Nicholas A. Kotov

Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Chemical Engineering


(734) 763-8768


Chemical Engineering
Biomedical Engineering
Materials Science & Engineering
Macromolecular Science & Engineering

NCRC B10-A159 (Office)
NCRC B26-102S, 108S (Labs)
2800 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800

Additional Title(s)

Irving Langmuir Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Sciences and Engineering

Primary Website

The Kotov Lab


Moscow State University
PhD Chemistry, Reaction Kinetics ’90
BS Chemistry/Chemical Engineering ’87

Research Interests

Biomimetic nanostructures, self-organization of nanocolloids, ultrastrong nanocomposites, energy materials, chiral nanostructures, implantable biomedical devices.


Professional Experience

University of Michigan
Chemical Engineering Department
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Irving Langmuir Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, 2020-.
Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering, 2012-present
Professor, 2008-present
Associate Professor, 2003-2008

Oklahoma State University
Chemistry Department
Stillwater, OK

Associate Professor, 2001-2003
Assistant Professor, 1996-2001

Hamburg University
Hamburg, Germany

Visiting Professor, 1997, 1999

Syracuse University
Chemistry Department
Syracuse, NY

Postdoctoral Associate, 1992-1996

Moscow State University
Chemistry Department
Moscow, Russia

Research Associate, Laboratory of Photochemistry, 1990-1992

Courses Taught


Chemical and Engineering Thermodynamics
Chemical Engineering Design
Chemical Engineering Laboratory I
Chemical Engineering Laboratory II


Nanotechnology for Energy, Environment, and Biomedicine (graduate)

Profile Story

Engineering professor Nicholas Kotov has been drawn to one scientific field or another for as long as he can remember – biology, chemistry, zoology, geology. And before all that, pyrotechnics.

The son of a chemist and a physicist, Kotov didn’t wait until his teen years to start blowing things up. His family spent summers in the countryside outside Moscow, and his chemist mom encouraged him to explore and experiment. As a seven-year-old, Kotov would collect matches and – with Mom’s endorsement and help from a bunch of friends – stuff them into little tubes to make fireworks. On one unfortunate occasion he sealed one of these homemade rockets with fir sap, which melted and dripped onto his hand, causing a bad burn.

Kotov still has the scar on his hand, but his curiosity, playfulness and sense of wonder remain unscathed.

“Growing up I enjoyed experiments; I enjoyed explosions sometimes. It was a lot of fun,” said Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering. “Middle school put a little bit of a damper on that because school replaces fun with rules, but as soon as I got into the university lab and was able to play with particles, films, chemical reactions, it became fun again.

“The unpredictability of nature is amazing. Just when you think you understand something, it throws you a curve and makes you delve deeper.”

But he says seeing the elegance of nature’s laws never fails to make the journey worth the frustrations.

Kotov has appointments in chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, materials science and engineering, macromolecular science and engineering, and the Biointerfaces Institute. He uses nanoscale fibers and particles to design and build materials that solve specific problems in biology, medicine, environmental science, chemistry, pharmaceuticals and any other field with a problem that captures his interest.

“Every field you can imagine needs new materials,” he said. “The bottleneck in every problem humans have comes down to what kind of material you can use to build something.”

Kotov’s building block of choice is the nanoparticle, a tiny bit of material measured in nanometers. (One nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter.) Nanoparticles expand a material engineer’s palette from 91 naturally-occurring elements to a nearly infinite variety of particles, films and fibers.

His lab has built materials that give us stronger armor, thinner lithium ion batteries, safer paints, better deep brain implants and accurate cancer diagnostic tools.

“I think nanomaterials are so omnipotent, so versatile,” Kotov said. “I have nanoparticles and nanofibers and some composites, and I’m thinking this is my paintbrush, this is my canvas. I can use this particle, this method, this fiber as a building block.”

From the earliest days of his scientific career, Kotov has been driven to search for novel ideas. He delights in discoveries that break the accepted laws of nature; he encourages his students to embrace the things that make them unique and use those gifts to transcend the academic mold.

Be different, he says, knowing full well how difficult and powerful that can be.

Kotov grew up in the Soviet Union, under immense social pressure to be like everyone else. He stutters, and as a child and teen that was a constant reminder of his nonconformity. It took him a long time to realize being different didn’t mean having to automatically expect less from life.

“I was not part of the herd,” he said. “Only much later did I realize how useful that actually was.”

