Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Craig R Friedrich


The integration of novel nanomaterials with highly-functional biological molecules has advanced multiple fields including electronics, sensing, imaging, and energy harvesting. This work focuses on the creation of a new type of bio-nano hybrid substrate for military biosensing applications. Specifically it is shown that the nano-scale interactions of the optical protein bacteriorhodopsin and colloidal semiconductor quantum dots can be utilized as a generic sensing substrate.

This work spans from the basic creation of the protein to its application in a novel biosensing system. The functionality of this sensor design originates from the unique interactions between the quantum dot and bacteriorhodopsin molecule when in nanoscale proximity. A direct energy transfer relationship has been established between coreshell quantum dots and the optical protein bacteriorhodopsin that substantially enhances the protein’s native photovoltaic capabilities. This energy transfer phenomena is largely distance dependent, in the sub-10nm realm, and is characterized experimentally at multiple separation distances. Experimental results on the energy transfer efficiency in this hybrid system correlate closely to theoretical predictions.

Deposition of the hybrid system with nano-scale control has allowed for the utilization of this energy transfer phenomena as a modulation point for a functional biosensor prototype. This work reveals that quantum dots have the ability to activate the bacteriorhodopsin photocycle through both photonic and non-photonic energy transfer mechanisms. By altering the energy transferred to the bacteriorhodopsin molecule from the quantum dot, the electrical output of the protein can be modulated. A biosensing prototype was created in which the energy transfer relationship is altered upon target binding, demonstrating the applicability of a quantum dot/bacteriorhodopsin hybrid system for sensor applications. The electrical nature of this sensing substrate will allow for its efficient integration into a nanoelectronics array form, potentially leading to a small-low power sensing platform for remote toxin detection applications.