Dr. Chenzhong Li’s Lab, also called the Nanobioengineering/Bioelectronics Lab, is located at the Motorola Nanofabrication Center of Advanced Materials Engineering Research Institute. The research of our group interfaces with biomedical engineering, nanobiotechnology,  electrochemistry, BioMEMS, biochemistry,  nanomedicine, surface science, and materials science. The work done here looks ahead to the next generation of biosensors, Lab-on-Chip, micro/nano electrodes as well as end use of such biomedical  devices for neuron mapping, clinical diagnosis, Point of Care Testings (POCTs),  drug screening/delivery, non-invasive therapy, and other environmental applications.

Biomaterials, such as DNA, peptides, proteins and cells, exhibit self-assembly and electron transfer properties.  When they are combined with nanomaterials that also have electronic properties such as carbon nanotubes or metallic nanoparticles, the resulting hybrid materials can be used as the basic building blocks of nanoelectronics.  The self recognition properties of the biological material allow self assembly of the bio-nano hybrid material into nanowires and nanocircuits. These nanoelectronic materials, nanowires and nanocircuits would be used in bioelectronic devices such as biofuel cells, DNA transistors, nano robots, etc. Nano-biomaterial hybrids and advanced MEMs technologies integrated with biosensor devices and implantable enzymatic biofuel cells will provide unparalleled sensitivity and specificity for the real-time analysis of biological components ranging from gene and drug screening to cancer cell to toxin detection, as well as an enzyme-based power sources for biomedical device operations.

Another research interest area at our lab is the sensing assessment of nanotoxicity and cytotoxicity which involves the reaction of cells to nanomaterials.  A nanotoxicity assay will be created by using an electrical cell-substrate impedance sensor (ECIS) to develop a biosensor system that measures the toxicological effects associated with exposure to nanomaterials. The main focus of this research is the development of a cellular and molecular-based electronic biosensor to evaluate nanotoxicity in real time by monitoring cellular impedances in vitro. The impact of nanoparticle interactions with the cells and the toxic effects of their size, chemical composition, shape, solubility and coatings will be investigated.

The Nanobioengineering and Bioelectronics Laboratory with its nanoelectronics, biosensors, and biofuel cell projects will lead to novel and powerful tools for the integration of nanotechnology with biology, advanced MEMS technology and electrochemistry.  This opens the possibility of developing these novel and powerful tools for the applications of fundamental biological research, homeland security, medical diagnostics and environmental protection.