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.


Catalytic Conveyor Belt

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (February 17, 2017) … Capitalizing on previous studies in self-powered chemo-mechanical movement, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Penn State University’s Department of Chemistry have developed a novel method of transporting particles that utilizes chemical reactions to drive fluid flow within microfluidic devices. Their research, “Harnessing catalytic pumps for directional delivery of microparticles in microchambers,” was published today in the journal Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14384).The computational modeling research was led by Anna C. Balazs, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt, with post-doctoral associates Oleg E. Shklyaev and Henry Shum. Experiments at Penn State were conducted by Ayusman Sen, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and graduate students S. Das, A. Altemose, I.Ortiz-Rivera and L. Valdez. Their combined theoretical and experimental findings could enable controllable transport of particles and cells, allowing highly sensitive chemical assays to be performed more rapidly and efficiently.“One of the critical challenges in transporting microparticles within devices is delivering the particle to a specific location,” Dr. Balazs explained. “Much like a conveyor belt in a factory, you want to move the particle within a closed system without any modification to its surface or damage to its structure.”Dr. Balazs noted that in addition to successfully delivering the particles, the other challenges the researchers faced were maintaining unidirectional flow from point A to point B within a closed chamber, and ensuring that a critical concentration of these particles could be delivered to sensors, which only operate above a critical threshold. The solution was to generate a gradient of a chemical reagent by introducing the reagent at one end of the chamber, point A. Enzymes on the surface of the chamber consumed the reagent so that it was completely depleted at the point B. Since the presence of the reagent increases the fluid density, a density gradient was established between points A and B, leading to convective flow that transported particles like a conveyor belt. “Previously, to generate spontaneous propulsion of microparticles, one needed to chemically modify the surface of these particles, thus altering their inherent properties,” Dr. Balazs said. “Moreover, modifying the particle’s surface does not necessarily allow you to direct its motion within the chamber. We were able to predicate through our computational models and demonstrate in the experiments performed at Penn State that the flow generated by the catalytic chemical reaction in the chamber could effectively transport particles to a particular sensor, and could permit control over the speed and direction of the particle transport, without having to use an external pump or any modification of the cargo.”“Utilizing catalytic reactions to drive fluids to controllably transport particulates in solution is a relatively new field, even though it’s what our bodies do at any given moment when converting food to fuel. Replicating it within a synthetic system however is very difficult,” Dr. Sen added. “In our lab, we were able to design a “machine” without the need for a mechanical device that could be used many times over simply by adding fuel to the chamber, while allowing the particle to remain a passive participant along for the ride.” ### Image above: Particles transported along a channel by chemically-driven fluid flow. The flow is generated by reagent entering at one end of the channel (A) and reacting at the enzyme covered surface. The cargo is deposited at position B, which can be controlled by varying the reaction rate. (Oleg E. Shklyaev and Henry Shum)


Swanson School well-represented among recipients of 2017 Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds from the Innovation Institute

