Robert H. Hurt Professor of Engineering

Professor Hurt received his Ph.D. from M.I.T. in 1987 and before joining Brown held positions in the Central Research and Development Division of Bayer AG in Leverkusen, Germany, and at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California.  He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of the materials science and nanotechnology journal CARBON, and is on the editorial board of Progress in Energy and Combustion Science. He served as Technical Program Chair for the international conference, Carbon2004, and in the same year received the Graffin Lecture Award of the American Carbon Society. Prof. Hurt also received the Silver Medal of the Combustion Institute in Naples, Italy in 1996 and an NSF CAREER Award in the same year.  He currently serves as PI on the GAANN training grant "Interdisciplinary Training in the Applicatinos and Implications of Nanotechnology", and was the founding Director of Brown's Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation. In 2013 he received the Charles E. Pettinos Award for "recent outstanding research accomplishment in the sciene and/or technology of carbon materials"

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

Y. Qiu, Z. Wang, A. Owens, I. Kulaots, A.B. Kane, R.H. Hurt, “Antioxidant Chemistry of Graphene-Based Materials and its Role in Oxidation Protection Technology”, Nanoscale, 2014, 6, 11744-1175.

Yang Qiu, Fei Guo, Robert Hurt, Indrek Kulaots, “Explosive thermal reduction of graphene oxide-based materials: mechanism and safety implications”, Carbon, 72 215–223 (2014).

Creighton MA, Ohata Y, Miyawaki J, Bose A, Hurt RH, “ Two-Dimensional Materials as Emulsion Stabilizers: Interfacial Thermodynamics and Molecular Barrier Properties”, Langmuir, 30 (13), 3687–3696 (2014).

Rodd A, Creighton M, Vaslet C, Rangel Mendez J, Hurt RH, Kane AB, “Effects of Surface-Engineered Nanoparticle-Based Dispersants for Marine Oil Spills on the Model Organism Artemia franciscana", Envi. Sci. Tech. in press, (2014).

Nicholas  Heeder, Abayomi Yussuf, Indrani Chakraborty, Michael P Godfrin, Robert  Hurt, Anubhav Tripathi, Arijit Bose, “Fixed-Angle Rotary Shear as a New Method for Tailoring Electro-Mechanical Properties of Templated Graphene-Polymer Composites”, Composites Science and Technology, 2014 in press.

Fei Guo, Megan Creighton, Yantao Chen, Robert Hurt and Indrek Külaots, “Porous Structures in Stacked, Crumpled and Pillared Graphene-Based 3D Materials”, Carbon, 66 476–484 (2014).

N. Heeder, A. Yussuf, F. Guo, I. Chakraborty, M. Godfrin, R. Hurt, A. Tripathi, A. Bose, A. Shukla, “Highly Conductive Graphene-based Segregated Composites Prepared by Particle Templating”, Journal of Materials Science, 49(6) 2567-2570 (2014).

Litza Halla Velazquez, Robert H Hurt, Juan Matos, and Jose Rene Rangel Mendez, “Zirconium-carbon hybrid sorbent for removal of fluoride from water: oxalic acid mediated Zr(IV) assembly and adsorption mechanism”, Environmental Science & Technology8 (2), pp 1166–1174 (2014).

Chakraborty I, Bodurtha K, Heeder N, Godfrin M, Tripathi A, Hurt RH, Shukla A, Bose A, “Massive Electrical Conductivity Enhancement of Multilayer Graphene/Polystyrene Composites Using a Non-Conductive Filler” ACS Appl. Materials and Interfaces, in press (2014).

Amartya Mukhopadhyay, Fei Guo, Anton Tokranov, Xingcheng Xiao, Robert H. Hurt, Brian W. Sheldon, “Engineering of graphene layer orientation to attain high rate capability and anisotropic properties in Li ion battery electrodes“, Advanced Functional Materials, 23(19) 2397–2404 (2013).

