Tom received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2017 and worked as a researcher at the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland from 2016-2018 under the mentorship of Prof. Michael Mayer. His doctoral research focused on...
An often repeated question in the nanotechnology field is how to extract useful macroscopic work from nanomachines. Tom believes that controlling the growth of crystals is the answer. Crystals propagate their nanoscale patterning up through many orders of magnitude, and nature uses biological nanotechnology to control crystal growth.
Crystalline structures of starfish or sea urchins are modulated by nanoscale interactions. One could imagine building similarly high detail structures by stimulating crystal growth in the correct pattern. Stopping crystal growth can be beneficial too – ice crystal formation is halted via antifreeze agents at a molecular level. Related to this is the already available ‘hot ice’ formulation, in which a chain reaction of crystallization releases heat in an exothermic reaction.
Tom’s work involves understanding the fundamental properties of crystal formation in the context of speed, composition, and temperature. He is investigating ways of controlling crystal growth such as photomasks and patterned hydrogels.