Kotov’s nanoscale adventures began when he was an undergraduate studying photosynthesis in plants. The photosynthetic center – the place where energy conversion happens in plants – is a nanoscale feature. Around the same time, researchers were discovering how to make semiconductors out of inorganic and metallic particles. Kotov used those new tools and techniques to replicate the intricate photosynthetic centers he was seeing and uncovered a whole new world of structures to work with.

He’s particularly intrigued by the way nanoparticles self-assemble, a seemingly biological process that can happen with inorganic materials at the nanoscale. Teasing out parallels with biological phenomena, he believes, is the key to unlocking major advances in energy and engineering.

“I believe that we’ve just scratched the surface of nanoscience,” Kotov said. “There are some profound discoveries hidden here.”


Fellow, 2020
National Academy of Inventors

Alpha Chi Sigma Award for Chemical Engineering Research, 2020
American Institute of Chemical Engineers

Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship, 2018
U.S. Department of Defense

Alexander von Humboldt Research Award, 2017
Humboldt Foundation

Van ‘t Hoff Lecture, 2017
Universities of Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Leiden

Senior Fulbright Fellow 2016
Fulbright Foundation and Commission

ACS Award in Colloid Chemistry, 2017
American Chemical Society

Stephanie L. Kwolek Award, 2016
Royal Society of Chemistry

UNESCO Medal, 2016
For his work on biometric self-organization of nano colloids, ultra-strong nanocomposites, tissue engineering with nanomaterials, and nanoscale drugs

Rexford E. Hall Innovation Excellence Award, 2016
University of Michigan

MRS Medal, 2014, Co-recipient with Sharon Glotzer.
Citation: “For foundational work elucidating processes of nanoparticle self-assembly.”

Fellow, 2014
Materials Science Society

Langmuir Lecture Award, 2013
American Chemical Society

Kennedy Family Research Team Award, 2012
University of Michigan

Top 25 Materials Scientists in 2000-2010, 2011
Thomson Reuters

Top 100 Chemists in 2000-2010, 2011
Thomson Reuters

Top 100 R&D Award, 2009
Small Business, R&D Magazine

Gutenberg Award, 2008
Government of Alsace

Top 50 Award, 2008
NASA, Nanotech Briefs

Top 10 Discoveries of the Year, 2008
Wired Magazine

College of Engineering Research Excellence Award, 2007
University of Michigan

Caddell Award, 2007
University of Michigan

Chair of Gordon Research Conference “Supramolecular Chemistry,” 2007
Gordon Research Conference

Walton Award, 2006
Government of Ireland

Welliver Fellow, 2006
The Boeing Company

Gran Prix, Materials Research Society Entrepreneurship Challenge, 2006
Materials Research Society

Chair of Gordon Research Conference “Thin Organic Films,” 2003
Gordon Research Conference

Junior Faculty Award for Scholarly Excellence, 2001
Oklahoma State University

National Science Foundation

Humboldt Fellow, 1997-1999


Selected Publications

Kotov, N.A.; Meldrum, F. C.; Wu, C.; Fendler, J.H. Monoparticulate Layer and Langmuir-Blodgett-Type Monoparticulate Layers of Size-Quantized, Cadmium Sulfide Clusters: A Colloid- Chemical Approach to Superlattice
Construction. J. Phys. Chem. 1994, 98, 2735–2738.

Kotov, N.A.; Dékány, I.; Fendler, J.H. Ultrathin graphite oxide-polyelectrolyte composites prepared by self-assembly: Transition between conductive and non-conductive states. Adv. Mater. 1996, 8, 637–641.

Kotov, N.A.; Magonov, S.; Tropsha, E. Layer-by-layer Self-assembly of Alumosilicate- Polyelectrolyte Composites: Mechanism of Deposition, Crack Resistance, and Perspectives for Novel Membrane Materials. Chem. Mater.1998, 9, 886–895.

Tang, Z.; Kotov, N. A.; Giersig, M.; Spontaneous Organization of Single CdTe Nanoparticles into Luminescent Nanowires. Science, 2002, 297 (5579), 237-240.

Mamedov, A. A.; Kotov, N. A.; Prato, M.; Guldi, D.; Wicksted, J. P.; Hirsch, A.; Molecular Design of Strong SWNT/Polyelectrolyte Multilayers Composites, Nature Materials, 2002, 1, 190–194.

Koktysh, D.S.; Liang, X.; Yun, B-G.; Pastoriza-Santos, I.; Matts, R.; Giersig, M.; Serra-Rodríguez, C.; Liz-Marzan, L.; Kotov, N.A. Biomaterials by Design: Layer-By-Layer Assembled Ion-Selective and Biocompatible Films
of TiO2 Nanoshells for Neurochemical Monitoring; Adv. Funct. Mater. 2002, 12(4), 255–265.

