Professor Awarded ASME Honor

Professor Sinan Keten

Keten Peptide Nanotube

Sinan Keten, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded the Haythornthwaite Research Initiation Grant by the Applied Mechanics Division (AMD) of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The award targets university faculty engaged in research in theoretical and applied mechanics that are at the beginning of their academic careers.

Professor Keten received his PhD from MIT and joined the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science in Fall 2010. Professor Keten’s research currently focuses on using molecular modeling and theory to rapidly discover bioinspired materials that utilize building blocks and design strategies that are found in nature. The specific focus of this project is a new class of synthetic peptide nanostructures that are called polymer-conjugated cyclic peptide nanotubes (pc-CPNs). These peptide nanotubes can co-assemble with polymers into thin films to obtain membranes that have tiny, subnanometer size pores. These pores formed by nanotubes selectively allow certain liquid and gas molecules to pass while rejecting others. However, factors controlling the self-assembly and mechanical stability of polymer-conjugated peptide nanotubes remain to be fully understood. As such, Keten’s research group will aim to explain the physical behavior of these complex nanomaterials to discover ways to generate reliable, continuous rectilinear pores in thin films. The knowledge gained from these studies will potentially have an impact on selective membrane technologies that are needed for advancements in water purification, batteries, fuel cells and carbon dioxide capture.

The Robert M. and Mary Haythornthwaite Foundation supports scientific research, primarily research in the field of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. Robert Haythornthwaite was founder and first President of the American Academy of Mechanics. Additional information about the Foundation can be found at: http://www.haythornthwaite.org. The funds received from this award will be used to build a massively parallelized graphical processing unit (GPU) based computing cluster, which will speed up expensive molecular simulations that are needed to guide the establishment of new predictive theories.

Keten’s earlier research on this topic was selected for a booster award by the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy (ISEN) at Northwestern University in 2011. His theoretical research is carried out in close collaboration with synthesis and experimental efforts by Ting Xu, Associate Professor of materials science and chemistry at University of California – Berkeley, and Brett Helms, who is a staff scientist in the Organic and Macromolecular Synthesis Facility at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, a nanoscience research center funded by the Department of Energy. The team’s research on cyclic peptide nanotube membranes has recently been selected as one of the 14 projects that will receive funding by the National Science Foundation under the federal Materials Genome Initiative (a new “materials by design” initiative, which goes by the formal name of Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future). Additional information about this initiative can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/mgi.