Megan Creighton, J. Rene Rangel-Mendez, Jiaxing Huang, Agnes Kane, Robert H. Hurt, “Graphene Induced Optical and Adsorptive Artifacts During In Vitro Toxicology Assays,” Small, 9(11) 1921-1927 (2013). 

Yantao Chen, Fei Guo, Yang Qiu, Hiroe Hu, Indrek Kulaots, Edward Walsh, Robert H. Hurt, “Encapsulation of Particle Ensembles in Graphene Nanosacks as a New Route to Multifunctional Materials”, ACS Nano, 7 (5) 3744–3753 (2013). DOI: 10.1021/nn3055913.

Li Y, Yuan H, von dem Bussche A, Creighton M, Hurt R, Kane AB, Gao H, Graphene microsheets enter cells through spontaneous membrane penetration at edge asperities and corner sites, Proceedings National Academy Sciences, 110 (30) 12295-12300 (2013).

Bianco A, Cheng HM, Enoki T, Gogotsi Y, Hurt RH, Koratkar N, Kyotani T, Monthioux M, Park CR, Tascon JMD, Zhang J,, “All in the graphene family - a recommended nomenclature for two-dimensional carbon materials” Carbon, 65 1-6 (2013).

Zhongying Wang, Pranita Kabadi, Annette von dem Bussche, Agnes B. Kane, Robert H. Hurt, “Biological and Environmental Transformations of Copper-Based Nanomaterials”, ACS Nano, 7(10) 8715–8727 (2013).

Godfrin, M.; Guo, F.; Chakraborty, I. Heeder, N.; Shukla, A.; Bose, A.; Hurt, R.; Tripathi, A., “Shear Directed Assembly of Graphene Oxide in Aqueous Dispersions into Ordered Arrays", Langmuir, 29 (43) 13162–13167 (2013).

Sanchez V, Jachak A., Hurt R.H., Kane A.B., "Biological Interactions of Graphene-Family Nanomaterials – An Interdisciplinary Review" Chemical Research in Toxicology, 25 (1) 15–34 (2012).

Guo, F. Hurt RH, "Supramolecular Synthesis of Graphenic Mesogenic Materials", Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics, 213(10-11) 1164-1174 (2012).

Amartya Mukhopadhyay, Fei Guo, Anton Tokranov, Xingcheng Xiao, Robert H. Hurt, Brian W. Sheldon, "Engineering of graphene layer orientation to attain high rate capability and anisotropic properties in Li ion battery electrodes", in press.

Jingyu Liu, Zhongying Wang, Agnes Kane, Robert H. Hurt, "Chemical Transformations on NanoSilver in Biological Environments", ACS Nano, in press.

Liu J., Katahara J., Coe-Sullivan S., Hurt RH, "Degradation products from consumer nanocomposites – a case study on quantum dot lighting" Envir. Sci. Tech., 46 (6), 3220–3227 (2012).

Chen Y, Guo F, Jachak A, Kim S-P, Datta D, Liu J, Kulaots I, Vaslet C, Jang HD, Huang J, Kane A, Shenoy VB, Hurt RH, "Aerosol Synthesis of Cargo-Filled Graphene Nanosacks ", Nano Letters, 12 (4), 1996–2002 (2012).

Fei Guo, Gregory Silverberg, Shin Bowers, Sang-Pil Kim, Dibakar Datta, Vivek Shenoy, Robert H. Hurt, "Graphene-Based Environmental Barriers," Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (14), 7717–7724.

Jachak A., Creighton M., Qiu Y, Kane AB, Hurt RH, "Biological Interactions and Safety of Graphene Materials", MRS Bulletin (invited review), Jan. 2012

Fei Guo, Franklin Kim, Tae Hee Han, Vivek Shenoy, Jiaxing Huang, Robert H. Hurt, "Hydration-Responsive Folding and Unfolding in Graphene Oxide Liquid Crystal Phases," ACS Nano, accepted, Aug 2011.

