MSE Seminar: “Leveraging Nanoscience Research to Confront the Covid-19 Pandemic”

Date(s) - 08/31/2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Dustin Gilbert, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, MSE Department
University of Tennessee

Dr. Dustin Gilbert is an Assistant Professor in the Materials Science Department and Adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of Tennessee. He was a Physicist and NRC Fellow at the National Institute for Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research for four years after earning his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Davis in 2014. His research has included a range of nanoscale technologies including quantum materials, data storage and processing, and biomedical devices. Currently, Gilbert’s lab focuses on the novel use of neutrons to investigate chiral spin textures, including magnetic skyrmions, under a DOE Career award, functional high-entropy materials and nano-composite textiles in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Zoom link


The Covid-19 pandemic has arguably been the most impactful event of the 21st century, taking the lives of more than 4 million people and costing ≈$28 trillion. This catastrophic event has highlighted many ways in which we, as the whole human race, were unprepared to address something that we knew was possible. In response, our lab has leveraged its experience in nanotechnology to respond to the pandemic.

In the first project, we used an entropy-stabilization paradigm to prepare bioactive alloys which combat a range of pathogens through a variety of mechanisms. Combinatorial sputtering allowed samples to be rapidly prepared and tested. Biological testing was performed on surrogate human pathogens emulating enveloped and un-enveloped viruses, as well as gram-positive and negative bacteria.

In the second set of experiments, high-efficiency filters were constructed from copper nanowires. These nanowires have a higher density scaffolding compared to traditional filter materials and prove the benefit of sanitizing captured pathogens.

Finally, addressing the shortage of respirators, we developed a technique to take recyclable plastic waste and, using a benchtop device, prepared new respirator materials. The results of this work have the potential to better address the current pandemic, as well as respond to the next.