Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Chemical and Petroleum Engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering was established in 1910, making it the first department for petroleum engineering in the world. Today, our department has over 40 expert faculty (tenure/tenure-stream/joint/adjunct), a host of dedicated staff, more than 20 state-of-the-art laboratories and learning centers, and education programs that enrich with strong fundamentals and hands-on experience.

Chemical engineering is concerned with processes in which matter and energy undergo change. The range of concerns is so broad that the chemical engineering graduate is prepared for a variety of interesting and challenging employment opportunities.

Chemical engineers with strong background in sciences are found in management, design, operations, and research. Chemical engineers are employed in almost all industries, including food, polymers, chemicals, pharmaceutical, petroleum, medical, materials, and electronics. Since solutions to energy, environmental, and food problems must surely involve chemical changes, there will be continued demands for chemical engineers in the future.

Feb
1
2016

Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Chair Dr. Steven Little to be inducted into AIMBE College of Fellows

Chemical & Petroleum

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 1, 2016) ... The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the pending induction of Steven R. Little, PhD, William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering; Professor of Bioengineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Immunology, Ophthalmology and The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine; University Honors College Faculty Fellow, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, to its College of Fellows. Dr. Little was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for exceptional contributions to the field of controlled release and the establishment of the nascent field of biomimetic drug delivery. The College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers in the country. The most accomplished and distinguished engineering and medical school chairs, research directors, professors, innovators, and successful entrepreneurs, comprise the College of Fellows. AIMBE Fellows are regularly recognized for their contributions in teaching, research, and innovation. AIMBE Fellows have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Technology and Innovation and many also are members of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences. A formal induction ceremony will be held during AIMBE’s 25th Annual Meeting at the National Academy of Sciences Great Hall in Washington, DC on April 4, 2016. Dr. Little will be inducted along with 160 colleagues who make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2016. For more information about the AIMBE Annual Meet, please visit www.aimbe.org. AIMBE’s mission is to recognize excellence in, and advocate for, the fields of medical and biological engineering in order to advance society. Since 1991, AIMBE‘s College of Fellows has lead the way for technological growth and advancement in the fields of medical and biological engineering. Fellows have helped revolutionize medicine and related fields in order to enhance and extend the lives of people all over the world. They have also successfully advocated for public policies that have enabled researchers and business-makers to further the interests of engineers, teachers, scientists, clinical practitioners, and ultimately, patients. More About Dr. LittleDr. Steven Little is Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, Immunology, Ophthalmology and The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a University Honors College Faculty Fellow. Dr. Little received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT in 2005, with his thesis winning the American Association for Advancement of Science’s Excellence in Research Award. In May of 2012, Dr. Little was appointed as the 12th Chairman of the Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, one of the oldest Departments of its type in the world, dating back to 1910.In his first year on the Pitt faculty (2006), Dr. Little was appointed as a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Engineering, the only Assistant Professor to hold this position. In 2007, he received career development awards from both the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health (K-Award). In 2008, Dr. Little was named as one of only 16 Beckman Young Investigators by the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation. Dr. Little is the only individual from the University of Pittsburgh to have ever received this award. In 2009, he was presented with the Board of Visitors Award that denotes the “single most outstanding faculty member in the School of Engineering.” In 2010, he received the Coulter Translational Research Award from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. In 2011, Dr. Little was named the recipient of the Society For Biomaterials' Young Investigator Award. In 2012, Dr. Little received the University of Pittsburgh's Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award, and by winning the 2013 Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, Dr. Little stands as the only professor in School history to receive both the teaching and research awards. Dr. Little was also named as one of only 14 “Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars” by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation in 2013 and also was named the recipient of the Carnegie Science Award for University Educators that year. In 2014, Dr. Little was named the winner of the Research to Prevent Blindness Innovative Ophthalmic Research Award, the recipient of a Phase II Coulter Translational Award, named one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 under 40,” and highlighted as one of only five individuals in Pittsburgh who are “reshaping our world” by Pop City Media. In 2015, Dr. Little was named the winner of the Carnegie Science Award for Advanced Materials, a Fast Tracker (University Leader category) by the Pittsburgh Business Times, a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and the winner of the 2015 Curtis W. McGraw Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Dr. Little is also a Co-Founder of Qrono Inc., a Pittsburgh-based start-up company that provides custom designed controlled release formulations for pharmaceutical companies, agricultural industry, and academic laboratories. ###

Feb
1
2016

Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards four novel biomedical devices with $85,000 total Round-2 2015 Pilot Funding

