The Institute for Molecular Engineering is addressing a set of prominent research themes broadly aimed at concrete advances in important technology sectors. These particular themes have taken shape around the leadership from our early faculty hires and around major collaborations. Each one aims at a major societal problem of global significance. New themes will continue to emerge.

Arts, Sciences, and Technology

True to its deeply interdisciplinary nature, IME supports the cultivation of meaningful collaboration between scientific and artistic inquiry to challenge the manner in which researchers and artists approach their respective practices.

Energy Storage and Harvesting

In cooperation with Argonne National Laboratory, IME will develop a major Chicago-based hub for research on batteries, fuel cells, and other devices for storing energy to use with mobile, distributed, or intermittent energy sources, as well as energy harvesting via such molecular devices as photovoltaics and molecular devices.

Immuno-Engineering and Cancer

In cooperation with the Biological Sciences Division, this thematic direction explores the mechanisms that control the movement of biological fluids through tissue and the immune responses to tumor invasion could lead to synthetic vaccines against cancer and viral threats.


Broad-based research will investigate aspects of water purification and utilization, catalysis related to the water-energy nexus, the role of water in climate science and engineering, and the role of water in biology, health, and medicine.

Quantum Information and Technology

Quantum computing is thought to have the potential to accelerate the advance of computing power beyond Moore’s law. Quantum engineering could also lead to “unhackable” communications through quantum cryptography and a new class of ultra-sensitive dectectors for biological and chemical sensing.

Nano-Patterning and Nano-Lithography

Certain macromolecules self-assemble into regular morphologies and can be coerced into forming useful structures that are similar to those encountered in electronic circuits. Self-assembled nanostructures could reduce manufacturing costs and enable new generations of electronic, biomedical, and mechanical devices.

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