Jodie R. Pietruska, Xinyuan Liu, Ashley Smith, Kevin McNeil, Paula Weston, Anatoly Zhitkovich, Robert Hurt, Agnes B. Kane, "Bioavailability, intracellular mobilization of nickel, and HIF-1 activation in human lung epithelial cells exposed to metallic nickel and nickel oxide nanoparticles," Toxicological Sciences, accepted 2011.

Jingyu Liu, Kelly Pennell, Robert H. Hurt, "Kinetics and Mechanisms of Nanosilver Oxysulfidation," Environmental Science and Technology, in press. 2011.

Liu, X, Sen S, Liu J, Kulaots I, Geohegan D, Kane A, Puretzky AA, Rouleau CM, More KL, Palmore GTR, Hurt RH, "Antioxidant deactivation on graphenic nanocarbon surfaces", Small, in press.

Vanesa C Sanchez, Paula Weston, Ahiui Yan, Robert H Hurt and Agnes B Kane, "A 3-dimensional in vitro model of epithelioid granulomas induced by high aspect ratio nanomaterials" Particle and Fibre Toxicology, 8:17 2011.

Guo F, Mukhopadhyay A, Sheldon BW, and Hurt RH, "Vertically Aligned Graphene Layer Arrays from Chromonic Liquid Crystal Precursors," Advanced Materials, 23(4) 508–513 (2011)

Shi X, Vom dem Bussche A, Hurt RH, Kane AB, Gao H, "Cell Entry of One-Dimensional Nanomaterials Occurs by Tip Recognition and Rotation" Nature Nanotechnology, accepted Aug. 15, 2011.

Liu J, Sonshine D, Shervani S, Hurt RH, "Controlled Release of Biologically Active Silver from Nanosilver Surfaces," ACS Nano, 4(11) 6903–6913 (2010).

Sarin L, Sanchez V, Yan A, Kane AB, Hurt RH, Selenium-Carbon Bifunctional Nanoparticles for the Treatment of Malignant Mesothelioma," Advanced Materials, in press, 2010 (inside cover feature).

Tran PA, Sarin L, Hurt RH, Webster TJ, "Differential Effects of Nanoselenium Doping on Healthy and Cancerous Osteoblasts in Co-culture on Titanium," Int J Nanomedicine, 5: 351–358 (2010).

Liu J, Hurt RH, "Ion Release Kinetics and Particle Persistence in Aqueous Nano-Silver Colloids," Env. Sci. & Tech., 44:6, 2169–2175 (2010).

Tran PA, Sarin L, Hurt RH, Webster TJ, "Titanium surfaces with adherent selenium nanoclusters as a novel anticancer orthopedic material", Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 93A(4) 1417–1428 (2010).

Liu X, Hurt RH, Kane AB., "Biodurability of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes Depends on Surface Functionalization,"Carbon, 48:7 1961-1969 (2010).

Hower JC, Senior CL, Suuberg EM, Hurt RH, Wilcox JL, Olson ES, "Mercury capture by native fly ash carbons in coal-fired power plants," Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, in press 2009.

Kothari AK, Konca E, Sheldon BW, Jian K, Xia Z,, Ni W, and Hurt RH, "Mechanical behavior of anodic alumina coatings reinforced with carbon nanofibers", J. Materials Science, 44:22 6020-6027 (2009).

Jakubek L, Marangoudakis S, Raingo J, Liu X, Lipscombe D, Hurt RH, "The inhibition of neuronal calcium-ion channels by trace levels of yttrium released from carbon nanotubes," Biomaterials, 30 (31) 6351-6357 (2009).

research overview

Professor Hurt's research focuses on nanomaterials and their applications and implications for human health and the environment. Current research thrusts include the biological response to graphene-family nanomaterials, mechanisms of carbon nanotube uptake and toxicity, nano-silver and nano-copper transformations in the natural environment, safe material design, and the assembly and folding of graphene to make three-dimensional architectures for barrier and encapsulation technologies, and as electrodes and catalyst supports.

