Pitt | Swanson Engineering

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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.

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Wagner and Woo Inducted as Fellows of IAMBE

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Honors & Awards

Two bioengineering faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh were elected as Fellows of the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (IAMBE). William R. Wagner and Savio L-Y. Woo were selected for this competitive election alongside 24 other internationally recognized leaders in the field. To date, there are fewer than 250 Fellows of the Academy throughout the world.Dr. Wagner was selected “for pioneering contributions to regenerative medicine and for integrating engineering expertise within the clinical environment, and championing innovation investment at the state and national level.” Dr. Woo’s election is “for pivotal contributions and leadership in biomechanics and bioengineering, leading to revolutionary treatments and rehabilitation strategies for improved patient care for ligament and tendon injuries worldwide.”“IAMBE Fellowship recognizes an individual for his/her outstanding contributions to the profession of medical and biological engineering,” said Sanjeev G. Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt. “I am delighted to note that two of our colleagues, Dr. Savio Woo and Dr. William Wagner, were among the 26 IAMBE Fellows elected worldwide this year. Both of them have made seminal contributions to the field of bioengineering through their research, mentoring, and professional service and leadership, and they both are most deserving of this recognition. We are proud and honored to have them as a part of the Pitt bioengineering community.”About William R. WagnerDirector of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Bioengineering and Chemical EngineeringDr. Wagner serves as Scientific Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center on “Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials” and Chief Science Officer for the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine. He is the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of one of the leading biomaterials journals, Acta Biomaterialia. He is past-president of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO) and past chairman of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) Americas region. He is a fellow and former vice president of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and has also been elected a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering, TERMIS, and the American Heart Association. In 2006 he was selected to the “Scientific American 50,” the magazine’s annual list recognizing leaders in science and technology from the research, business and policy fields.Dr. Wagner's research interests are in cardiovascular engineering with projects that address medical device biocompatibility and design, biomaterial development, and tissue engineering. His work has generated numerous patents (36 issued to date) and patent filings that have resulted in licensing activity, the formation of two companies, one of which initiated two clinical trials. (Read more)About Savio L-Y. WooDistinguished University Professor Emeritus of Bioengineering, Swanson School of EngineeringDr. Woo is the Founder and Director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center, a diverse multidisciplinary research and educational center in the Department of Bioengineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. He arrived at the University in 1990 after spending 20 years at the University of California, San Diego as a Professor of Surgery and Bioengineering. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (1991) (formerly the Institute of Medicine), the National Academy of Engineering (1994), and the Academia Sinica (1996), only one of five persons who have gained all three of these honors.Dr. Woo, a pioneer in bioengineering, is renowned for his 50 years of translational research and education to improve healing and repair of soft tissues. He and his colleagues have published 311 original research papers that have led to paradigm shifts in clinical management to improve patient outcomes. He has educated more than 500 orthopaedic surgeons, post-doctoral fellows and students from across the globe and has also successfully mentored 37 junior faculty members. (Read more)