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (January 30, 2017) ... The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute has awarded $140,000 to four Pitt Innovator teams to help them move their discoveries towards commercialization, where they can make a positive impact on society. The Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds were established to provide support for promising early-stage Pitt innovations to assist in reducing the technical and/or market risk associated with the innovations and make them more attractive to investors or potential licensees. One of the paths for identifying funding opportunities is through a request for proposal program that was launched in November of 2016 and recently culminated in these awards. “We are thrilled to be able to provide these funds to entrepreneurial Pitt faculty and graduate students to help expedite their commercialization journey,” said Marc Malandro, Founding Director of the Innovation Institute. “Often the most difficult hurdle to climb for commercializing University research is providing so-called ‘gap’ funding that can bridge the space between a promising idea and a marketable product.” The teams were selected by a panel of judges from a pool of two dozen applicants that was narrowed into a group of 10 finalists. The judges included several members of the region’s innovation and entrepreneurship community. They included: Nehal Bhojak – Director of Innovation, Idea Foundry Malcolm Handelsman – President, Pittsburgh Chapter, Keiretsu Forum Jim Jordan – President, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Andy Kuzneski – President, Kuzneski Financial Group Rich Lunak – President & CEO, InnovationWorks Mike Stubler — Managing Director, Draper Triangle Ventures “There were an impressive array of technologies presented by the finalists for the Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds. The business applications ranged from novel technologies for cancer therapy and biosensors for congestive heart failure to next generation LED displays and water desalination solutions.  The projects demonstrate not only the breadth of the University of Pittsburgh’s research prowess, but also the excellent coaching and preparation the innovators received from Pitt’s Innovation Institute,” Lunak said. Two awards of $35,000 each were made for innovations with a one-to-one matching partner: Thermoresponsive Hydrogel for Orbital Volume Augmentation Morgan Fedorchak, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Chemical Engineering and Clinical and Translational Science and Jenny Yu, Assistant Professor and Vice Chair, Clinical Operations Department of Ophthalmology, have discovered a non-degradable hydrogel material that can be injected into the orbit of the eye following ocular trauma or as a treatment for genetic eye disorders. The material can also be used to administer anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medications. The funding will be used to provide proof-of-concept studies. Data from the successful completion of the studies will better position the innovation for application to the Department of Defense for funding to explore the therapeutic potential of the technology. Matching funds will come from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Military Medicine Research, whose mission is to address combat-related injuries. Body Explorer: Autonomous Simulated Patient Douglas Nelson Jr. doctoral candidate in the Department of Bioengineering, John O’Donnell, Professor & Chair Department of Nurse Anesthesia, and Joseph Samosky, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering have developed a mannequin medical simulator with projected augmented reality for training medical professionals in anatomy, physiology and clinical procedures. The team has previously participated in the Coulter Translational Partners II program and the Idea Foundry’s Science Accelerator to advance prototype development and usability testing. The new funding will assist in improving the user interface and expanding the BodyExplorer curriculum modules. Click here to see a video describing their invention. Idea Foundry is providing 1:1 matching cash support, in addition to $25,000 of additional in-kind support to assist in securing additional investment. Two projects received $35,000 awards without a matching requirement. Nano-LED Technology for Microdisplays Hong Koo Kim, Bell of PA/Bell Atlantic Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and doctoral student Daud Hasan Emon have developed nano LED structures that have lower energy costs and longer battery life than existing LED technology. Applications include mobile device displays and other micro-display devices. The new funding will support the advancement of prototypes to demonstrate the breadth of the optimal applications. Reactive Extraction of Water: Desalination Without Membranes or Distillation Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical Engineering, has developed a chemical method for desalinating water that requires less energy than the longstanding existing methods such as reverse osmosis or flash distillation. The award will fund testing to validate the technology. Malandro said the Innovation Institute is working with those teams not chosen in this funding round to receive other education and funding opportunities to advance their discoveries. The Pitt Ventures Gear Program is an NSF I-Corps Site participant that provides an initial grant of $3,000 for teams to conduct customer discovery and value proposition activities. At the conclusion of each six-week First Gear cohort, teams pitch their ideas for the opportunity to receive from $5,000 to $20,000 from the Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds program. The teams are also eligible to apply for a second round of NSF funding of up to $50,000 from the national I-Corps program. The next First Gear cohort begins February 14, 2017. Applications are due February 1. Click here to learn more and apply. ###
Mike Yeomans, Marketing & Special Events Manager, Innovation Institute