research statement

Professor Hurt's research focuses on nanomaterials and their applications and implications for human health and the environment. Current research thrusts include the biological response to graphene-family nanomaterials, mechanisms of carbon nanotube uptake and toxicity, nano-silver and nano-copper transformations in the natural environment, safe material design, and the assembly and folding of graphene to make three-dimensional architectures for battery and supercapacitor electrodes


A major thrust in the laboratory at this time is the study of the human health impacts of manufactured nanomaterials. The nation has invested heavily in the development of new nanomaterials, which are currently serving as a materials tool kit for the development of a vast array of new technologies. The potential human health impacts of these nanomaterials is not fully understood and is an area of intense worldwide research at this time. In collaboration with the biological laboratory of Agnes Kane, David Rand, and Diane Lipscombe laboratories, we are studying nanomaterial interactions with cells, cellular substractures (membranes and ion channels), and whole organisms (Drosophila).

The group is synthesizing and characterizing model nanomaterials based on carbon, silver, and selenium, with precise control of size, shape, hydrophobicity, and metals form/content to identify those nanomaterial features ultimately responsible for toxic responses. The samples are subjected to cellular and molecular assays that include metal mobilization and redox activity, cell viability, DNA damage and antioxidant destruction. The long term goal is to identify synthesis and purification proceedures that minimize human health impacts. We are striving for "green" nanomaterials that have been co-optimized for human health impacts and material performance.

Current research includes a special focus on the biological responses to graphene-family materials, comprising monolayer graphene, few-layer graphene, and graphene oxide. We hypothesize the biological responses are functions of lateral dimension, layer number, and surface chemistry. We are studying adsorption and quenching artifacts associated with the ultra-high surface area of graphene materials, and their uptake and localization in cells in close collaboration with the pathology laboratory of Agnes Kane.

Biological and Environmental Applications

The Hurt laboratory is developing a nanomaterial-based technology for capture of mercury release from compact fluorescent lamps. The technology uses reactive barriers of unstabilized amorphous nSe for high efficiency room-temperature reaction with elemental mercury vapor. The laboratory is also collaborating with the Kane laboratory to develop carbon-selenium composites for treatment of mesothelioma. Recent work is addressing graphene-based environmental barriers, and composites made from folded graphene nanoparticles

Carbon Nanomaterials

Another activity in the laboratory is the synthesis and characterization of novel carbon nanoforms from liquid crystalline precursors. This laboratory has pioneered techniques for the molecular control of carbon structure using surface-directed assembly of disk-like polyaromatic compounds. Confining discotic liquid crystals in nanospaces yields unique supramolecular fluid structures that can be quenched into functional organic solids or polymerized into carbon materials. Choosing the template material and geometry gives precise molecular control of crystal structure and interfaces, and can be used to fabricate optimal nanocarbon forms for fuel cells, batteries, sensors, and nanocomposites. Additional projects focus on the assembly of chromonic liquid crystals into carbon nanotubes, nanoribbons, and optical aniotropic carbon thin films. The group is also interestesd in the order/diorder phase transitions, wetting, spreading, and surface anchoring of polyaromatic compounds to understand the fundamental molecular interactions that drive these directed assembly processes. The newest topic in the group is the use of fine metal catalyst particles to etch complex patterns or pores in graphene and carbon thin films. The work includes the use of magnetic catalyst particles whose etch tracks can be steered through the application of external magnetic fields.

funded research

Sandia National Laboratories, Kinetic Analysis of Sandia Combustion Database, $50,000, 1995

Dept. of Energy, Char Crystalline Transformations during Coal Combustion, $245,000, 1995-99

Electric Power Research Institute, Advanced Experimental and Computational Tools for Unburned Carbon Prediction, $305,000, 1995-99.

Dept. of Energy, Novel utilization schemes for very high carbon ash, $538,000, 1996-2000.

National Science Foundation, CAREER Award: Mesoscale Approaches to the Quantitative Description of Carbon Solids, $200,000, 1996-2000.

Dept. of Energy, Fundamental structure-based models for char combustion, $831,000, 1996-2000.