Tang, Z.; Kotov, N. A.; Magonov, S.; Ozturk, B.; Nanostructured Artificial Nacre, Nature Materials, 2003, 2(6), 413–418.

Sinyagin, A.; Belov, A.; Kotov, N.A. Monte-Carlo simulation of linear aggregate formation from CdTe nanoparticles, Modelling Simul. Mater. Sci. Eng. 2005, 13, 389-399.

Tang, Z.; Zhang, Z.; Wang Y.; Glotzer, S. C. Kotov, N. A. Self-Assembly of CdTe Nanocrystals Into Free-Floating Sheets, Science, 2006, 314 (5797) 274-278.

Shanbhag, S.; Kotov, N.A. On the Origin of a Permanent Dipole Moment in Nanocrystals with a Cubic Crystal Lattice: Effects of Truncation, Stabilizers, and Medium for CdS Tetrahedral Homologues. J. Phys. Chem. B 2006, 110(25), 12211–12217.

Michel, M.; Taylor, A.; Sekol, R; Podsiadlo, P.; Thompson, L.; Kotov, N. A. High Performance, Nanostructured Membrane Electrode Assemblies for Fuel Cells Made by Layer-By-Layer Assembly of Carbon Nanocolloids. Adv. Mater. 2007, 19(22), 3859–3864.

Podsiadlo P.; Kaushik A. K.; Arruda E. M., Waas A. M., Shim B. S., Xu J., Nandivada H., Pumplin B. G., Lahann J., Ramamoorthy A., Kotov N. A., Ultrastrong and Stiff Layered Polymer Nanocomposites, Science, 2007, 318, 80-83.

Chen, W.; Bian, A.; Agarwal, A.; Liu, L.; Shen, H.; Wang, L.; Xu, C.; Kotov, N.A. Nanoparticle Superstructures Made by Polymerase Chain Reaction: Collective Interactions of Nanoparticles and a New Principle for Chiral Materials. Nano Lett. 2009, 9(5), 2153–2159.

Shim, B.S.; Zhu, Edward Jan, Kevin Critchley, Szushen Ho, Paul Podsiadlo, Kai Sun and Nicholas A. Kotov Multiparameter Structural Optimization of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Composites: Toward Record Strength, Stiffness, and Toughness. ACS Nano 2009, 3(7), 1711–1722.

S. Srivastava, A. Santos, K. Critchley, K.-S. Kim, P. Podsiadlo, K. Sun, J. Lee, C. Xu, G. D. Lilly, S. C. Glotzer, and N. A. Kotov, Light-Controlled Self-Assembly of Semiconductor Nanoparticles into Twisted Ribbons, Science, 2010, 327, 1355, 1355-1359.

Shim, B. S.; Zhu, J.; Jan, E.; Critchley, K.; Kotov, N. A. Transparent Conductors from Layer-by-Layer Assembled SWNT Films: Importance of Mechanical Properties and a New Figure of Merit. ACS Nano 2010, 4(7), 3725–3734.

Kotov, N.A. Inorganic Nanoparticles as Protein Mimics, Science 2010, 330(6001), 188–189.

Y. Xia, T. D. Nguyen, M. Yang, B. Lee, A. Santos, P. Podsiadlo, Z. Tang, S. C. Glotzer, N. A. Kotov, Self-assembly of virus-like self-limited inorganic supraparticles from nanoparticles, Nature Nanotechnology, 2011, 6, 580-587.

Yan, W.; Xu, L.; Xu, C.; Ma, W.; Kuang, H.; Wang, L.; Kotov, N.A. Self-Assembly of Chiral Nanoparticle Pyramids with Strong R/S Optical Activity. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134(36), 15114–15121.

Kim Y., Zhu, J.; Yeom, B.J.; Prima, M.D.; Su, X.L.; Kim, J.G.; Yoo, S.Y.; Uher, C.;. Kotov; N. A.; Stretchable nanoparticle conductors with self-organized conductive pathways; Nature, 2013, 500, 59-64.

Ma, M.; Kuang, H.; Xu, L.; Ding, L.; Xu, C.; Wang, L.; Kotov, N.A. Attomolar DNA Detection with Chiral Nanorod Assemblies. Nature Comm. 2013, 4, 2689.

Park, J.I.; Nguen, T.D.; De Queiros Silveira, G.; Bahng, J.H.; Srivastava, S.; Zhao, G.; Sun, K.; Zhang, P.; Glotzer, S.; Kotov, N.A. Terminal Supraparticle Assemblies from Similarly Charged Protein Molecules and Nanoparticles. Nature Comm. 2014, 5, 3593.

