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Brett A. Helms


Staff Scientist, Organic and Macromolecular Synthesis


personal website


Brett A. Helms received his B.S. (2000) from Harvey Mudd College and his Ph.D. (2006) with Jean M. J. Fréchet at the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the staff of the Molecular Foundry in 2007, after postdoctoral research at the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven with E. W. (Bert) Meijer. In 2015, he co-founded Sepion Technologies, which is commercializing novel membranes for clean energy technologies.

Research Interests

Dr. Helms' research program is devoted to understanding and controlling transport in mesostructured systems assembled from organic, polymeric, or nanocrystalline components. Enhanced capabilities relevant to energy, health, water, and food quality are enabled by his unique approaches to the design of their architectures and interfaces.

Selected Publications


  1. Ward, A. L.; Doris, S. E.; Li, L.; Hughes, M. J.; Qu, X.; Persson, K. A.; Helms, B. A. “Materials Genomics Screens for Adaptive Ion Transport Behaviors by Redox-Switchable Microporous Polymer Membranes in Lithium–Sulfur Batteries” ACS Central Science 2017, 3, 399–406.
  2. Doris, S. E.; Ward, A. L.; Frischmann, P. D.; Gavvalapalli, N.; Baskin, A.; Prendergast, D.; Moore, J. S.; Helms, B. A. “Macromolecular Design Strategies for Preventing Active-Material Crossover in Non-Aqueous All-Organic Redox-Flow Batteries” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, 56, 1595–1599.
  3. Doris, S. E.; Ward, A. L.; Frischmann, P. D.; Helms, B. A. “Chemical Evolution of Size-Selective, Polysulfide-Blocking Membranes Cast from Polymers of Intrinsic Microporosity” J. Mater. Chem. A 20164, 16946–16952.
  4. Frischmann, P. D.; Hwa, Y.; Cairns, E. J.; Helms, B. A. “Redox-Active Supramolecular Polymer Binders for Lithium–Sulfur Batteries that Adapt their Transport Properties In Operando” Chem. Mater. 2016, 28, 7414–7421.
  5. Gerber, L. C. H. Frischmann, P. D.; Fan, F. Y.; Doris, S. E.; Qu, X.; Scheuermann, A. M.; Persson, K.; Chiang, Y.-M.; Helms, B. A. “3-Dimensional Growth of Li2S in Lithium-Sulfur Batteries Promoted by a Redox Mediator” Nano Lett. 2016, 16, 549–554.
  6. Frischmann, P. D.; Gerber, L. C. H.; Doris, S. E.; Tsai, E. Y.; Fan, F. Y.; Qu, X.; Jain, A.; Persson, K. A.; Chiang, Y.-M.; Helms, B. A. “Flowable Perylene Bisimide-Polysulfide Gel Networks as Reconfigurable Nanostructured Redox Mediators in Lithium-Sulfur Batteries” Chem. Mater. 2015, 27, 6765–6770.
  7. Li, C.; Ward, A. L.; Doris, S. E.; Pascal, T. A.; Prendergast, D.; Helms, B. A. “A Polysulfide-Blocking Microporous Polymer Membrane Tailored for Hybrid Li-Sulfur Flow Batteries” Nano Lett. 201515, 5724–5729.

