Theses Doctoral

Spectroscopic Studies of Abiotic and Biological Nanomaterials: Silver Nanoparticles, Rhodamine 6G Adsorbed on Graphene, and c-Type Cytochromes and Type IV Pili in Geobacter sulfurreducens

Thrall, Elizabeth Simmons

This thesis describes spectroscopic studies of three different systems: silver nanoparticles, the dye molecule rhodamine 6G adsorbed on graphene, and the type IV pili and c-type cytochromes produced by the dissimilatory metal-reducing bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens. Although these systems are quite different in some ways, they can all be considered examples of nanomaterials. A nanomaterial is generally defined as having at least one dimension below 100 nm in size. Silver nanoparticles, with sub-100 nm size in all dimensions, are examples of zero-dimensional nanomaterials. Graphene, a single atomic layer of carbon atoms, is the paradigmatic two-dimensional nanomaterial. And although bacterial cells are on the order of 1 µm in size, the type IV pili and multiheme c-type cytochromes produced by G. sulfurreducens can be considered to be one- and zero-dimensional nanomaterials respectively. A further connection between these systems is their strong interaction with visible light, allowing us to study them using similar spectroscopic tools. The first chapter of this thesis describes research on the plasmon-mediated photochemistry of silver nanoparticles. Silver nanoparticles support coherent electron oscillations, known as localized surface plasmons, at resonance frequencies that depend on the particle size and shape and the local dielectric environment. Nanoparticle absorption and scattering cross-sections are maximized at surface plasmon resonance frequencies, and the electromagnetic field is amplified near the particle surface. Plasmonic effects can enhance the photochemistry of silver particles alone or in conjunction with semiconductors according to several mechanisms. We study the photooxidation of citrate by silver nanoparticles in a photoelectrochemical cell, focusing on the wavelength-dependence of the reaction rate and the role of the semiconductor substrate. We find that the citrate photooxidation rate does not track the plasmon resonance of the silver nanoparticles but instead rises monotonically with photon energy. These results are discussed in terms of plasmonic enhancement mechanisms and a theoretical model describing hot carrier photochemistry. The second chapter explores the electronic absorption and resonance Raman scattering of the dye molecule rhodamine 6G (R6G) adsorbed on graphene. Graphene has been shown to quench the fluorescence of adsorbed molecules and quantum dots, and some previous studies have reported that the Raman scattering from molecules adsorbed on graphene is enhanced. We show that reflective contrast spectroscopy can be used to obtain the electronic absorption spectrum of R6G adsorbed on graphene, allowing us to estimate the surface concentration of the dye molecule. From these results we are able to calculate the absolute Raman scattering cross-section for R6G adsorbed on bilayer graphene. We find that there is no evidence of enhancement but instead that the cross-section is reduced by more than three-fold from its value in solution. We further show that a model incorporating electromagnetic interference effects can reproduce the observed dependence of the R6G Raman intensity on the number of graphene layers. The third and final chapter describes the preliminary results from studies of the dissimilatory metal-reducing bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens. This anaerobic bacterium couples the oxidation of organic carbon sources to the reduction of iron oxides and other extracellular electron acceptors, a type of anaerobic respiration that necessitates an electron transport chain that can move electrons from the interior of the cell to the extracellular environment. The electron transport chain in G. sulfurreducens has not been completely characterized and two competing mechanisms for the charge transport have been proposed. The first holds that G. sulfurreducens produces type IV pili, protein filaments several nanometers in width, with intrinsic metallic-like conductivity. According to this mechanism, the conductive pili mediate electron transport to extracellular acceptors. The second proposed mechanism is that charge transport proceeds by electron hopping between the heme groups in the many c-type cytochromes produced by G. sulfurreducens. In this picture, the observed conductivity of the pili is due to hopping through associated cytochrome proteins. Our aim is to explore these alternative mechanisms for electron transport in G. sulfurreducens through electrical and optical studies. We report the work we have done thus far to culture and characterize G. sulfurreducens, and we show that preliminary micro-Raman studies of G. sulfurreducens cells confirm that we can detect the spectroscopic signature of c-type cytochrome proteins. Future directions for this ongoing work are briefly discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Chemical Physics
Thesis Advisors
Brus, Louis E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 29, 2012