Dr. Yuebing Zheng received his Ph.D. in Engineering Science and Mechanics from the Pennsylvania State University in 2010. After three years’ postdoctoral research at the University of California, Los Angeles, he joined the University of Texas at Austin faculty in the fall of 2013.
The Zheng Research Group explores nanoscience and nanotechnology at the interfaces of photonics, fluidics, and molecular engineering. Their mission is to 1) improve fundamental understanding and control of light and matter at the nanoscale, and 2) develop novel nanomaterials and nanodevices to benefit early disease diagnosis and therapy, brain activity mapping, information technology, and solar energy. Current research is categorized into three topic areas: Molecular Motors, Molecular Plasmonics, and Plasmofluidics.
Molecular motors, which can change their structural, mechanical, optical, or electrical properties in response to external stimuli, have attracted considerable interests from the nanoscience and nanotechnology community. These molecular systems utilize a “bottom-up” technology as an alternative approach towards the ever-shrinking active materials and devices while current “top-down” method is reaching its limit. We exploit multidisciplinary approaches to move from the study of randomly distributed molecular motors in solutions into the developent of molecular-motor-based functional materials and devices. Along this line, we apply self- and directed assembly to position single or precise assemblies of molecular motors on solid-state substrates and design novel architectures to connect the molecular-scale functions to microscopic and macroscopic world. New analytical tools are being developed for the simultaneous measurements of structure, dynamics, and function of these surface-bound motors at both single-molecule and ensemble levels. We are also applying and extending the assembly strategies that we have developed for atomically flat surfaces to curved and faceted substrates. Through mechanistic understanding of molecular motors on the curved surfaces, we will not only gain new insights into the role of membrance curvature in cell functionality and disease mechanism, but also move towards the rational design of molecular motors on nanoparticles for applications in smart drug delivery, cellular imaging, and optogenetics.
The exotic properties of light at the nanoscale (beyond diffraction limit) have attracted strong interests for both fundamental studies and novel technical applications, leading to rapid development of the field of nanophotonics. Due to the capability of manipulating light at the nanoscale with the strongly enhanced local field intensity and gradient, surface-plasmon-based nanophotonics or “plasmonics’ is emerging as one of the most dynamic sub-fields of nanophotonics. Our research on molecular plasmonics seeks the synergy of nanoscale light control of surface plasmons with chemistry, biocompatibility, and responsive properties of molecules for the developments of single-molecule optical spectroscopy and hybrid nanomaterials and nanodevices for clearn energy (photocatalysis, photosynthesis, and photovoltaics), optical communication, and healthcare.
Plasmofluidics merges plasmonics and fluidics at the nanoscale to enable novel nanodevices and nanosystems. In one way, plasmon-enhanced nanoscale light manipulation can be exploited for new functinoality in micro- and nano-fluidics for lab-on-a-chip systems. In the other way, the unique optical properties of fluids and the versatile flow control by micro- and nano-fludics enable the development of versatile nanophotonic components. Through the synergistic integration of these two ways, we aim to develop highly integrated plasmofluidic chips that incorpoate optical trapping, sorting, sensing, imaging and spectroscopy of biological cells and molecules. Such multimodal plasmofluidic chips, once realized, would be integral components in the future fully integrated, portable, and cost-effective devices that will help bring healthcare to the palms of everyone’s hands.