Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Chemical and Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Barbara Knutson


Mesoporous silica materials are versatile platforms for biological catalysis, isolation of small molecules for detection and separation applications. The design of mesoporous silica supports for tailored protein and biomolecule interactions has been limited by the techniques to demonstrate biomolecule location and functionality as a function of pore size. This work examines the interaction of proteins and lipid bilayers with engineered porous silica surfaces using spherical silica particles with tunable pore diameters (3 – 12 nm) in the range relevant to biomolecule uptake in the pores, and large particle sizes (5 - 15 µm) amenable to microscopy imaging

The differentiation of protein location between the external surface and within the pore, important to applications requiring protein protection or catalytic activity in pores, is demonstrated. A protease / fluorescent protein system is used to investigate protein location and protection as a function of pore size, indicating a narrow pore size range capable of protein protection, slightly larger than the protein of interest and approaching the protease dimensions. Selective functionalization, in this case exterior-only surface functionalization of mesoporous particles with amines, is extended to larger pore silica materials. A reaction time dependent functionalization approach is demonstrated as the first visually confirmed, selective amine functionalization method in protein accessible supports.

Mesoporous silica nanoparticles are effective supports for lipid bilayer membranes and membrane associated proteins for separations and therapeutic delivery, although the role of support porosity on membrane fluidity is unknown. Transport properties of bilayers in lipid filled nanoparticles as a function of pore diameter and location in the particle are measured for the first time. Bilayer diffusivity increases with increasing pore size and is independent of bilayer location within the core, mid or cap of the particle, suggesting uniform long range bilayer mobility in lipid filled pores. Application of lipid bilayers on mesoporous silica was examined for membrane associated proteins A unique method to adhere functional proteins in lipid bilayers on mesoporous silica particles is established using vesicles derived from cell plasma membranes and their associated proteins. This method of membrane protein investigation retains proteins within native lipid membranes, stabilizing proteins for investigation on supports.