J.Yeom, B. Yeom, H. Chan, K. W. Smith, S. Dominguez-Medina, J. Hwan Bahng, G. Zhao, W.S. Chang, S.J. Chang, A. Chuvilin, D. Melnikau, A. L. Rogach, P. Zhang, S. Link, P.Král, N. A. Kotov, Chiral Templating of Self-Assembling Nanostructures by Circularly Polarized Light, Nature Mater. 2015, 14, 66–72.

K. Hirai, B. Yeom, S.-H. Chang, H. Chi, J. F. Mansfield, B. Lee, S. Lee, C. Uher, N. A. Kotov, Coordination Assembly of Discoid Nanoparticles, Angew. Chem. 2015, 127 (31), 9094-9098.

S.-H. Cha, J. Hong, M.McGuffie, B. Yeom, J. S. VanEpps, and N.A. Kotov Shape-Dependent Biomimetic Inhibition of Enzyme by Nanoparticles and Their Antibacterial Activity, ACS Nano, 2015, 9 (9), 9097–9105.

T. C. Shyu, P. F. Damasceno, P. M. Dodd, A. Lamoureux, L. Xu, M. Shlian, M. Shtein, S. C. Glotzer, N. A. Kotov, A kirigami approach to engineering elasticity in nanocomposites, Nature Materials, 2015, 14, 785–789.

J. H. Bahng, B. Yeom, Y. Wang, S. O. Tung, N.A. Kotov, Anomalous Dispersions of Hedgehog Particles, Nature, 2015, 517, 596–599.

C. Batista-Silvera, R. Larson, N. A. Kotov, Non-Additivity of Nanoparticle Interactions, Science, 2015, DOI: 10.1126/science.1242477.

N. Suzuki Y. Wang, P. Elvati, Z.-B Qu, K. Kim, S. Jiang, E. Baumeister, J. Lee, B. Yeom, J. H. Bahng, J.Lee, A. Violi, and N. A. Kotov, Chiral Graphene Quantum Dots, ACS Nano, 2016, 10, 1744–1755.

Y. Kim, B. Yeom, O. Arteaga Barriel, S. Y. Yoo, S. G. Lee, J-G. Kim, N. A. Kotov, Reconfigurable chiroptical nanocomposites with chirality transfer from the macro- to the nanoscale, Nature Materials, 2016,
15(4), 461-468.

Ming Yang, Henry Chan, Gongpu Zhao, Joong Hwan Bahng, Peijun Zhang, Petr Král, Nicholas A. Kotov, Self-Assembly of Nanoparticles into Biomimetic Capsid-Like Nanoshells, Nature Chemistry, 2016, 9, 287–294.

Wei Ma, Liguang Xu, Andre F. de Moura, Xiaoling Wu, Hua Kuang, Chuanlai Xu, Nicholas A. Kotov, Chiral Inorganic Nanostructures, Chem. Rev. 2017, 117 (12), 8041–8093.

Wenchun Feng, Ji-Young Kim, Xinzhi Wang, Heather A. Calcaterra, Zhi-bei Qu, Louisa Meshi, Nicholas A. Kotov Assembly of Mesoscale Helices with Near Unity Enantiomeric Excess and Light-Matter Interactions for Chiral Semiconductors, Science Advances, 2017, 3(3), e1601159.

Bongjun Yeom, Trisha Sain, Naida Lacevic, Daria Bukharina, Sang-Ho Cha, Anthony M. Waas, Ellen M. Arruda, Nicholas A. Kotov, Abiotic Tooth Enamel, Nature, 2017, 543, 95–98.

J-Y. Kim, M-G. Han, M-B. Lien, S.Magonov, Y.Zhu, H.Ferguson, T.Norris, N.A. Kotov, Hidden Asymmetry of Gold Nanorods, Science Advances, 2018, 4(2), e1700682.

Lizhi Xu, Xueli Zhao, Chuanlai Xu and Nicholas A. Kotov, Water-Rich Biomimetic Composites with Abiotic Self-Organizing Nanofiber Network, Adv. Mater. 2018, 30(1), 1703343

Nicholas A. Kotov, Self-Assembly of Nanoparticles: Ab Ovo, EuroPhysics Letters, 2018, 119, 1.

Jihyeon Yeom, Ualisson Santos, Mahshid Chekini, Minjeong Cha, Andre F. de Moura, and Nicholas A. Kotov, Chiromagnetic Nanoparticles and Gels, Science. 2018, 359 (6372), 309-314.