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (February 1, 2016) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $85,000 to four research groups through its 2015 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a nanowire glaucoma drainage implant; an emergency lung intubation device; a timed-release microsphere drug for middle-ear infections; and bioactive hydrogels for bone regeneration.CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE), supports applied technology projects in the early stages of development with “kickstart” funding toward the goal of transitioning the research to clinical adoption. Proposals are evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, technical and clinical relevance, potential health care impact and significance, experience of the investigators, and potential in obtaining further financial investment to translate the particular solution to healthcare. “This is our fourth year of pilot funding, and our leadership team could not be more excited with the breadth and depth of this round’s awardees,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “This early-stage interdisciplinary research helps to develop highly specific biomedical technologies through a proven strategy of linking UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty.” AWARD 1: Self-Cleaning Smart Antibacterial Surfaces Award to design, build and test a glaucoma drainage implants with antimicrobial properties based on nanowire technologyPaul W. Leu, PhD Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering Graham Hatfull, PhD Professor, Department of Biological Sciences Robert M.Q. Shanks, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology Nils Loewen, MD, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology AWARD 2: Esophocclude (Temporary Occlusion of the Esophagus in Patients Requiring Emergent Intubation) Award to develop a new lung intubation device which minimizes the risk of gastric aspiration in emergency care and in surgical applicationsPhilip Carullo, MD Resident, Department of Anesthesiology Youngjae Chun, PhD Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering AWARD 3: Controlled release, gel-based ear drops for treatment of otitis media Award to develop a novel timed release microsphere drug delivery system for treatment of middle ear infectionsMorgan Fedorchak, PhD Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering Cuneyt Alper, MD Professor, Department of Ophthalmology AWARD 4: RegenMatrix (Collagen-mimetic Bioactive Hydrogels for Bone Regeneration) Award to apply develop a bioactive hydrogels to guide bone mineralization in osteoporosis and in healing of fracturesShilpa Sant, PhD Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences Yadong Wang, PhD Professor, Bioengineering Sachin Velankar, PhD Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering Charles Sfeir, DDS, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Oral Biology About the Center for Medical Innovation The Center for Medical Innovation at the Swanson School of Engineering is a collaboration among the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Office of Technology Management (OTM), and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). CMI was established in 2011 to promote the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; to educate the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and to facilitate the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services in cooperation with OTM and in partnership with CTRP. ###

Jan
20
2016

Soaking It In

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (January 20, 2015) … Although compressed natural gas represents a cleaner and more efficient fuel for vehicles, its volatile nature requires a reinforced, heavy tank that stores the gas at high pressure and therefore limits vehicle design. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are utilizing metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to develop a new type of storage system that would adsorb the gas like a sponge and allow for more energy-efficient storage and use. The research, ­­­­“Mechanisms of Heat Transfer in Porous Crystals Containing Adsorbed Gases: Applications to Metal-Organic Frameworks,” was published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters by Christopher E. Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, and postdoctoral fellow Hasan Babaei. (DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.025902) Traditional CNG tanks are empty structures that require the gas to be stored at high pressure, which affects design and the weight of the vehicle. Dr. Wilmer and his lab are instead focused on porous crystal/gas systems, specifically MOFs, which possess structures with extremely high surface areas. “One of the biggest challenges in developing an adsorbed natural gas (ANG) storage system is that the process generates significant heat which limits how quickly the tank can be filled,” Dr. Wilmer said. “Unfortunately, not a lot is known about how to make adsorbents dissipate heat quickly. This study illuminates some of the fundamental mechanisms involved.”  According to Dr. Wilmer, gases have a $500 billion impact on the global economy, but storing, separating, and transporting gas requires energy-intensive compression. His research into MOFs is an extension of his start-up company, NuMat Technologies, which develops MOF-based solutions for the gas storage industry.  “By gaining a better understanding of heat transfer mechanisms at the atomic scale in porous materials, we could develop a more efficient material that would be thermally conductive rather than thermally insulating,” he explained. “Beyond natural gas, these insights could help us design better hydrogen gas storage systems as well. Any industrial process where a gas interacts with a porous material, where heat is an important factor, could potentially benefit from this research.”  For more information about Dr. Wilmer's research visit www.wilmerlab.com. ### Image above: Idealized porous crystal structure (blue spheres) containing adsorbed gas molecules (orange spheres). Gas adsorption into nanoporous crystals (e.g., metal-organic frameworks) reduces the system’s thermal conductance due to phonon scattering in the crystal due to interactions with gas molecules.
Paul Kovach
Dec
15
2015

Surface reaction and electron microscopy researcher Judith Yang earns $1.5 million in back-to-back NSF grants