Nanocrystal-Focused Materials Discovery

  1. Williams, T. E.; Ushizima, D.; Zhu, C.; Anders, A.; Milliron, D. J.; Helms, B. A. “Nearest-Neighbour Nanocrystal Bonding Dictates Framework Stability or Collapse in Colloidal Nanocrystal Frameworks” Chem. Comm. 2017, 53, 4853–4856.
  2. Toor, A.; Helms, B. A.; Russell, T. P. “Effect of Nanoparticle Surfactants on the Breakup of Free-Falling Water Jets during Continuous Processing of Reconfigurable Structured Liquid Droplets” Nano Lett. 2017, 17, 3119–3125.
  3. Huang, C.; Sun, Z.; Cui, M.; Liu, F.; Helms, B. A.; Russell, T. P. “Structured Liquids with pH-Triggered Reconfigurability” Adv. Mater. 2016, 28, 6612–6618.
  4. Maserati, L.; Meckler, S. M.; Li, C.; Helms, B.A. “Minute-MOFs: Ultrafast Synthesis of M2(dobpdc) Metal–Organic Frameworks from Divalent Metal Oxide Colloidal Nanocrystals” Chem. Mater. 2016, 28, 1581–1588.
  5. Ong, G. K.; Williams, T. E.; Singh, A.; Schaible, E.; Helms, B. A.; Milliron, D. J. “Ordering in polymer micelle-directed assemblies of colloidal nanocrystals” Nano Lett.2015, 15, 8240–8244.
  6. Meckler, S. M.; Li, C.; Queen, W. L.; Williams, T. E.; Long, J. R.; Buonsanti, R.; Milliron, D. J.; Helms, B. A. “Sub-Micron Polymer-Zeolitic Imidazolate Framework Layered Hybrids via Controlled Chemical Transformation of Naked ZnO Nanocrystal Films” Chem. Mater. 2015, 27, 7673–7679.
  7. Rosen, E. L.; Gilmore, K.; Sawvel, A. M.; Hammack, A. T.; Doris, S. E.; Aloni, S.; Altoe, V.; Nordlund, D.; Weng, T.-C.; Sokaras, D.; Cohen, B. E.; Urban, J. J.; Ogletree, D. F.; Milliron, D. J.; Prendergast, D.; Helms, B. A. “Chemically Directing d-Block Heterometallics to Nanocrystal Surfaces as Molecular Beacons of Surface Structure” Chem. Sci. 2015, 6, 6295–6304.
  8. Kim, J.; Ong, G. K.; Wang, Y.; LeBlanc, G.; Williams, T. E.; Mattox, T. M.; Helms, B. A.; Milliron, D. J. “Nanocomposite Architecture for Rapid, Spectrally-Selective Electrochromic Modulation of Solar Transmittance” Nano Lett. 201515, 5574–5579.
  9. Helms, B. A.; Williams, T. E.; Buonsanti, R.; Milliron, D. J. “Colloidal Nanocrystal Frameworks” Adv. Mater. 201527, 5820–5829.
  10. Doris, S. E.; Lynch, J. J.; Li, C.; Wills, A. W.; Urban, J. J.; Helms, B. A. “Mechanistic Insight into the Formation of Cationic Naked Nanocrystals Generated under Equilibrium Control” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 15702–15710.
  11. Williams,T. E.; Chang, C. M.; Rosen, E. L.; Garcia, G.; Runnerstrom, E.; Williams, B. L.; Koo, B.; Buonsanti, R.; Milliron, D. J.; Helms, B. A. “NIR-Electrochromic Heteromaterial Frameworks: a Platform to Understand Mesoscale Transport Phenomena in Solid-State Electrochemical Devices” J. Mater. Chem. C 2014, 2, 3328–3335.
  12. Milliron, D. J.; Buonsanti, R.; Llordes, A.; Helms, B. A. “Constructing Functional Mesostructured Materials from Colloidal Nanocrystal Building Blocks” Acc. Chem. Res. 2014, 47, 236–246.
  13. Rivest, J. B.; Buonsanti, R.; Pick, T. E.; Zhu, L.; Lim, E.; Clavero, C.; Schaible, E.; Helms, B. A.; Milliron, D. J. “Evolution of Ordered Metal Chalcogenide Architectures through Chemical Transformations” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 7446–7449.
  14. Buonsanti, R.; Pick, T.; Krins, N.; Richardson, T. J.; Helms, B. A.; Milliron, D. J. “Assembly of ligand‐stripped nanocrystals into precisely controlled mesoporous architectures” Nano Lett. 2012, 12, 3872–3877.
  15. Albers, A. E.; Chan, E. M.; McBride, P. M.; Ajo-Franklin, C. M.; Cohen, B. E.; Helms, B. A. “Dual-Emitting Quantum Dot/Quantum Rod-Based Nanothermometers with Enhanced Response and Sensitivity in Live Cells” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012134, 9565–9568.
  16. Rosen, E. L.; Buonsanti, R.; Llordes, A.; Sawvel, A. M.; Milliron, D. J.; Helms, B. A. “Exceptionally Mild Reactive Stripping of Native Ligands from Nanocrystal Surfaces by Using Meerwein's Salt” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 684–689.

Polymer-Focused Materials Discovery

  1. Helms, B. A. & Russell, T. P. “Polymer Chemistries Enabling Cradle-to-Cradle Life Cycles for Plastics” Chem 2016, 1, 816–818.
  2. Gerber, L. C. H.; Frischmann, P. D.; Williams, T. E.; Tichelaar, M.; Tsai, E. Y.; Liu, Y.-S.; Guo, J.; Pemmaraju, C. D.; Prendergast, D.; Helms, B. A. “Chemical Doping Enhances Electronic Transport in Networks of Hexabenzocoronenes Assembled in Non-Aqueous Electrolyte” Polym. Chem. 2015, 6, 5560–5564. (Invited)
  3. Wills, A. W.; Michalak, D. J.; Ercius, P.; Rosenberg, E. R.; Perciano, T.; Ushizima, D.; Runser, R.; Helms, B. A.“Block Copolymer Packing Limits and Interfacial Reconfigurability in the Assembly of Periodic Mesoporous Organosilicas” Adv. Funct. Mater. 201525, 4120–4128.
  4. Deng, Y.; Helms, B. A.; Rolandi, M. “Synthesis of pyridine chitosan and its protonic conductivity” J. Polym. Sci. A Polym. Chem. 2015, 53, 211–214.(Invited)
  5. Chahal, H. S.; Chahal, D. S.; McBride, P. M.; Helms, B. A. “Synthetic Control Over the Dynamics of Mesoscaled Cargo Release from Colloidal Polymer Vectors Inside Live Cells” J. Polym. Sci. A Polym. Chem. 2015, 53, 256–264.(Invited)
  6. Deng, Y. X.; Josberger, E.; Jin, J. H.; Helms, B. A.; Zhong, C.; Anantram, M.P.; Rolandi, M. “H+-type and OH–-type biological protonic semiconductors and complementary devices” Scientific Reports 2013, 3, 2481.
  7. Chahal, D. S.; Chahal,H. S.; Bayles, A. R.;Rudié, E. N.; Helms, B. A. “Synthetic Development of Cell-Permeable Polymer Colloids Decorated with Nanocrystal Imaging Probes Optimized for Cell Tracking” Chem. Sci. 20123, 2246–2251.

All Publications by Brett A. Helms in Foundry database »