Julie Renner (Annual Mellichamp Lecture), Case Western Reserve
"The Emerging Role of Peptides in Resource Recovery"
As critical mined resources become scarcer, society must develop new technologies which enable resource recovery for a sustainable circular economy. Biomolecules such as designed peptides have the potential to serve as multifunctional, non-toxic, and specific enablers of resource recovery technology. Our lab has explored the use of peptides for the recovery of two materials: 1) phosphate, critical to food security and 2) and lanthanide ions, critical for emerging technologies in renewable energy, electric vehicles, and smart phones. We use a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation to provide detailed information about the binding behavior of the peptides and ions under various conditions. We also use surface analysis techniques such as Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry to further probe our materials and results. These techniques combined with traditional peptide analysis tools show that 1) surface-bound peptides are capable of similar binding affinities as free peptides and thus have potential utility in advanced separation technology, 2) peptides have the capacity to recover resources from simulated wastewater, and 3) peptides can be used to increase the yield of recovered products in solution. Generally, our results demonstrate that engineered peptides are promising tools for resource recovery and can help enable a sustainable future.
Bio: Dr. Julie N. Renner started as an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University in August 2016 and was appointed as Climo Assistant Professor in 2018. Her group has multiple projects developing biomolecular platforms to control solid-liquid interfaces and thin film assemblies. Her work has been recently recognized by an Electrochemical Society Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship and a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award. Prior to becoming a professor, Dr. Renner worked in a broad range of research areas. She spent four years conducting industrial research at Proton OnSite (now Nel Hydrogen), a world-leader in hydrogen generation via proton exchange membrane electrolysis. Her work was initially sponsored by a Small Business Postdoctoral Research Diversity Fellowship supported by the NSF under a grant to the American Society for Engineering Education. While there, she led projects in advanced electrode design and manufacturing and emerging electrochemical technologies. Prior to her work in industry, she completed her thesis as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the Purdue School of Chemical Engineering, where she specialized in designing, creating, and characterizing novel polypeptide materials for cartilage tissue repair. As an undergraduate, she studied chemical engineering at the University of North Dakota, and obtained an Environmental Production Agency Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship.