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.

Read our latest newsletter below



Jan
10
2019

Pitt’s Susan Fullerton recognized with James Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching Chemical Engineering

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (January 10, 2019) … Marking her ability to inspire students through novel demonstrations of complex subjects as well as her mentoring of women and underrepresented minorities, the University of Pittsburgh’s Susan Fullerton was awarded the 2018 James Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum  Engineering. Dr. Fullerton, an assistant professor at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, was recognized at the end of the fall semester.The Pommersheim Award was established by the Department and James M. Pommersheim '70 to recognize departmental faculty in the areas of lecturing, teaching, research methodology, and research mentorship of students. Dr. Pommersheim, formerly Professor of Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University, received his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in chemical engineering from Pitt.“Susan’s accomplishments in teaching over such a short period of time speak to the heart of the Pommersheim award. Her imaginative use of hands-on experiments and demonstrations create a tremendous amount of enthusiasm among our students and generate her impressive teaching scores to match,” noted Steven Little, department chair and professor. “Also, Susan’s presentations on the “imposter syndrome” and achieving work-life balance have generated tremendous campus interest.  She has candidly shared her own experiences to help our students understand that feeling like an imposter is normal, and can drive further successes.”In addition to her commitment to the University classroom, Dr. Fullerton will extend her teaching passion to area K-12 students thanks to a coveted National Science Foundation CAREER Award, which recognizes exemplary young faculty and encourages outreach to children and underrepresented students. The CAREER Award will support a PhD student and postdoctoral researcher, as well as an outreach program to inspire curiosity and engagement of K-12 and underrepresented students in materials for next-generation electronics. Specifically, Dr. Fullerton has developed an activity where students can watch the polymer electrolytes used in her NSF study crystallize in real-time using an inexpensive camera attached to a smart phone or iPad. The CAREER award will allow Dr. Fullerton to provide this microscope to classrooms so that the teachers can continue exploring with their students. ### About Susan FullertonDr. Fullerton and her research group use the interplay between ions and electrons to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic and energy storage. In addition to the NSF Career award, she has also been awarded the AAAS Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in Chemical Sciences (2018), and an ORAU Ralph E. Powe Jr. Faculty Award (2016). Prior to joining Pitt in fall 2015, Fullerton was a Research Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. She earned her bachelor of science and PhD degrees in chemical engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.

Jan
8
2019

Pitt Engineers Identify Novel, Affordable CO2 Capture Materials for Coal Power Plants

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (January 8, 2019) … A computational modeling method developed at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering may help to fast-track the identification and design of new carbon capture and storage materials for use by the nation’s coal-fired power plants. The hypothetical mixed matrix membranes would provide a more economical solution than current methods, with a predicted cost of less than $50 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) removed. The research group - led by Christopher Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, in collaboration with co-investigator Jan Steckel, research scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Pittsburgh-based AECOM - published its findings in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy & Environmental Science (“High-throughput computational prediction of the cost of carbon capture using mixed matrix membranes,” DOI: 10.1039/C8EE02582G). “Polymer membranes have been used for decades to filter and purify materials, but are limited in their use for carbon capture and storage,” noted Dr. Wilmer, who leads the Hypothetical Materials Lab at the Swanson School. “Mixed matrix membranes, which are polymeric membranes with small, inorganic particles dispersed in the material, show extreme promise because of their separation and permeability properties. However, the number of potential polymers and inorganic particles is significant, and so finding the best combination for carbon capture can be daunting.”According to Dr. Wilmer, the researchers built upon their extensive research in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which are highly porous crystalline materials created via the self-assembly of inorganic metal with organic linkers. These MOFs, which can store a higher volume of gases than traditional tanks, are highly versatile and can be made from a variety of materials and custom designed with specific properties. Dr. Wilmer and his group explored existing databases of hypothetical and real MOFs for their research, resulting in more than one million potential mixed matrix membranes. They then compared the predicted gas permeation of each material with published data, and evaluated them based on a three-stage capture process. Variables such as flow rate, capture fraction, pressure and temperature conditions were optimized as a function of membrane properties with the goal of identifying specific mixed matrix membranes that would yield an affordable carbon capture cost.  The potential implications for the Wilmer group’s research are tremendous. Although coal-generated power plants in the U.S. alone currently represent only 30 percent of nation’s energy portfolio, in 2017 they contributed the largest share of 1,207 million metric tons of CO2, or 69 percent of the total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions by the entire U.S. electric power sector. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.)“Our computational modeling of both hypothetical and real MOFs resulted in a new database of more than a million mixed matrix membranes with corresponding CO2 capture performance and associated costs,” Dr. Wilmer said. “Further techno-economic analyses yielded 1,153 mixed matrix membranes with a carbon capture cost of less than $50 per ton removed. Thus, the potential exists for creating an economically affordable and efficient means of CO2 capture at coal power plants throughout the world and effectively tackling a significant source of fossil fuel-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” ### This technical effort was performed in support of the National Energy Technology Laboratory's ongoing research under RES contract DE-FE0004000. Funding was provided in part from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF award CBET-1653375).DisclaimerThis project was funded by the Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory, an agency of the United States Government, through a support contract with AECOM. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, nor AECOM, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

