back to news Oct. 25, 2021

NSF awards Schultz funding for advanced chemical microscope

Ohio State will receive state-of-the-art, high-resolution chemical imaging technology thanks to a $339,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program.

Zachary SchultzThe award enables the installation of a photothermal infrared-Raman microscope and will support the research of project lead Zachary Schultz, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and principal investigator of the Schultz Lab.

The advanced instrumentation, which facilitates research in the areas of biochemistry and cellular processes, electrochemistry, catalysis and analytical chemistry, will enable Schultz and his research group to gather comprehensive chemical information in imaging experiments in unprecedented detail. By using infrared and Raman spectroscopies — which measure the interaction of radiation with molecular vibrations — scientists will be able to identify a compound’s chemical composition quantitatively and produce an image of the material composition in a sample.

“We plan to use this microscope to determine spatially localized chemical changes in biological cells and how nanoparticles affect the local chemical properties of surrounding materials, providing new information on these systems under real-world conditions,” Schultz said. “The increased sensitivity and spatial resolution enable us to investigate questions that we cannot address with currently available technology.”

These enhancements in chemical imaging will further the Schultz Lab’s goal to better detect and classify molecules relevant to biomedical diagnostics. The instrument will provide new levels of insight to Ohio State scientists in a variety of fields, and its location in a shared-use facility ensures its availability to researchers from other universities and from industry. The system will advance research in pathogen detection, energy and sensor materials characterization, and biological specimen investigations in materials, environmental science and medicine.

“The interaction between the laser radiation and molecules occurs naturally in everything, which provides a label-free method to investigate chemical properties in many different applications,” Schultz said. “In preparing the proposal, we had strong support from investigators across campus and from companies in the Columbus and around Ohio. This microscope brings new label-free chemical imaging capabilities to campus that will benefit a wide range of research activities.”

Co-investigators of the NSF MRI award include Susan Olesik, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and dean of natural and mathematical sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences; Barbara Dunlap, research associate in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Luis Rodriguez-Saona, professor of food science and technology in the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences; and Vicky Doan-Nguyen, assistant professor of materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering.