Nanoengineering Cellulose for Environmental & Biomedical Applications
Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 1 PM Eastern Time
Dr. Amir Sheikhi
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
The Pennsylvania State University

Before joining Penn State Chemical Engineering in August 2019, Dr. Amir Sheikhi was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Bioengineering, training in the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) under the supervision of Professor Ali Khademhosseini. Prior to moving to UCLA, Amir worked with Professor Khademhosseini at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Engineering in Medicine, and Harvard Medical School. Amir earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at McGill University and continued to complete two years of post-doctoral research on colloids (with Professor Theo van de Ven) and macromolecules (with Professor Ashok Kakkar) in the Department of Chemistry, McGill University. There, he invented the first threshold scale inhibitor based on “hairy” nanocelluloses. In the Khademhosseini Laboratory, Amir focused on the design, synthesis, and characterization of next-generation precision biomaterials for minimally invasive therapeutics. Amir’s interests revolve around the development of affordable technologies based on naturally abundant materials with bench-to-bedside potential. Amir’s research has been featured in more than 55 publications, 25 seminars, and 9 reports of invention/patent applications with recognition by over 20 news media outlets, including ScienceDaily, EurekAlert! (American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS),, and eScience News.

Description: Soaring population growth, supply and demand imbalance, shortage of ready-to-use remedies, and urbanization have imposed unprecedented challenges to satisfying the world’s essential needs for water, healthcare, food, and energy. I aim to address some of the quintessential challenges of the 21st century in water treatment and precision medicine by designing conceptually novel soft material platforms based on micro- and nanoengineering the most abundant natural bioproducts. My overarching goal is to provide transformative and/or translational solutions based on highly renewable resources that can set the stage for the adoption of affordable, widespread technologies with immediate benefits for humans and ecosystems. In this talk, I will detail how nanoengineering the most abundant biopolymer in the world, cellulose, has led to the invention of biomass-based, environmentally friendly threshold (ppm level) antiscaling additives and scale-resistant membranes. I will introduce a fundamentally novel family of nanocelluloses, named hairy cellulose nanocrystals, and explain how they overcome the limitations of current nanocelluloses, cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs), to open new horizons in environmental and biomedical applications. This nanomaterial platform shows the power of harnessing nature’s building blocks to produce functional soft matter. Colloidal particles, polymers, gels, foams, dispersions, and emulsions created from this abundant resource can leverage eminent, cost-effective technologies for improving the quality of modern life.