Storing the Sun’s Energy

Banner, Chemical & Petroleum, Grants

Solar and wind are at the forefront of the clean energy movement in the global effort to mitigate the effects of climate change. These renewable energy sources effectively lower carbon emissions, but the imbalance between energy production and energy demands remains an obstacle.Solar panels, for example, transform sunlight directly into electricity, but the electricity must either be used immediately after it is generated or stored using batteries or other means. And because storage technologies are not yet as mature as solar panels, fossil fuels are still used for back-up energy when the sun is not available.To address this challenge and make clean, renewable energy a continuous power source, a team of researchers received $1,100,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy. Instead of using solar power to produce electricity, they plan to store it directly in a chemical fuel. And they took inspiration from nature itself to achieve this goal.“During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and water from the air and soil, and light sets off a reaction that produces oxygen and energy stored in sugars, like glucose,” said James McKone, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering. “In this project, we want to mimic this natural process by using non-biological materials to create a sort of ‘artificial photosynthesis.’”The collaborative group, led by Giner Labs in Newton, Mass., will improve existing solar-powered water electrolysis technology to extract hydrogen from water and use it as a fuel source.“Hydrogen is attractive because it is a fuel with no carbon,” McKone explained. “It is storable, transportable, and burns cleanly, producing power without polluting the environment.”The goal of the project is to create a technology that works roughly 10 times better than the most efficient green plants.“When you design a product, it needs to be efficient, cost-effective, and robust,” McKone added. “No one has successfully combined all three of these characteristics in one fuel-generating device.”Current high performance water electrolysis technology operates under acidic conditions, a costly characteristic that can degrade device materials. In this work, the research team will develop a less corrosive system that works under basic (alkaline) conditions, which could significantly lower costs and improve long-term stability.“The simple switch from an acidic polymer electrolyte to an alkaline one allows us to remove all of the expensive metals such as iridium, platinum, and titanium from the electrolyzer system, and this paradigm shift is critical for making the generated hydrogen cost competitive,” said Yushan Yan, CEO of Versogen, who will also collaborate on the project. “Versogen has been aiming to develop the world’s best alkaline polymer electrolytes and is really excited to work together closely with University of Pittsburgh and Giner for this important project.”This award is part of the DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which was established to encourage diverse communities to participate in technological innovation, as well as create a bridge between DOE-supported science breakthroughs and viable products and services for the commercial market.

Engineering Catalysts That Turn Seawater into Fuel

Chemical & Petroleum, Grants

What if aircraft carriers could rely on the most abundant of local resources—seawater—to fuel the planes on board?Thanks to seawater-to-fuel technology that has been in development for several years, scientists are able to use the onboard nuclear reactor and harness the carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater to create a liquid fuel that can power a jet engine. The technology would allow aircraft carriers to remain in continuous operation and avoid relying on tanker ships to replenish their fuel.However, designing catalysts that can effectively create jet fuel from these common compounds is a difficult and costly process.Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Rochester seek to improve this process in a project that recently received $300,000 from the Department of Defense Office of Naval Research. The project, led by the University of Rochester’s Marc Porosoff and Pitt’s Giannis Mpourmpakis, will refine a crucial step in the seawater-to-fuel process, making it more energy efficient, safer, and scalable.The first step of fuel synthesis is converting the carbon dioxide (CO2) extracted from seawater into carbon monoxide (CO). Last summer, the team successfully demonstrated that molybdenum carbide catalysts efficiently and reliably convert CO2 to CO, achieving this critical first step in turning seawater into fuel. The newly funded project will expand on the previous work, seeking to further hydrogenate the carbon monoxide into usable fuels using Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.“Our goal with this project is to tune hydrocarbon selectivity during the hydrogenation of a mixture of CO and CO2,” said Porosoff, who is an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Rochester and principal investigator of the project. “To do that, we’ll design, synthesize and test bimetallic, zeolite-based catalysts that selectively hydrogenate CO and create specific compounds, like olefins and heavier hydrocarbons, that can be used as fuels.”Zeolites—minerals that contain aluminum and silicon—are commonly used as commercial catalysts. The researchers expect that catalysts based on zeolites and bimetallic particles will result in enhanced activity, selectivity and stability in the seawater-to-fuel application. The catalysts offer several other benefits, as well: They avoid reliance on expensive and rare precious metals and are highly tunable, meaning that researchers can control the acid-base properties to stabilize the desired reaction.Mpourmpakis, associate professor of chemical engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and co-PI on the project, leads the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELa), which specializes in using theory and computation to investigate the physicochemical properties of nanomaterials for applications in catalysis, green energy generation and storage, and materials engineering. To test their hypothesis, Porosoff and Mpourmpakis will use computational modeling and machine learning to identify the characteristics of catalysts most likely to achieve their goal: the selective hydrogenation of CO in a mixture of CO and CO2, limiting unwanted reactions that make less useful compounds like methane.“This work will combine computational and experimental approaches to hopefully result in significant time, energy and cost savings over conventional experimental approaches,” said Mpourmpakis, who is also the Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow at Pitt. “These control experiments are essential for the design of an integrated, modular system, and enable the implementation of the ‘seawater to fuel’ process in a way that is safe and efficient for the U.S. Navy.”The two-year project is titled “Selective CO Hydrogenation Over Bimetallic Nanoparticles” and began on April 1st 2021.