Jan
7
2019

ChemE Asst Professor Opening

Chemical & Petroleum, Open Positions

The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position at the assistant professor rank. Successful candidates are expected to show exceptional potential to become leaders in their respective fields, and to contribute to teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The Department has internationally recognized programs in Energy and Sustainability, Catalysis and Reaction Engineering, Materials, Multi-Scale Modeling, and Biomedical engineering.  Active collaborations exist with several adjacent centers, including the University of Pittsburgh Center for Simulation and Modeling, the Petersen Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, The University of Pittsburgh Center for Energy, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the U.S. DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory. The department also has a broad strategic alliance with the Lubrizol Corporation, a leading specialty chemicals company, with a particular focus on process intensification. We are seeking faculty who can contribute strategically to departmental strengths, but outstanding applicants in all areas will be considered. To apply, submit CV, names of four references, and research and teaching plans as a single PDF file to: Professor Götz Veser; Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering; University of Pittsburgh.  Applications accepted via email only to che@pitt.edu. To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by February 28, 2019. Candidates from groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering are strongly encouraged to apply. One of the major strategic goals of the university is to “Embrace Diversity and Inclusion”; therefore, the candidate should be committed to high-quality teaching and research for a diverse student body and to assisting our department in enhancing diversity in all forms. The University of Pittsburgh is an EEO/AA/M/F/Vet/Disabled employer.

Professor Götz Veser
Jan
2
2019

A Catalytic Flying Carpet

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (January 2, 2019) … The “magic carpet” featured in tales from "One Thousand and One Nights” to Disney’s “Aladdin” captures the imagination not only because it can fly, but because it can also wave, flap, and alter its shape to serve its riders. With that inspiration, and the assistance of catalytic chemical reactions in solutions, a team from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has designed a two-dimensional, shape-changing sheet that moves autonomously in a reactant-filled fluid. The article, “Designing self-propelled, chemically-active sheets: Wrappers, flappers and creepers,” was published recently in the AAAS journal Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav1745). Principal investigator is Anna C. Balazs, the John A. Swanson Chair and Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. Lead author is Abhrajit Laskar, and co-author is Oleg E. Shklyaev, both post-doctoral associates.“It’s long been a challenge in chemistry to create a non-living object that moves on its own within an environment, which in turn alters the object’s shape, allowing it to carry out brand new tasks, like trapping other objects,” Dr. Balazs explained. “Researchers previously have made chemically active patches on a surface that could generate fluid flow, but the flow didn’t influence the location or shape of the patch. And in our own lab we’ve modeled spherical and rectangular particles that can move autonomously within a fluid-filled microchamber. But now we have this integrated system that utilizes a chemical reaction to activate the fluid motion that simultaneously transports a flexible object and “sculpts” its shape, and it all happens autonomously.”The group accomplished this feat of self-propulsion and reconfiguration by introducing a coating of catalysts on the flexible sheet, which is roughly the width of a human hair. The addition of reactants to the surrounding fluid initiates both the carpet’s motion and the changes of its form. “To best of our knowledge, this is the first time these catalytic chemical reactions have been applied to 2D sheets to generate flows that transform these sheets into mobile, 3D objects,” Dr. Balazs said. Further, by placing different catalysts on specific areas of the sheet and controlling the amount and type of reactants in the fluid, the group created a useful cascade of catalytic reactions where one catalyst breaks down an associated chemical, which then becomes a reactant for the next of the set of catalytic reactions. Adding different reactants and designing appropriate configurations of the sheet allows for a variety of actions – in this study, enwrapping an object, making a flapping motion, and tumbling over obstacles on a surface. “A microfluidic device that contains these active sheets can now perform vital functions, such as shuttling cargo, grabbing a soft, delicate object, or even creeping along to clean a surface,” Dr. Shklyaev said. “These flexible micro-machines simply convert chemical energy into spontaneous reconfiguration and movement, which enables them to accomplish a repertoire of useful jobs.”Dr. Laskar added that if the sheet is cut into the shape of a four-petal flower and placed on the surface of a microfluidic device, the chemistry of the petals can be “programmed” to open and close individually, creating gates that perform logic operations, as well as generate particular fluid flows to transport particles throughout the device.“For example, like a catcher’s mitt you can use the petals of the flower to trap a microscopic ball and hold it for a finite time, then initiate a new chemical reaction on a different set of petals so that the ball moves between them in a chemically-directed game of catch,” Dr. Laskar explained. “This level of spatial and temporal control allows for staged reactions and analyses that you otherwise couldn’t perform with non-deformable materials.” The group also experimented with the placement of the catalyst on different parts of the sheet to create specific motions. In one experiment, placing the catalyst on just the body of the sheet, rather than the head and tail, triggered a creeping movement eerily similar to the movement of an inchworm. In another realization, when obstacles were placed in front of the coated sheet, it would tumble over the obstacle and continue moving, allowing it to traverse a bumpy terrain. “This research gives us further insight into how chemistry can drive autonomous, spontaneous actuation and locomotion in microfluidic devices,” Dr. Balazs said. “Our next task is to explore microfabrication by using the interaction and self-organization of multiple sheets to bring them together into specific architectures designed to perform complex, coordinated functions. Also, by experimenting with different stimuli such as heat and light, we can design mobile, 3D micro-machines that adapt their shape and action to changes in the environment. This level of responsive behavior is vital to creating the next generation of soft robotic devices.” ###

