Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Geoffrey D. Bothun


The fast-growing production and utilization of nanomaterials in diverse applications will undoubtedly lead to the release of these materials into the environment. As nanomaterials enter the environment, determining their interaction with biological systems is a key aspect to understanding their impact on environmental health and safety. It has been shown that engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) can interact with cell membranes by adhering onto their surface and compromising their integrity, permeability, and function. The interfacial and biophysical forces that drive these processes can be examined using lipid monolayers or bilayers as model cell membranes.

Interfacial interactions between NPs and cell membranes have been proven to be affected by various parameters such as the physicochemical properties of the NPs, cell membrane composition, and the extent of exposure. This study focuses on the effects of NP charge, surface functional groups and interfacial activity on the response of lipid monolayers. Dynamic surface pressure measurements were used to examine the kinetics of nanoparticle adsorption and the monolayer response. Fluorescence and real-time in situ Brewster angle microscopy (BAM) imaging were employed to characterize the morphology and structure of the monolayers. Bulk concentrations of NP and phosphorus were examined to determine the extent of NP binding and lipid extraction. The results of this study will contribute to further understanding of the membrane’s role in ENP cytotoxicity and cellular uptake and aid the design of biocompatible nanomaterials with minimal or controlled membrane activity.



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