National Science Foundation Equipment Grant for a Solid State NMR, $392,000, 2000.

Dept. of Energy, Simultaneous Reduction of NOx and Unburned Carbon, $318,000, 1996-2000.

Dept. of Energy, Minimizing Net CO2 Emissions by Oxidative Co-Pyrolysis of Coal / Biomass Blends," $50,000, 2000-2001.

Dept. of Energy, Mitigation of NH3 Contamination of Ash, $180,000, 2000-2003.

Dept. of Energy, Fundamental Investigation of Fuel Transformations in Advanced Coal Combustion and Gasification Processes, $ 388,000, 2000-03.

American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Studies of Mesogenic Pitch Materials, $60,000, 2001-03.

Electric Power Research Institute, Characterization of LOI and its Role in Fly Ash Utilization, $720,000, 1996-2002.

Dept. of Energy, Strategies and Technology for Managing High Carbon Ash, $397,000, 2000-2003.

Electric Power Research Institute, New Concepts for Managing Unburned Carbon, $152,178, 2001-03.

Dept. of Energy, High Pressure Combustion Kinetics, $188,000, 2001-04.

National Science Foundation, Tough Nanocomposite Coatings using New Self-Organized Carbon Forms, $1,300,000, 2003-2007 .

National Science Foundation, New Condensed Phase Approaches to Soot Formation, Aging, and Burnout, $271,493, 2004-07.

Brown University, Seed Funds, Development and Validation of a Gene Expression Profile for Identification of Potentially-Carcinogenic Nanofibers, $57,923, 2004-05

EPA, Chemical and Physical Determinants of Carbon Nanofiber/tube Toxicity, $350,000, 2004-07.

Dept. of Energy, Scale-up and Demonstration of Fly Ash Ozonation Technology, $65,000, 2004-05.

National Institutes of Health: Reuse in Rhode Island: A State-Based Approach to Complex Exposures, SBRP Grant. $15,290,000, 2005-09

National Science Foundation: Micropatterned Nanotopography Chips for Probing the Cellular Basis of Biocompatibility and Toxicity, $1,8,000, 2005-09.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Chemical, Structural, and Superstructural Determinants of Nanocarbon Toxicity, R01 ES016178-01, $1,500,000, 2008

"Reuse in Rhode Island: A State-Based Approach to Complex Exposures" an NIH Superfund Research Program Grant, $15,290,000 over 5 years, renewal for 2009-2014. Role: Leader of Project 6: "Design of Nanomaterials for Environmental Safety and Health", $1 M over five years.
NCIIA Grant on Nanotechnology for Mercury Capture, $20,000, 2009 (Hurt, PI)

NSF STTR Grant on Mercury Capture in Fluorescent Lighting Technology, Hurt PI on subcontract from Aspen Sciences, $150,000, Brown subcontract: $70,000.

DOE GAANN Training Grant, "Interdisciplinary Training the Applications and Implications of Nanotechnology" $528,000 August 2009-August 2012 (Hurt PI).

ES016178-03-S1 ARRA Competitive Revision to NIEH R01 grant: "Chemical, Structural, and Superstructural Determinants of Nanocarbon Toxicity", awarded in 2009, 270 K total budget, P.I. Agnes Kane, Co-P.I. R. Hurt.

Grand Opportunities grant, NIEHS, subcontract from Univ. Rochester, 2009.

National Science Foundation, "Exposure Pathways, Dissolution, Kinetics, and Fate of Nanosilver in the Environment", 9/2010 – 8/2013, $290,000 (Hurt, PI).

National Science Foundation, "Biomolecular and Cellular Interactions of Graphene-Family Nanomaterials, 10/1/2011 - 9/30/2014, $405,000

Rhode Island STAC Award on Graphene Composites (w/ A. Bose, URI), 2011

Gulf Research Consortium; Development of Alternative Dispersants for Large-Scale Petroleum Spills, 2011

Center for Chemical Innovation: CO2 as a Sustainable Feedstock. 2012 $1.7 M (T. Palmore, PI).