Nano Functional Materials (NFM) Laboratory started functioning at the Department of Physics, CUSAT during the Fall of 2010. Dr. M Junaid Bushiri heads the NFM laboratory and there are 9 active researchers working in this group. The main objective of the NFM research group is to study and develop nanostructured functional materials that can be used for Photocatalytic water purification, Nanophosphors, Bio-photonics, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Transparent conductive oxides, etc. Studies on biological crystalline materials (Kidney stones) are additionally studied with a particular to know its structure and chemical composition.
Functional (nanostructured) materials are a class of materials (various size and shape in nanometer regime) with specific, inherent properties and functions such as energy storage functions, magnetism, piezoelectricity, ferroelectricity etc. To study and utilize the unique physical and optical properties of the nano functional materials, these nano materials are synthesized in the form of Nanoparticles, Nanorods, Nanoflowers, Nanonails, Nanofibres, Nanomesh, Nanopillars, Nanoshells etc.using growth techniques such as Hydrothermal, combustion technique, chemical route, microwave synthesis, etc. Structural, morphology, chemical, electrical, optical, magnetic functional properties of the prepared nanostructures were analyzed by using characterization techniques such as X-ray diffraction analysis, Transmission electron microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, Infrared spectroscopy, Scanning electron microscopy/ Atomic force microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, electrical/Photo conductivity measurements, Optical transmission/absorption, Diffused reflectance spectroscopy, Photoluminescence, SQUID, etc.
Ecofriendly technology for the purification of water is of high demand and essential for the primary requirements of modern society. It is of equally important in the point of view of industrial growth. Nondegradable industrial wastes/contaminants like pharmaceuticals, organic dyes, pesticides and inorganic solutes contaminates water, which causes damage to flora and fauna. Photocatalysis is one of the promising techniques for the treatment of contaminated water. Photocatalysis involves photolysis, the breaking down of a chemical compound by the assistance of light, which is accelerated by means of a catalyst. By tailoring the band gap energy of semiconductors, we can enhance the ability of semiconductors for light absorption and photocatalytic action.
The biocompatible nanomaterials that responds to electromagnetic radiation is used in bioimaging and biosensing applications. Presently research on Nanophosphors and Bio-photonic materials is one of the hot topics. Taking this into account our group is involved in developing bio-compatible, highly luminescent metal oxide nanoparticles/quantum dots that can be used for bioimaging/sensing.
Transparent conductive oxides (TCOs) are materials that possess high electrical conductivity and high optical transparency in the visible region of electromagnetic spectrum. TCOs are of extreme demand in electronic industry especially in flat panel displays and in photovoltaics. TCO layer is used as a conductive electrode in thin film solar cells. Presently it is said to be very difficult to get supply of required quantity of TCO to electronics industry as the ever-increasing demand of products using TCOs. On one hand the TCOs are expensive and lot of research is being carried out to develop an alternate TCO. In NFM lab, researchers are working on the developments of alternate inexpensive TCOs in the form of thin films and thin films composed of nanostructures. Further, thin layers composed of low dimensional structures in the nanoregime are also promising one for the detection of ultrafast light signals. For the deposition of TCO thin films/ nanostructures, a simple and non-vacuum technique namely Spray pyrolysis is employed.
Recently research work focused on metal oxide nanoparticles like Fe3O4, nickel ferrite, etc. revealed the superparamagnetic behavior. The interesting physical property of magnetic nanoparticles can be used for variety of advanced device applications such as in biosensors, data storage systems, Magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM), and have biological applications like targeted drug delivery, bioseparation, biodetection, diagnosis and therapy. Furthermore dilute magnetic semiconductors (DMS) which combines ferromagnetism with semiconductivity is used for the fabrication of functional spintronic devices. Materials such as ZnO, TiO2, SnO2 shows ferromagnetism at room temperature when doped with transition metals, which are being studied extensively. At NFM laboratory our group is working on the growth and development of various DMS and magnetic nanoparticles for several applications mentioned above. Different methods such as Hydrothermal, combustion and chemical route technique are used for the growth of magnetic nanoparticles.
Knowledge of crystalline structure of materials is very important for the fabrication of crystal based devices. The crystalline structure of materials can be elucidated by single crystal XRD, Laser Raman and infrared spectroscopic methods. The research is also ongoing for the structural studies of organic, inorganic crystals and biological crystals like urinary stones.