Geosciences-Inspired Engineering

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (January 19, 2017) … The Mackenzie Dike Swarm, an ancient geological feature covering an area more than 300 miles wide and 1,900 miles long beneath Canada from the Arctic to the Great Lakes, is the largest dike swarm on Earth. Formed more than one billion years ago, the swarm’s geology discloses insights into major magmatic events and continental breakup. The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today’s modern world. To explore how naturally-occurring dike swarms can lead to improved methods of oil and gas reservoir stimulation, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences awarded a $310,000 award to Andrew Bunger, assistant professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Dike swarms are the result of molten rock (magma) rising from depth and then driving cracks through the Earth’s crust. Dike swarms exhibit a self-organizing behavior that allows hundreds of individual dikes to fan out across large distances. Although petroleum engineers desire to achieve the same effect when creating hydraulic fractures for stimulation of oil and gas production, the industrial hydraulic fractures appear far more likely to localize to only one or two dominant strands. This localization leaves 30-40 percent of most reservoirs in an unproductive state, representing an inefficient use of resources and leading to unnecessary intensity of oil and gas development. In the study, “Self-Organization Mechanisms within Magma-Driven Dyke and Hydraulic Fracture Swarms,” Bunger will take a novel approach to understanding the mechanics of fluid-driven cracks, which he refers to as “geosciences-inspired engineering.” Like the growing field of biologically-inspired engineering, Bunger will be looking to processes in the natural world to better understand the constructed or engineered world. “I would like to challenge myself and the geoscience community to look at naturally occurring morphologies with the eye of an engineer,” says Bunger. “The first part of the study will involve developing a mechanical model to explain the behavior of the dike swarms. We are borrowing from a theoretical framework developed in biology called ‘swarm theory,’ which explains the self-organizing behavior of groups of animals.” Swarm theory, or swarm intelligence, refers to naturally and artificially occurring complex systems with no centralized control structure. The individual agents in the system exhibit simple or even random behavior, but collectively the group achieves emergent, or “intelligent,” behavior. “One of the hallmarks of self-organizing behavior within swarms was recognized by swarm theory’s earliest proponents, who were actually motivated by developing algorithms to simulate flocks and herds in computer animation,” Bunger explains. “They proposed that all swarming behavior can be tied to the presence of three basic forces. One of these leads to alignment of the members with each other – it is what makes a flocking bird fly in the same direction as its neighbors. A second force is associated with repulsion – it keeps birds within a flock from running into each other and knocking each other out of the air. The third force is attraction – an often instinctive desire of certain animals to be near other animals of their own species, typically for protection from predators.” “If you look at dike swarms,” Bunger continues, “They have been called ‘swarms’ for decades, but there has never been an effort to identify the mechanical origins of the three forces that are known to be present any place that swarming morphology is observed. When we view dikes in this way, we see that the alignment and repulsive forces have been recognized for years, although never placed in the broader context of their role in swarming. However, the origin of the attractive force is problematic. Why do all these dikes have any mechanical impetus to grow near each other? Because the mechanical origin of the attractive force has not been known, it is unclear why natural fluid-driven cracks – dikes – tend to exhibit swarming behavior while such an outcome is far less commonly observed in man-made fluid-driven cracks associated with hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas reservoirs.” “We will use computational models and analogue experiments, which use artificial materials to simulate the Earth’s processes, to develop a new theory of fluid-driven crack swarms,” says Bunger. “Through this advance, we would like to improve the stimulation methods used for oil and gas production. This will be a win-win for both industry and our society that depends upon the energy resources they produce. Industry will benefit from more efficient methods, and society will benefit from lower energy costs and a decreased environmental footprint associated with resource extraction.” In addition to a deeper understanding of the geological process that occur throughout Earth’s history, Bunger also sees his research impacting planetary research of Mars and Venus. Both rocky planets contain a large number of giant dike swarms. Understanding how the geometry of dike swarms relates to the conditions in the Earth’s crust at the time of emplacement will lead to a new method for ascertaining the little-known geological structure and history of Mars and Venus though analysis of the geometry of their many giant dike swarms. ### Photo above: Dr. Bunger in his Benedum Hall lab with the newly-installed compression frame he uses to simulate the high-stress environment deep inside the Earth.
Author: Matthew Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards four novel biomedical devices with $77,500 total Round-2 2016 Pilot Funding

