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G. Kane Jennings

Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering


My research efforts are aimed at the molecular design and fabrication of smart surfaces and materials, many of which mimic, replicate, or employ highly functional biological components. We use the methods of self-assembly as well as surface-initiated polymerizations (grafting from) to modify surfaces with molecular or (bio)macromolecular films for applications in solar energy conversion, responsive coatings, superhydrophobic surfaces, lubrication, and metal capture.  Photosystem I (PSI) is a nanoscale protein complex that efficiently converts sunlight to chemical energy to drive photosynthesis in green plants. We are investigating the fundamental issues affecting photo-assisted electron transfer properties of PSI, deposited as thin “biohybrid” films on electrode surfaces.  Our recent innovations in this area include interfacing PSI with conducting polymers for more efficient electron transfer and modeling the photoelectrochemical reactions of a PSI multilayer film with redox species.

We are developing smart materials and films for a host of applications. As examples, we are investigating nano-scale components that report defects when incorporated into 3D-printed components, as well as coatings that report active corrosion from inside a pipe. We are also designing compositionally tunable thin films that respond dramatically to the pH of the environment by altering their resistance to water and ion transfer.


• VINSE High Impact Research Paper Award, 2015
• Arthur K. Doolittle Award (PMSE Division of ACS), 2010
• Chancellor’s Research Award, 2006
• Ellen Gregg-Ingalls Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching, 2005
• Award for Excellence in Teaching from Vanderbilt School of Engineering, 2002
• Hall of Fame Inductee-Cherokee County High School, Centre, AL, 2001
• Department of Energy-Electrochemical Society Summer Fellowship, 1997
• David Brown Practice School Fellowship, 1993
• Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, 1992

Selected Publications:

Co-Poly(ionic liquid) Films via Anion Exchange for the Continuous Tunability of Ion Transport and Wettability. Njoroge, I; Bout, BW; Matson, MW; Laibinis, PE; Jennings, GK, ACS OMEGA, 3, 16158-16164 , (2018) View Abstract

Nondestructive Evaluation and Detection of Defects in 3D Printed Materials Using the Optical Properties of Gold Nanoparticles. Brubaker, CD; Davies, MA; McBride, JR; Rosenthal, SJ; Jennings, GK; and Adams, DE, APPLIED NANO MATERIALS, 1, 1377-1384 , (2018) View Abstract

Photocatalytic photosystem I/PEDOT composite films prepared by vapor-phase polymerization. Robinson, MT; Simons, CE; Cliffel, DE; Jennings, GK, NANOSCALE, 9, 6158-6166 , (2017) View Abstract

Photosystem I-polyaniline/TiO2 solid-state solar cells: simple devices for biohybrid solar energy conversion. Gizzie, EA; Niezgoda, JS; Robinson, MT; Harris, AG; Jennings, GK; Rosenthal, SJ; Cliffel, DE, ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE, 8, 3572-3576 , (2015) View Abstract

Integration of Photosystem I with Graphene Oxide for Photocurrent Enhancement. LeBlanc, G; Winter, KM; Crosby, WB; Jennings, GK; Cliffel, DE, ADVANCED ENERGY MATERIALS, 4, 1301953 , (2014) View Abstract