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Robert Rodriguez prepares polymer beads for use in NIMS synthesis as Emmanuel Giannelis looks on (Cornell Engineering Magazine, Spring 2009).

The Giannelis group focuses on the synthesis and characterization of hybrid materials at the nanoscale. Significant areas of interest: Traditional nanocomposites (polymeric matrices filled with clays or other nanoparticles), nanoparticle-ionic materials (NIMs), functionalized nanoparticles, and hierarchically structured hybrid materials.


Addition of nanoclays or other nanoparticles into various polymers to produce nanocomposites has been extensively utilized in an attempt to enhance the mechanical, physical and thermal properties of polymers. Despite considerable progress, challenges with miscibility/poor dispersion and poor interfacial strength have prevented nanocomposites from realizing their full potential. Furthermore, the high performance of glass fiber composites is still beyond the capabilities of nanocomposites. Nanoparticles such as nanoclays can function as structure and morphology directors or introduce new energy dissipation mechanisms, all of which can lead to enhanced properties. Several ongoing projects focus on the science and applications of nanocomposites with particular emphasis on understanding the underlying mechanism(s) of property development.

Researchers: Antonios Kelarakis


E. P. Giannelis, “Polymer Layered Silicate Nanocomposites,” Advanced Materials 8, pp. 29–35, 1996.

R. Herrera, L. Estevez, H. Lian, A. Kelarakis, and E. P. Giannelis, “Nafion–clay nanocomposite membranes: Morphology and properties,” Polymer 50 pp. 2402–2410, 2009.

A. Kelarakis and E. P. Giannelis, “Crystallization and unusual rheological behavior in poly(ethylene oxide)–clay nanocomposites,” Polymer  52, pp. 2221–2227, 2011.

R. A. Vaia and E. P. Giannelis, “Lattice model of polymer melt intercalation in organically-modified layered silicates,” Macromolecules, 30, pp. 7990–7999, 1997.


Nanoparticle Ionic Materials

Nanoparticle Ionic Materials (NIMs) are novel one-composite inorganic/organic hybrid materials in which an organic corona is tethered to a nanoparticle core by ionic linkages. The strong interaction between the core and the corona prevents microphase separation, and the ionic and reversible nature of the interaction provides fluidity to the system. The versatility of NIMs is underscored by the multiple perspectives from which the same material can be viewed: As one-component fluids, as ionic salts, as self-suspended nanoparticles, and as highly stable nanocomposites.

We investigate the synthesis and properties of NIMs, as well as their applications in a wide variety of areas, particularly for advanced materials for energy applications, as well as any other application that requires highly stable organic/inorganic hybrid materials that are structured at the nanoscale.

One major area under active investigation is the creation of nanohybrid electrolytes for lithium-polymer batteries. NIMs provide high thermal, mechanical, and electrochemical stability compared to conventional organic electrolytes, and have demonstrated promise for the creation of single-ion conductors.

Researchers: Apostolos Enotiadis, Nikhil Fernandes, Natalie Becerra, Emma Kamnang, T. J. Wallin


A. B. Bourlinos, R. Herrera, N. Chalkias, D. D. Jiang, Q. Zhang, L. A. Archer, and E. P. Giannelis, “Surface-Functionalized Nanoparticles with Liquid-Like Behavior,” Advanced Materials 17, pp. 234–237, 2005.

N. Fernandes, P. Dallas, R. Rodriguez, A. B. Bourlinos, V. Georgakilas, and E. P. Giannelis, “Fullerol ionic fluids.,” Nanoscale 2, pp. 1653–6, 2010.

M. L. Jespersen, P. A. Mirau, E. von Meerwall, R. A. Vaia, R. Rodriguez, and E. P. Giannelis, “Canopy dynamics in nanoscale ionic materials.,” ACS Nano 4, pp. 3735–42, 2010.

R. Rodriguez, R. Herrera, L. A. Archer, and E. P. Giannelis, “Nanoscale Ionic Materials,” Advanced Materials 20,  pp. 4353–4358, 2008.

L. Sun, J. Fang, J. C. Reed, L. Estevez, A. C. Bartnik, B.-R. Hyun, F. W. Wise, G. G. Malliaras, and E. P. Giannelis, “Lead-salt quantum-dot ionic liquids.,” Small 6, pp. 638–641, 2010.

Y. Zheng, J. Zhang, L. Lan, P. Yu, R. Rodriguez, R. Herrera, D. Wang, and E. P. Giannelis, “Preparation of solvent-free gold nanofluids with facile self-assembly technique.,” ChemPhysChem 11, pp. 61–64, 2010.

Functional Nanoparticles

Broadly, we investigate the use of nanoparticles for a wide range of applications. The focus is on synthesizing particles with specific functional groups on the surface or in the interior that allow the exploitation of the small size and high specific surface area of the particles.

Carbogenic nanoparticles can be created by a hydrothermal process cheaply from natural sources of carbon such as biomass. By incorporating different dyes and ligands into the material during synthesis, the emission and solubility can be tuned, making these materials ideal for tracers for oil and water wells.

Researchers: Marta Krysmann, Weiran Yang

Carbon-capture materials created by functionalizing mesoporous nanoparticle foams provide significant advantages over conventional materials in terms of operating temperature, capture capacity, and stability. A major research area in our group is the creation of more efficient carbon-capture materials.

Researchers: Genggeng Qi

The use of supercritical CO2 in enhanced oil recovery provides the twin benefits of recovering more oil from oil wells, as well as removing CO2 from the atmosphere. We synthesize a wide range of nanoparticles with scCO2-philic functional groups on their surface, and then evaluate their stability in the presence of high salinity brine, high temperatures and pressures mimicking the conditions that are encountered in an oil well. We are also developing the capability to conduct measurements of scCO2 solutions of these nanoparticles. 

Researchers: Panagiotis Dallas, Anuja Bagul, T. J. Wallin

Other areas include:

  • The use of functionalized magnetic nanoparticles (specifically with peroxidases) for environmental remediation.


  • The use of functionalized nanoparticles as membrane coatings for applications such as biocidal membranes and filtration membranes


Researchers: Kai Pan, Xiaonan Duan, Antonios Kelarakis


G. Qi, Y. Wang, L. Estevez, X. Duan, N. Anako, A.-H. A. Park, W. Li, C. W. Jones, and E. P. Giannelis, “High efficiency nanocomposite sorbents for CO2 capture based on amine-functionalized mesoporous capsules,” Energy & Environmental Science 4, p. 444, 2011.

M. S. Mauter, Y. Wang, K. C. Okemgbo, C. O. Osuji, E. P. Giannelis, and M. Elimelech, “Antifouling ultrafiltration membranes via post-fabrication grafting of biocidal nanomaterials.,” ACS applied materials & interfaces 3, pp. 2861–8, 2011.

A. Tiraferri, Y. Kang, E. P. Giannelis, and M. Elimelech, “Superhydrophilic thin-film composite forward osmosis membranes for organic fouling control: fouling behavior and antifouling mechanisms.,” Environmental science & technology 46, pp. 11135–44, 2012.

J. Fang, A. Kelarakis, L. Estevez, Y. Wang, R. Rodriguez, and E. P. Giannelis, “Superhydrophilic and solvent resistant coatings on polypropylene fabrics by a simple deposition process.,” Journal of Materials Chemistry 20, pp. 1651–1653, 2010.

A. B. Bourlinos, A. Stassinopoulos, D. Anglos, R. Zboril, V. Georgakilas, and E. P. Giannelis, “Photoluminescent Carbogenic Dots,” Chemistry of Materials 20, pp. 4539–4541, 2008.

Heirarchical Structured Materials

We use a process of ice-templating (freezing a solution, and then removing the water by sublimation) to create a range of novel materials with heirarchical pores and extremely high surface areas. There are a number of major applications for these materials:

  • Carbon-sulfur cathodes for lithium ion batteries
  • Biomaterials
  • Supercapacitor electrodes
  • Porous membranes

A major thrust in this area is the creation of high-performance electrodes for lithium-ion batteries. We have developed the capability to synthesize and test these materials, and have been able to demonstrate high capacities and stability.

Researchers: Lou Estevez, Tiffany Williams, Ritu Sahore, Anirudh Anandampillai, Su-Hou Pai


L. Estevez, A. Kelarakis, Q. Gong, E. H. Da’as, and E. P. Giannelis, “Multifunctional graphene/platinum/Nafion hybrids via ice templating.,” Journal of the American Chemical Society 133, pp. 6122–5, 2011.