The research in the Mirica Group at Dartmouth College focuses on addressing global challenges in healthcare and environmental stewardship through innovations in Materials Chemistry. The experimental strategy emphasizes molecular design and synthesis of responsive materials compatible with the unique demands of low-power, portable, affordable, easy-to-use electronic sensing devices. An important aspect of research in the group is a feedback loop between fundamental and applied science, where the fundamental understanding of interactions of small molecules with responsive materials is used, probed, and refined in functional devices. Materials and methods developed in the group may also be applicable to information storage, and energy storage, conversion, and catalysis. Selected research programs within the group are highlighted below.
Program 1: Conductive Materials for Wireless Monitoring of Biomarkers of Chronic Disease
This research thrust focuses on the design and synthesis of conductive responsive materials for enabling home-based patient-centered electronic wireless monitoring of small molecule biomarkers of chronic disease. The experimental strategy has two specific aims: (i) the development of a modular synthetic methodology for the fabrication of nanoscale electronic sensing materials with unprecedented precision and chemical control over structure and function, and (ii) ultra-sensitive and non-invasive wireless detection of molecular biomarkers of diabetes and airway inflammation from exhaled air. This work will produce materials and devices that will improve the quality of life and survival rates of patients with chronic diseases.
Program 2: Magnetoelectronic Chemical Sensors for Gasotransmitters
The discovery of gasotransmitters—gaseous molecules involved in biological signaling—has revolutionized our understanding of intracellular communication. Although three gasotransmitters (NO, CO, and H2S) are currently known, their complex biological function is not fully understood due to a limited set of analytical tools for probing this function. This research program focuses on the design and synthesis of responsive 2D polymers for detecting gasotransmitters in biologically relevant settings. The experimental approach relies on developing a new paradigm in signal transduction and amplification in solid-state chemical sensors based on both charge and spin of electrons. This work will further the fundamental understanding of spin-coupled charge transport through nanomaterials, and enable development of highly sensitive and selective electronic sensing devices. Materials and methods emerging from this work may also find applications in monitoring of environmental pollution, and in spin-based information storage.
Program 3: Rational Design of Functional Nanomaterials Using Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC)
The aim of this research program is to advance the fundamental understanding of the interactions of molecules with nanomaterials. We will use ITC to measure the thermodynamics of interactions of molecules with surfaces of nanomaterials dispersed in solution, and apply this information towards enabling the rational design of functional interfaces at the nanoscale. The outcome of this work will facilitate improved design of functional nanomaterials for chemical sensing, organic photovoltaics, and organic field-effect transistors.