VT Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology


Located at Kelly Hall in the main Virginia Tech campus, VTSuN facilities includes a 3,300 sq. ft. laboratory with extensive nanoparticle synthesis facilities and a wide array of benchtop analytical instruments.

Other areas at Kelly Hall available for NanoEarth users include an additional 3,000 sq ft. of meeting and office space for staff and visitors.

VT SuN facilities are equipped to help users prepare environmental samples for analysis and to synthesize many types of nanomaterials that are also naturally occurring, so that they can be studied and better understood in the laboratory.

Our facilities are also equipped to produce many types of manufactured nanomaterials that can be inadvertently released into the environment, or used as an active agent in environmental remediation, or used in a nanomaterial-enabled detection device.

In all of these cases, laboratory production of these nanomaterials in carefully controlled experiments have a much higher degree of quality control (in terms of precise compositions, and more uniform sizes and shapes) than equivalent commercially available nanomaterials.


VTSuN Instrumentation and Capabilities


Wiitec Raman Confocal Atomic Force Microscope
The WITec alpha500 combines Confocal Raman Microscopy for 3-D Chemical Imaging and Atomic Force Microscopy for high resolution structural imaging in an automated system. It not only allows high resolution surface topography imaging with AFM at many different sample positions but also Raman Imaging, large area Raman scans and multi-point spectra acquisition at a user-defined number of measurement points. The Raman and AFM images of the same sample positions can then be matched and linked together for a comprehensive understanding of the sample's properties. Two lasers (633 nm and 785 nm) and multiple commonly used objectives including water immersion (63x) and oil immersion (100x) objectives for Raman measurements. Three measuring modes for AFM (contact mode, AC-mode and pulsed forced mode).

Veeco Multimode Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)
The Nanoscope IIIa Multimode AFM can be operated in both liquid and air environments. The image analysis and presentation software contains powerful algorithms for the measurement and presentation of research results including: cross sectional analysis, roughness measurement, grain size analysis, depth analysis, power spectral density, histogram analysis, bearing measurement and fractal analysis.


Zeiss Flourescence Microscope
With attached FluoArc, user can not only get the bright field image of a specimen, but also detect, localize and quantitate the amount of fluorescence in a specimen.


Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS)
Malvern Zetasizer Nano ZS can measure particle size/ size distribution and zeta potential in either aqueous or organic solvent.

High Performance Liquid Chromatograph (HPLC)
The Hewlet Packard HPLC is used to separate, identify, and quantify each component in a mixture.


Cary 5000 UV-Vis-NIR Sepctrometer
The Cary 5000 is a high performance UV-Vis-NIR spectrophotometer with super photometric detection in the 175-3300 nm range. The system can perform absorption, transmission and diffusion reflectance scans depending on the sample status. A multi-sample holder with temperature controlling is convenient for any dynamic analysis.


Quantachrome AUTOSORB-1
Quantachrome AS-1 has the capability of measuring adsorbed or desorbed volumes of nitrogen and then calculating BET surface area (single and/or multipoint), Langmuir surface area, adsorption and/or desorption isotherms, pore size and surface area distributions, micropore volume and surface area using an extensive set of built-in data reduction procedures.


A 6 m3 polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, Teflon ®) chamber for aerosol chemistry experiments.

TSI 3936NL Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS)
Capable of measuring high-resolution size distribution of aerosols spanning 4 - 700nm.

TSI 3321 Aerodynamic Particle Sizer (APS) Spectrometer
Provides high-resolution, real-time aerodynamic measurements of particles from 0.5 to 20 μm. Includes an additional diluter for high concentrations.

TSI 9306 Aerotrak Optical Particle Counter
Handheld Particle Counter for aerosols ranging from 0.3 to 25 μm.

TSI DustTrak 8520 PM Monitor
Aerosol photometer for real-time measurement of PM1, PM2.5, or PM10.

EcoChem Analytics DC 2000 CE Diffusion Charger
For real-time measurement of aerosol surface area.

EchoChem Analytics PAS 2000
Photoionization aerosol sensor for particulate PAH.

Sioutas impactors
Personal cascade impactors in five size ranges including > 2.5, 1.0 to 2.5, 0.50 to 1.0, 0.25 to 0.50, and < 0.25 μm. Samples are collected onto 25-mm PTFE filters.

California Measurements MPS-3 Microanalysis Particle Sampler
A 3-stage cascade impactor with particle size cut-points down to 0.05 μm. Samples are collected onto SEM stubs or TEM grids.

Multiple themophoretic precipitators made in-house.


Examples of nanomaterials that have been synthesized in our facilities include:

Gold nanomaterials:

  • Medium Temperature, Gold nanoparticles (AuNP)
  • Elevated Temperature Seed-Mediated AuNP Growth
  • Room Temperature Seed-Mediated AuNP Growth
  • Gold Nanorods (AuNR)
  • Pure AuNP multimers
  • AuNP Surface Functionalization Introduction, and Polymer Functionalization
  • Nanocellulose/Gold Nanoparticle Nanocomposites

Silver Nanoparticle (AgNP)

Medium Temperature, Organic Solvent-Based Chalcogenides:

  • Galena (PbS) nanocrystals.
  • Sphalerite (ZnS) nanocrystals.

Room Temperature, Abiotic Fe-/Mn-(Oxyhydr)oxide Nanoparticles:

  1. Hematite (Fe2O3) and Magnetite (Fe3O4) nanoparticles.
  2. Manganese Oxide (Mn3O4) nanowires.
  3. Green Rust (a ferric/ferrous oxyhydroxide sulfate/carbonate hydrate).

Room Temperature, Bacteria-Directed Synthesis of Metal-Sulfide Nanoparticles:

  1. Sphalerite [(Zn,Fe)S]
  2. Iron Sulfides (FeSx)

Various other instruments for producing/detecting/sampling aerosol gases and particles.

Ultrapure water filtration system (Barnstead Nanopure Life Science with TOC monitor).

Pellicon cross-flow ultrafiltration (CFUF) system (Millipore) for water sample separation and concentration.

5 chemical fume hoods and 1 biological laminar flow hood.