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (December 15, 2015) … Judith Chun-Hsu Yang, PhD, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, received two grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research that will challenge classical theories of oxidation. By using electron microscopy capable of observing changes in real time, Yang will analyze the effects of oxidation on copper and the nano-structure of other metals used in a variety of industries. Both projects take advantage of a new environmental transmission electron microscope, Hitachi H9500 ETEM that arrived at Pitt in August 2015.  Funding for this instrument was provided by a NSF-MRI grant awarded to Yang in 2013. “DMREF: Collaborative Research: Toolkit to Characterize and Design Bifunctional Nanoparticle Catalysts” will receive $1.2 million over three years with $270,000 coming to Pitt. Yang will serve as co-principal investigator on the collaborative grant with the University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas at Austin, and Yeshiva University in New York. Using both in situ and scanning transmission electron microscopy, the researchers at Pitt will look for optimal, cost-efficient combinations of metals that achieve desired reactions and catalyst formulations for industry. “Industry tests catalysts empirically—trying many different combinations of metals and seeing what works,” said Yang. “Ideally, we want to be able to use theory and computational studies to predict new catalyst structures more efficiently.” The second grant of $300,357 will fund the project “Dynamic Atomic-scale Metal Oxidation to Correlate with Multi-scale Simulations.” Yang will work with Wissam Saidi, an assistant professor in Pitt’s department of mechanical and material science. The study will analyze the nanoscale stages of oxidation in metal oxides to reform outdated theories that explain environmental stability in engineered materials. Recent studies of the oxidation of copper at Pitt have revealed flaws in the common assumption that oxide formation is uniform. “We would like to reach a fundamental understanding of how to design materials that can appropriately react with the environment,” said Yang. “Structural changes resulting from exposure to gas and heat are well known, but classic oxidation analysis mostly measures the weight change of the material. We can use an environmental transmission electron microscope during dynamic experiments to observe structural changes that occur during oxidation.” Yang received her bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of California, and her master’s degree and PhD from Cornell University. After graduation, she became a post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Metallforschung in Stuttgart, Germany. She continued her post-doctoral research and became a visiting lecturer when she joined the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign. She joined the University of Pittsburgh faculty in 1999 and has received numerous awards including the 2005 Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award.   ###
Matt Cichowicz, Contributing Writer and Editor, University Communications Matthew Cichowicz
mac374@pitt.edu
Dec
14
2015

Hybrid material that responds to heat and light presents future potential for 4D-printed adaptive devices

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (December 14, 2015) … Combining photo-responsive fibers with thermo-responsive gels, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Clemson University have modeled a new hybrid material that could reconfigure itself multiple times into different shapes when exposed to light and heat, allowing for the creation of devices that not only adapt to their environment, but also display distinctly different behavior in the presence of different stimuli.    Computational modeling developed by Anna C. Balazs, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt, and Olga Kuksenok, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Clemson's College of Engineering and Science, predicted these composites would be both highly reconfigurable and mechanically strong, signaling a potential for biomimetic four-dimensional printing. Their research, “Stimuli-responsive behavior of composites integrating thermo-responsive gels with photoresponsive fibers,” was recently published in the journal Materials Horizons, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (DOI: 10.1039/C5MH00212E). “In 4D printing, time is the fourth dimension that characterizes the structure of the material; namely, these materials can change shape even after they have been printed.  The ability of a material to morph into a new shape alleviates the need to build a new part for every new application, and hence, can lead to significant cost savings,” Dr. Balazs explained. “The challenge that researchers have faced is creating a material that is both strong and malleable and displays different behavior when exposed to more than one stimulus.” Drs. Balazs and Kuksenok resolved this issue by embedding light-responsive fibers, which are coated with spirobenzopyran (SP) chromophores, into a temperature-sensitive gel. This new material displays distinctly different behavior in the presence of light and heat.“If we anchor a sample of the composite to a surface, it will bend in one direction when exposed to light, and in the other direction when exposed to heat,” Dr. Kuksenok said. “When the sample is detached, it shrinks like an accordion when heated and curls like a caterpillar when illuminated. This programmable behavior allows a single object to display different shapes and hence functions, depending on how it is exposed to light or heat.” The researchers note that by localizing the SP functionality specifically on the fibers, the composites can encompass “hidden” patterns that are only uncovered in the presence of light, allowing the material to be tailored in ways that would not be possible by simply heating the sample. This biomimetic, stimuli-responsive motion could allow for joints that bend and unbend with light and become an essential component for new adaptive devices, such as flexible robots.“Robots are wonderful tools, but when you need something to examine a delicate structure, such as inside the human body, you want a “squishy” robot rather than the typical devices we think of with interlocking gears and sharp edges,” Dr. Balazs said. “This composite material could pave the way for soft, reconfigurable devices that display programmed functions when exposed to different environmental cues.” As Dr. Balazs points out, “the real significant of the work is that we designed a single composite that yields access to a range of dynamic responses and structures. On a conceptual level, our results provide guidelines for combining different types of stimuli-responsive components to create adaptive materials that can be controllably and repeatedly actuated to display new dynamic behavior and large-scale motion.”Future research with this discovery will focus on tailoring the arrangements of the partially-embedded fibers to create hand-like structures that could serve as a type of gripper. ### Photo (inset and below): Computational model of the composite bending in response to light.

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