Dr. Gu has established a world-class research program in Nanotechnology Engineering, with important advances in medical and life science applications. Leading-edge projects have produced new materials and tools for targeted drug delivery, rapid pathogen detection, and passive water treatment. His research has had tangible impacts on his field and industry, including mucoadhesive nanoparticles that will revolutionize the treatment of Dry Eye Disease, and photocatalytic water treatment technologies that are the core technology of a Canadian startup company. Dr. Gu has initiated ongoing national and international collaborations and has trained over 120 highly qualified personnel.
Nano-scaled solutions to address medical and environmental challenges.
Frank Gu, Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo
The term “nanotechnology” often elicits images of advanced materials, nanoelectronics, medical devices, and powerful imaging tools – a spectrum of complex, high value technologies developed for demanding conditions. Professor Gu heads an interdisciplinary research group that combines functional polymers and polymer metal oxide materials to solve problems in medicine, agriculture and environmental protection. This seminar will showcase several key R&D pipelines in Gu’s lab for vision care, pathogen detections and water treatment applications.
For vision care, Gu’s lab research focuses on the development of mucoadhesive nanoparticles for drug delivery to the eye. Problems that affect millions of people worldwide every day include management of the “dry eye” disease and issues associated with corneal inflammation from allergies. One approach to solve this problem is by developing innovative eye drops using mucoadhesive nanoparticles that can adhere to the eye and perform tunable releases of medications for multiple days after a single application.
For biosensing, Gu’s lab developed a unique “chemical nose” biosensor where a set of interactions between the pathogen and sensors produces unique patterns of response, in a manner similar to the functioning of a human nose sensing a smell. This approach allows identification of pathogens in a generalized manner, unlike conventional biosensors that typically focus on a ‘lock and key’ recognition strategy, utilizing biomolecules such as an antibody to offer high sensitivity and specificity.
For water treatment, Gu’s lab developed a novel approach that uses sunlight to treat water, using water. Their reusable light-activated catalysts, called photocatalysts, turn light energy from the sun into chemical energy, splitting water into reactive species for chemical treatment. This work has sought to answer an important question: how nanotechnology and functional nanomaterials in particular, can drive water clean-up through passive, natural mechanisms. Incorporating these nanocatalysts into functional composites will enable future technologies drive industrial wastewater into a natural treatment landscape.
Artist: Hava Friedman Logo design: Nick Kotoulas, Jennifer Tran Photography: Nick Kotoulas