Dec
17
2018

Two Dimensions Are Better Than Three

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (December 17, 2018) … For the past sixty years, the electronics industry and the average consumer have benefited from the continuous miniaturization, increased storage capacity and decreased power consumption of electronic devices. However, this era of scaling that has benefited humanity is rapidly coming to end. To continue shrinking the size and power consumption of electronics, new materials and new engineering approaches are needed. Susan Fullerton, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, is tackling that challenge by develop next-generation electronics based on all two-dimensional materials. These “all 2D” materials are similar to a sheet of paper – if the paper were only a single molecule thick. Her research into these super-thin materials was recognized by the National Science Foundation with a $540,000 CAREER award, which supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. “The advent of new computing paradigms is pushing the limit of what traditional semiconductor devices can provide,” Dr. Fullerton said. “For example, machine learning will require nanosecond response speeds, sub-volt operation, 1,000 distinct resistance states, and other aspects that no existing device technology can provide. “We’ve known for a long time that ions – like the ones in lithium-ion batteries – are very good at controlling how charge moves in these ultra-thin semiconductors,” she noted. “In this project, we are reimagining the role of ions in high-performance electronics. By layering successive molecule-sized layers on top of each other, we aim to increase storage capacity, decrease power consumption, and vastly accelerate processing speed .”1 To build this all 2D device, Fullerton and her group invented a new type of ion-containing material, or electrolyte, which is only a single molecule thick. This “monolayer electrolyte” will ultimately introduce new functions that can be used by the electronic materials community to explore the fundamental properties of new semiconductor materials and to develop electronics with completely new device characteristics. According to Dr. Fullerton, there are several important application spaces where the materials and approaches developed in this CAREER research could have an impact: information storage, brain-inspired computing, and security, in particular. In addition to developing the monolayer electrolytes, the NSF award will support a PhD student and postdoctoral researcher, as well as an outreach program to inspire curiosity and engagement of K-12 and underrepresented students in materials for next-generation electronics. Specifically, Dr. Fullerton has developed an activity where students can watch the polymer electrolytes used in this study crystallize in real-time using an inexpensive camera attached to a smart phone or iPad. The CAREER award will allow Dr. Fullerton to provide this microscope to classrooms so that the teachers can continue exploring with their students. “When the students get that portable microscope in their hands – they get really creative,” she said. “After they watch what happens to the polymer, they go exploring. They look at the skin on their arm, the chewing gum out of their mouth, or the details of the fabric on their clothing. It’s amazing to watch this relatively inexpensive tool spark curiosity in the materials that are all around them, and that’s the main goal.” Dr. Fullerton noted that her research takes a truly novel approach to ion utilization, which has traditionally been avoided by the semiconductor community. “Ions are often ignored because if you cannot control their location, they can ruin a device. So the idea of using ions not just as a tool to explore fundamental properties, but as an integral device component is extremely exciting and risky,” explained Dr. Fullerton. “If adopted, ions coupled with 2D materials could represent a paradigm shift in high-performance computing because we need brand new materials with exciting new physics and properties that are no longer limited by size.” 1Schematic of nanoionic memory device to be developed in this CAREER award. Molecularly thin sheets are stacked on top of each other to create an ultra-thin memory based on ions interacting with two-dimensional materials. ### About Susan FullertonDr. Fullerton and her research group use the interplay between ions and electrons to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic and energy storage. She has also been awarded the AAAS Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in Chemical Sciences (2018), and an ORAU Ralph E. Powe Jr. Faculty Award (2016). Prior to joining Pitt in fall 2015, Fullerton was a Research Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. She earned her Bachelor of Science and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. For more information visit the Fullerton Group.

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