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (January 10, 2017) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $77,500 to four research groups through its 2016 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new technology for treatment of diabetes, a medical device for emergency intubation, an innovative method for bone regeneration, and a novel approach for implementing vascular bypass grafts. 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. CMI leadership evaluates proposals based on 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 fifth 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: Intrapancreatic Lipid Nanoparticles to Treat DiabetesAward for further development and testing of use of lipid nanoparticle technology for the induction of α-to-β-cell transdifferentiation to treat diabetes. George Gittes, MDDepartment of Surgery University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Kathryn Whitehead, PhDDepartment of Chemical Engineering Carnegie Mellon University (Secondary appointment at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine) AWARD 2: The Esophocclude - Medical Device for temporary occlusion of the esophagus in patients requiring emergent intubationContinuation award for further refinement of the Esophocclude Medical Device using human cadaver testing to simulate emergency intubation.Philip Carullo, MDResident, PGY-1 Department of Anesthesiology University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Youngjae Chun, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Industrial Engineering Department of Bioengineering (Secondary) University of Pittsburgh AWARD 3: RegenMatrix - Collagen-mimetic Bioactive Hydrogels for Bone RegenerationContinuation award for fully automating the hydrogel fabrication process, for animal studies and for fine-tuning related innovations. Shilpa Sant, PhDAssistant Professor Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Department of Bioengineering University of Pittsburgh Akhil Patel, MS Graduate Student Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences University of Pittsburgh Yadong Wang, PhD Professor Department of Bioengineering University of Pittsburgh Sachin Velankar, PhDAssociate Professor Department of Chemical Engineering University of Pittsburgh Charles Sfeir, DDS, PhD Associate Professor Department of Oral Biology University of Pittsburgh AWARD 4: TopoGraft 2.0 - Anti-platelet surfaces for bypass grafts and artificial hearts using topo-graphic surface actuationContinuation award for in-vivo validating of results and developing a new approach for topographic actuation of the inner lumen of synthetic bypass grafts. Sachin Velankar, PhD Department of Chemical Engineering University of Pittsburgh Luka Pocivavsak, MD, PhD Department of Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Edith Tzeng, MD Department of Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Robert Kormos, MD Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center 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 Innovation Institute, 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. Over 50 early-stage projects have been supported by CMI with a total investment of over $900,000 since inception. ###
Author: Yash P. Mokashi, Fellow, Center for Medical Innovation

University of Pittsburgh to play a lead role in new Department of Energy national institute focused on clean energy research

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (December 20, 2016) … In collaboration with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will be part of a new institute that will leverage a total $70 million contribution by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of its new network of Manufacturing USA Institutes. The Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute, led by AIChE, is the 10th and newest member of this network, which received a five-year commitment from DOE and from private partners and energy industries. The goal is to increase domestic productivity and efficiency of various forms of energy by 20 percent over the next five years through improved manufacturing processes. The RAPID proposal elected the University of Pittsburgh to serve as one of eight lead institutions in the RAPID organizational structure. The University is proposed to be responsible for strategic roadmapping and oversight on all research activity in RAPID’s Natural Gas Upgrading Application Focus Area. Pitt will guide and coordinate member efforts from the portion of 75 industrial partners, 34 academic institutions, seven national laboratories, two other government laboratories, and seven non-governmental organizations in the RAPID community who are targeting Natural Gas Research. The University will provide support through its multiple labs and centers dedicated to energy, process intensification, advanced manufacturing, simulation modeling, and leverage Swanson School faculty expertise in natural gas and unconventional fuels research. Heading up the Pitt team will be the Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering under the direction of Michael Matuszewski, instructor and Director of External Relationships for Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and Götz Veser, professor and Associate Director of Pitt’s Center for Energy. “Creation of the RAPID Manufacturing Institute comes at a critical time as federal, university and industrial research are transforming how the U.S. improves its domestic energy production and use,” noted Mark Redfern, vice provost for research. “The Swanson School has more than a century of experience in energy research – and also established the first petroleum engineering program in the world – and so we are proud to partner with DOE and AIChE on this national challenge.” According to Dr. Veser, the Pitt team will serve as the first tier of communication with the RAPID leadership in evaluating and recommending selection of natural gas-related projects. “Our focus is to identify more efficient and cost-effective methods to convert natural gas into clean energy and other useful products through advance manufacturing,” Dr. Veser said. “Access to Marcellus and Utica shale deposits has created new opportunities to utilize our natural resources in pursuit of greater independence, and the University of Pittsburgh is geographically located and technically positioned perfectly to lead the efforts towards clean and efficient utilization of these resources.” In addition, the Pitt team said that its current industry partnerships help to provide a stronger connection to identifying potential end-uses, complement existing energy and manufacturing technologies, and even build a more knowledgeable workforce. “The Swanson School’s partnership with industries such as Lubrizol Corporation – which is broad-based but includes a priority on process intensification research – reflects the mission of RAPID and the other Manufacturing Institutes to assure cooperation and to share approaches toward commercialization,” Matuszewski said. “Most importantly for Pitt, the RAPID framework will allow us to scale our existing collaboration model, almost instantaneously; we’ll be able to leverage the advances that RAPID supports to better train students with expertise in new technology approaches and the ability to engineer cutting-edge processes. Moreover, we will position all RAPID students to advance the U.S. workforce by invigorating it with advanced, environmentally-conscious expertise and increasing high tech job opportunities to further strengthen our country’s manufacturing industry.” ###

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