William Federspiel Receives the 2020-2021 Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award

Honors & Awards, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 28, 2021) ... The current COVID-19 pandemic has not only shaken the healthcare industry but also delivered more than a year of social and economic disruption across the globe. During this time, innovators at the University of Pittsburgh quickly adapted their research to meet new safety standards and managed to tackle the effects of the pandemic.On April 22, the Innovation Institute recognized Pitt faculty, students and staff who thrived, despite these unprecedented circumstances, at its 2020-2021 Celebration of Innovation.William Federspiel, John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, received the Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award for his consistent dedication to achieving societal impact through commercial application of his research. This prestigious award honors Professor Mickle, a Pitt innovator who holds the University record for invention disclosures filed, patents issued, and startups formed.“I am honored and thankful to be this year’s recipient of the Marlin Mickle Innovation Award. I’m also humbled knowing many of the past recipients of this award,” said Federspiel, who also holds appointments in chemical engineering, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, critical care medicine, and the Clinical Translation Institute. “This award has personal meaning for me. I always knew Marlin to be a scholar and an innovator, but through conversation, I recognized that he was the ultimate gentleman and extremely humble.”Federspiel directs the Medical Devices Laboratory wherein clinically significant devices are developed for the treatment of pulmonary and cardiovascular ailments by utilizing engineering principles of fluid flow and mass transfer. He is also a co-founder of ALung Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based medical device company, at which he now serves as head of the scientific advisory board.Among Federspiel’s innovations is the Hemolung® Respiratory Assist System (RAS), a minimally invasive device that does the work of the lungs by removing carbon dioxide from the blood. During the coronavirus pandemic, the device received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for COVID-19.“It is an amazingly rewarding experience to develop technologies that help save lives,” Federspiel said. “[ALung Technologies] did an amazing job creating the Hemolung RAS system that was seeded in my laboratory.“Last year we experienced the beginning of a once in a lifetime pandemic. While I was already proud that the Hemolung RAS device was in FDA clinical trials for approval, I was ecstatic when I learned the company sought and obtained EUA authorization from the FDA to treat severe COVID-19 patients,” he added. “Obviously, these are circumstances I would have never envisioned 25 years ago when I joined Pitt. It came from the hard work of many individuals both at the University and the company.”Click here to watch Dr. Federspiel’s acceptance speech.To date, 97 COVID-19 patients have been treated using the Hemolung® RAS device, and the company has experienced increased demand as a result of the pandemic.Federspiel has developed additional artificial lung platforms that combine fiber technology with cellular and biomolecular components to create biohybrid artificial lung tissue and bioactive hollow fibers. Some of his other innovations include a membrane and particle-based blood purification devices for use in critical care settings; improved transport models for drug delivery from nanoparticles and microparticles; and oxygen depletion devices for blood storage systems that will extend the shelf life of red cell units and deliver red cells of higher efficacy and lower toxicity for transfusion therapy.“Although publication is one of the core activities of academia, the ultimate goal of bioengineering research is to make a real-world impact, e.g., improve health care. Bill has dedicated his career to translating novel research findings into improved treatments of cardiopulmonary diseases – this is perhaps his highest contribution,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering.During his time at Pitt, Federspiel has submitted 32 invention disclosures, been issued 14 patents, and has had his work licensed 11 times. He is an elected Fellow of several prestigious professional organizations such as the National Academy of Inventors, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs. In 2019, he received the Carnegie Science Award for Life Sciences.# # #

University of Pittsburgh’s Anna C. Balazs elected to National Academy of Sciences

