of GG and JT at BNL, while the group of PK will carry out properties characterization and lead the search for novel semiconductors for photoelectrolysis.

We will explore the crystal growth of systems known to be capable of visible light driven water splitting, including InTaO4, Sm2Ti2S2O5, and the band gap tunable GaN/ZnO and LaTiO2N/SrTiO3 solid solutions. We will also look for new materials for photoelectrolysis in the pyrochlore family (A2B2X7), for which crystal growth procedures are known. The unique capabilities of the hot isostatic press (7,000 atm of pressure, temperatures to 1200 °C) recently purchased by the CMPMS department at BNL will be used to maximize the degree of anionic substitution (replacing O with N or S) in these oxide lattices relative to ambient pressure methods, a crucial step towards maximizing their ability to use visible light.

The availability of these crystals will open the possibility of carrying out advanced surface studies at other BNL facilities such as the CFN and the NSLS. The students of Prof. Michael White (SBU/BNL Chemistry) examine the molecular products of photoinduced reactions on semiconductor surfaces. By having access to these custom grown crystals of cutting edge systems, he will be able to carry out unique experiments with us into the mechanism of photoelectrolysis suitable for NSF and DOE funding. BNL chemists Dr. Etsuko Fujita and Dr. Sergei Lymar have been investigating better catalysts for the O2 production portion of photoelectrolysis, whose efficacy on these crystal surfaces can be tested as a function of applied potential when these crystals are integrated into electrochemical cells (subject of DOE Hydrogen Fuel Initiative funding application). The surface characterization techniques being implemented by Dr. Peter Sutter within the BNL Center for Functional Nanomaterials can be used to directly image and test the reactivity of molecules on the surface of large single crystals, providing exceptional insights into the nanoscale mechanism of this process. This project will provide the foundation for future applications by PK to the ACS PRF, the NSF CAREER award, and DOE programs, as well as positioning GG and JT to be integrated into traditional chemistry research areas in the DOE.



Michael Marx
Physics and Astronomy, SBU

Ilan Ben-Zvi
Associate Chair for Superconducting Accelerator R&D, BNL

Vladimir Litvinenko
Head of Accelerator Physics Group, BNL

Steve Peggs
U.S.-LHC Accelerator Research Program Leader, BNL

Thomas Hemmick
Department of Physics and Astronomy, SBU

Paul Grannis
Department of Physics and Astronomy, SBU (Emeritus)

Abhay Deshpande
Department of Physics and Astronomy, SBU and University Fellow RIKEN-BNL Research Center

James Glimm
Chair, Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, SBU

Petar Djuric
Department of Electrical Engineering, SBU

Monica Fernandez-Bugallo
Department of Electrical Engineering, SBU

Roman Samulyak
Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, SBU; Computational Science Center, BNL

John Hover
Advanced Technology Engineer, RHIC/ATLAS Computing Facility, BNL


We request seed funding to develop a proposal for a new Center for Accelerator Science and Education (CASE) as a joint venture between Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and Stony Brook University (SBU). The main goals of CASE are:

  • To train scientists and engineers with the aim of advancing the field of accelerator science;
  • To develop a unique program of educational outreach that will provide broad access to a research accelerator; and,
  • To attract Federal and industrial funding for an expanding interdisciplinary research and education program that utilizes accelerators.

The development of CASE capitalizes on resources at both institutions:

  • BNL has a panoply of state of the art accelerators engaged in a broad spectrum of sciences, with many outstanding scientists already affiliated with and teaching at SBU; many of the SBU faculty in various fields already use the existing accelerator based facilities at BNL for their own research;
  • SBU has a recently retired research accelerator – the Tandem Van de Graaff (TvDG) – whose control room has been renovated to become a modern Physics Teaching Laboratory (PTL) that serves graduate, undergraduate students as well as K-12 teachers and students.

With seed funding and encouragement from both institutions we will be able to develop programs and strong proposals that could generate major support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for CASE including modernization of the TVdG, from the Department of Energy (DoE) that acts as custodian for the nation’s program of accelerator science and research and development, and generate income from educational, research, and industrial use of the TVdG.


Elucidating the Mechanism of Action of Drugs In Vi vo: The Development of Novel Diagnostic Methods for Tuberculosis

Peter Tonge
Department of Chemistry, SBU

Joanna Fowler
Medical Department, BNL

Jacob Hooker
Medical Department, BNL


We will incorporate positron emission tomography (PET) radioisotopes such as carbon-11 (11C) and fluorine-18 (18F) into existing tuberculosis (TB) drugs as well as into compounds currently under development by the PIs research group. These reagents, which decay to emit body-penetrating photons, will be used to (i) identify the protein target(s) for the drugs in living cells and (ii) determine drug distribution in animals as a prelude to imaging the localization of pathogens in vivo using high resolution PET and microPET scanners. These efforts will be focused on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), an emerging infectious disease threat and category C priority pathogen. However, the methods that will be developed will have broad spectrum applicability. The choice of MDR-TB is based on (i) the current paucity of effective and reliable methods for diagnosing TB infection and (ii) knowledge of drug action and inhibitor discovery methods already in place in the PIs laboratory. This proposal has two aims:

Aim 1:  Radiotracer Incorporation and the Identification of Protein Targets in Living Cells We will incorporate radiotracer labels into existing TB chemotherapeutics as well as into a selection of novel TB inhibitors developed in the PIs lab. Mycobacterial cells will be treated with these compounds and the protein target(s) of the compounds will be identified through size fractionation of the cellular contents under non-denaturing conditions with inline radiation monitoring to observe both covalent and non-covalent protein interactions. The use of labels such as 11C and 18F is critical since these radioisotopes decay rapidly while emitting high energy photons (t1/2 = 20.4 and 109.8 min, respectively). While proteins bound to 11C- or 18F- labeled drugs will be detected with extremely high sensitivity, the short half lives of the radionuclides will enable protein identification through techniques such as immunostaining and mass spectrometry after the samples decay.

Aim 2:  Imaging Drug Distribution using PET The labeled TB-drugs developed in Aim 1 will be used to image the tissue distribution and metabolic profile in healthy control animals using PET. This Aim will evaluate the effect of different routes of drug administration on drug bioavailability to target organs such as the lung. Ultimately, the imaging studies will be extended to animal models of infection and infected patients. Our hypothesis is that pathogen-specific drugs that bind with high affinity to proteins in the pathogen will be concentrated in infected tissues and enable the visualization of pathogens in vivo, thereby identifying patients who will benefit from treatment. An overarching goal is to extend these methods to assess drug distribution and pathogen burden in human TB patients by radiotracer targeting of pathogen-specific biochemical activity and to monitor treatment.


Identifying UXO using the Associated Particle Neutron Time-of-Flight Technique

Yu Zhou
Mechanical Engineering, SBU

Sudeep Mitra
Associate Nuclear Physicist, Department of Environmental Sciences, BNL

The objective of the proposed research is to investigate an innovative sensing technique for accurately determining the location, size and nature of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in soil based on the associated particle neutron time-of-flight (APTOF) technique. With the ultimate goal of creating a prototype neutron interrogation probe that will search, locate and identify UXO in a target volume, in this seed project we will conduct proof-of-concept research in positioning UXO based on APTOF and identifying UXO based on gamma-ray energy spectrum analysis.


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