Protochips uses the NC State Nanofabrication Facility and Analytical Instrumentation Facility to manufacture and analyze in situ TEM holders and sample supports. One of Protochips’s customers, the McLellan Lab at the University of Texas, determined the 3D structure of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, a critical first step towards developing a vaccine.This reconstruction is widely used, including on the homepage of the CDC. A recent Raleigh Magazine article highlighted this work.
In collaboration with other researchers, Alexander Kabanov’s group in UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy is developing mechanisms to deliver anti-CoV drugs and therapeutic agents directly to the respiratory track. Kabanov’s team uses instruments in the Chapel Hill and Nanofabrication Laboratory to characterize their work.
In addition, researchers at Duke are hard at work in the development of a novel vaccine to fight the coronavirus. The cryo-transmission electron microscope housed at Duke’s Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility (SMIF) is playing a major role in this work. This microscope helps scientists determine the structure of proteins in the virus to help guide vaccine design. To learn more, see the press release here.
Researchers at NC State have developed a technique to create nanoparticles with a unique structure: a core of nickel embedded in a silica shell with small orbs of nickel surrounding the core. This leads to an increased nickel surface area, making more of this metal available for catalysis. For more on this work, please see the NC State press release.
“Synthesis and Chemical Transformation of Ni Nanoparticles Embedded in Silica”
Authors: Brian B. Lynch and Joseph B. Tracy, North Carolina State University; Bryan D. Anderson, North Carolina State University and Air Force Research Laboratory; W. Joshua Kennedy, Air Force Research Laboratory
Published: Nov. 28, Nanoscale
Abstract: Ni nanoparticles (NPs) catalyze many chemical reactions, in which they can become contaminated or agglomerate, resulting in poorer performance. We report deposition of silica (SiO2) onto Ni NPs from tetraethyl orthysilicate (TEOS) through a reverse microemulsion approach, which is accompanied by an unexpected etching process. Ni NPs with an average initial diameter of 27 nm were embedded in composite SiO2-overcoated Ni NPs (SiO2-Ni NPs) with an average diameter of 30 nm. Each SiO2-Ni NP contained a ~7 nm oxidized Ni core and numerous smaller oxidized Ni NPs with diameters of ~2 nm distributed throughout the SiO2 shell. Etching of the Ni NPs is attributed to use of ammonium hydroxide as a catalyst for deposition of SiO2. Aliquots acquired during the deposition and etching process reveal agglomeration of SiO2 and Ni NPs, followed by dissociation into highly uniform SiO2-Ni NPs. This etching and embedding process may also be extended to other core materials. The stability of SiO2-Ni NPs was also investigated under high-temperature oxidizing and reducing environments. The structure of the SiO2-Ni NPs remained significantly unchanged after both oxidation and reduction, which suggests structural durability when used for catalysis.
Duke’s Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility will soon be home to a new cryo-transmission electron microscope: the FEI Krios. The microscope joins the FEI Talos Arctica (located at the the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIEHS) as part of the Molecular Microscopy Consortium (MMC) in the Research Triangle. This consortium is a partnership between NIEHS, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The mission of the MMC is to enable the use of single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and other tools in molecular microscopy to researchers across North Carolina. Cryo-EM is increasingly being used to determine the structure of macromolecules at atomic resolution. There is also emerging interest in applying the technology to the ultrastructure analysis of cellular compartments. The MMC was established to meet the growing demand for instrumentation and expertise in this area.
Director Mario Borgnia leads the MMC and is supported by a Core Team of expert personnel from each participating institution. The MMC functions as a space where projects are carried out as scientific collaborations with members of the Core Team. The following types of projects are currently being pursued:
- Structural biology groups with an established cryo-EM expertise seeking access to imaging equipment or processing pipelines
- Collaborative projects in which the lead is a structural biology group seeking to be trained and gain expertise in cryo-EM
- Long term collaborative projects with non-structural groups where the MMC provides expertise by solving structures using cryo-EM
- Collaborative projects in which there is a need for significant development of new techologies in cryo-EM
Researchers interested in using the MMC should contact Mario Borgnia (919-541-3120; firstname.lastname@example.org) for details regarding the application process. The MMC is open to applications from academic institutions in the Triangle and surrounding regions.
Professor Jim LeBeau, Associate Director of the Analytical Instrumentation Facility (AIF) and Associate Professor in NC State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering has been awarded funds from NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program to acquire a new TEM. The instrument will be available to users starting in the summer of 2018.
More information about the instrument and its capabilities can be found here.