School of Mechanical Engineering Faculty Candidate Seminar

Author: Cynthia Dalton
Event Date: March 6, 2014
Speaker: Zhenpeng Qin
Speaker Affiliation: Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Minnesota
Sponsor: School of Mechanical Engineering
Time: 3:30 pm
Location: ME 2054
Contact Name: Cynthia Dalton
Contact Phone: 494-6900
Contact Email:
Open To: all
Thermo-Plasmonics at the Nano-Bio Interface and Enabling Applications for Protein Manipulation and Point-of-Care Diagnostics


The emerging field of thermo-plasmonics has enabled unprecedented opportunities in drug delivery, gene silencing, and selective cell or tumor destruction with nano- to macroscale spatiotemporal control using a laser “switch” enabled by plasmonic nanoparticle absorption and heat generation. In this seminar, I will first discuss a brief overview of the area of thermo-plasmonics and the opportunities this technology presents. This will be followed by two example applications in the areas of therapeutics and diagnostics, respectively.  The first probes the thermal denaturation of proteins, a process critical to cell injury, cancer treatment and food science. Here I will present an attempt to better quantify and understand protein denaturation kinetics in multiple thermal regimes to ultimately better predict cell injury. The second involves a new biosensing modality, Thermal Contrast, developed to significantly improve the sensitivity of lateral flow immunoassay (LFA). LFA is an inexpensive, simple, portable, and robust diagnostic test, and is utilized widely in medicine, agriculture, and over-the-counter personal use (e.g. pregnancy test). However, one universally acknowledged weakness is the low sensitivity. Thermal contrast dramatically improves the sensitivity of commercially available LFAs by 10-100 fold with laser plasmonic activation and heating of the same gold nanoparticles that are currently used only as visual labels in existing LFAs. Further development efforts underway include: (1) re-design of the LFA specifically for thermal contrast with plasmonic nanoparticles, (2) clinical collaborations in infectious disease diagnosis, and (3) medical device development and translation (thermal contrast readers). I will conclude with future opportunities in fundamental thermo-plasmonic and nano-bio research that can lead to platform technologies to design highly sensitive biosensors for point-of-care diagnosis and probe protein functions in molecular and cell biology.


Zhenpeng Qin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, working in the Bioheat and Mass Transfer Laboratory directed by Professor John C. Bischof. His research interests center on the fundamental understanding of multiscale interactions between nanoparticles and biomolecules (proteins and lipids) and applications of this knowledge to diagnostics and therapeutics. His work in the area of diagnostics has led to several synergistic collaborations, internal and external funding, and a start-up company Vigilant Diagnostics. He received multiple fellowships and conference travel awards including the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship (2012-2013) & Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (2013-2014) from the University of Minnesota, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation travel award from American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Prior to his PhD work at Minnesota, he obtained a BS in Thermal and Power Engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University (2007) and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Akron (2009).

Faculty Host: Professor Nicole Key