Honors & Awards, Chemical & Petroleum, Diversity

Anna C. Balazs, an award-winning University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Professor in the Swanson School of Engineering, has added one of the nation’s top honors to her portfolio. The National Academy of Sciences announced today that Balazs is among its 120 newly elected members, recognizing distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.Balazs, who also holds the John A. Swanson Chair of Engineering in the Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, is internationally recognized for her theoretical and computational modeling of polymers. For the past decade, her research has focused on mimicking biological processes in polymeric materials which could contribute to the advancement of soft robotics or “squishy robots.”“Throughout her career, Anna has advanced the field of materials and computational modeling, and we are so proud that the National Academy of Sciences has bestowed her with this honor,” said James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “Her research has built the foundation for future materials and their use in ways that even only a decade ago were science fiction. She has fulfilled the passion of every engineer – to create new knowledge that one day will benefit the human condition. I congratulate her on this exceptional achievement and look forward to one day celebrating with her in person.”Balazs, a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Materials Research Society, has also received some of the leading awards in her field, including the Royal Society of Chemistry S F Boys - A Rahman Award (2015), the American Chemical Society Langmuir Lecture Award (2014), and the Mines Medal from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (2013). In 2106 she was named the first woman to receive the prestigious Polymer Physics Prize from the American Physical Society.“The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh could not be more proud of Anna’s selection to the National Academy of Science, which is one of the highest honors bestowed upon a U.S. scientist,” noted Steven R. Little, Department Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “There is no one more deserving than Anna. She has envisioned (and continues to envision) the materials that future generations will use to create a better world, and she continues to lead scientists to make these materials a reality. She is a role model to our faculty and our students. Her work in her field is truly unparalleled in its breadth, quality and impact.”This year’s NAS member cohort includes 59 women, the most elected in a single year. “The historic number of women elected this year reflects the critical contributions that they are making in many fields of science, as well as a concerted effort by our Academy to recognize those contributions and the essential value of increasing diversity in our ranks,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt in the announcement.Anna C. Balazs (second from left) presents her Provost Inaugural lecture on 13 September 2018, recognizing her Distinguished Professorship. To her left is Chancellor Patrick Gallagher; from her right is Provost Ann Cudd and Dean James R. Martin II. (Photo: Aimee Obidzinski)# # #About Dr. BalazsPrior to joining the University of Pittsburgh in 1987, Anna C. Balazs held a postdoctoral position in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Balazs' research involves theoretical and computational modeling of the thermodynamic and kinetic behavior of polymer blends and composites. She is also investigating the properties of polymers at surfaces and interfaces.Her awards and recognitions include the Polymer Physics Prize (2016); S. F. Boys-A. Rahman Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Faraday Division (2015); ACS Langmuir Lecture Award (2014); Greater Pittsburgh Women Chemists Committee Award for Excellence in the Chemical Sciences (2014); Fellow, Materials Research Society (2014); South Dakota School of Mines’ Mines Medal (2013); Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2010); Donaldson Lecturer, University of Minnesota (2007); Honoree, “Women in the Material World,” Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania (2006); Maurice Huggins Award of the Gordon Research Conference for outstanding contributions to Polymer Science (2003); Visiting Fellow, Corpus Christi College, Oxford University (2000 – 2001; 2007- 2008); Special Creativity Award, National Science Foundation, (1999-2001); Fellow, American Physical Society (1993); and Invited Participant, National Academy of Sciences' 6th Annual Frontiers of Science Symposium (November 3-5, 1994).About the National AcademiesThe National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars. Established by an Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the NAS is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Scientists are elected by their peers to membership in the NAS for outstanding contributions to research. The NAS is committed to furthering science in America, and its members are active contributors to the international scientific community. Approximately 500 current and deceased members of the NAS have won Nobel Prizes, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, founded in 1914, is today one of the premier international journals publishing the results of original research.The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM, formerly the Institute of Medicine) -- were founded under the NAS charter in 1964 and 1970, respectively. The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine. The National Academies' service to government has become so essential that Congress and the White House have issued legislation and executive orders over the years that reaffirm its unique role.4/26/2021Contact: Paul Kovach

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