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May

May
24
2019

New Partnership Expands Research into Rechargeable Battery Systems

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (May 24, 2019) — Energy storage influences every part of modern life, from the cell phone in your pocket to the electric car on the highway. However, seeing the chemistry of what is happening inside a battery while it is in use is indeed tricky, but it could have remarkable opportunities for identifying new materials as well as improving the battery itself. Now, the Next-Generation Energy Conversion and Storage Technologies Lab (NECSTL) at the University of Pittsburgh’s Energy Innovation Center has announced a new energy research partnership with Malvern Panalytical that will enable the lab to do exactly that. The NECSTL, headed by Prashant N. Kumta, PhD, focuses on energy conversion and storage, including rechargeable battery systems. Malvern Panalytical’s Empyrean X-ray Platform, a multipurpose diffractometer, will be used in the lab to identify solid-state materials by determining their internal structure, composition and phase while they are in use. “For example, it can be used to determine what happens to an electrode and electrolyte material as the main active component is removed and brought back during a electrochemical reaction, such as in the case of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery,” explains Prashant N. Kumta, PhD, Edward R. Weidlein Chair professor of Bioengineering. Dr. Kumta also holds appointments in chemical and petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine, and oral biology. “This understanding will lead to new discoveries of mechanisms and operation, which can result in new materials discovery and new designs for significantly increasing the performance of batteries and fuel cells.” Dr. Kumta also believes that the partnership will enable the design of new instrumentation for further in-situ diagnostics of energy storage and conversion systems. The new partnership and equipment was celebrated on May 23 at the Energy Innovation Center, where attendees got a first look at the Empyrean up close.
Maggie Pavlick

Apr

Apr
25
2019

Biomimicry of Basic Instinct

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 25, 2019) … Collaboration and competition are basic instincts among biological species, from the simplest single-celled organisms to reptiles, fish and primates, as well as humans. This dynamic behavior – the result of millions of years of evolution – is difficult to replicate in synthetic systems. However, chemical engineers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have recreated these responses in an environment of microscopic particles, sheets, and catalysts, effectively mimicking responses of feeding, fighting, and fleeing. Their research, “Collaboration and completion between active sheets for self-propelled particles,” was published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1901235116). 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. As a lead-up to this work, Dr. Balazs et al used computational modeling to design chemically active sheets that were able to wrap, flap and creep in a fluid-filled microchamber, leveraging the potential to create flexible or “squishy” robots for fluidic environments. For the PNAS article, the researchers designed fluidic systems that shape the catalyst-coated sheets into a form resembling a crab with four “claws,” creating the predator that can chemically “hunt” its particle prey. “As we develop future robotics and smart devices, it’s important to understand the limits to imitating biological functions in human-made machines. It is also critical to understand whether artificial systems can collaborate or compete for resources,” Dr. Balazs explained. “If we can replicate this interdependency, we can help establish the foundation for robots or other devices to work together toward a common goal.”To affect this behavior, Balazs and her associates utilized the catalyst on the sheets to convert reactants to products within a microchamber. This reaction creates variations in the chemical composition and fluid density, which change the two-dimensional sheets into 3D “crabs” and propel both the crabs and the particles in the fluid. As the crabs generate chemical gradients in one area, the particles respond by attempting to “flee” from this area, forming a highly interdependent system. This interdependency also impacted the environment when a second crab was added to the fluid – once the reactant was introduced, the two crabs mimicked cooperation to “share” particles. However, if a larger crab was introduced, it would compete with the smaller shapes to capture all the particles for itself. “In some cases, the big crab can’t catch the small particles, but when we add more crabs they appear to collaborate like a pack of wolves,” Dr. Shklyaev explains. “Likewise, when an even larger predator enters the microchamber, the “hunger” it generates with a larger catalytic surface area will dominate the behavior of the smaller predator sheets.”Dr. Laskar says that the simplicity of this system is that the only programming involved is the introduction of the chemical reagent into the system. “Once we added a reactant into the microchamber, all the biomimetic behaviors occurred spontaneously,” he said. “We can then tailor the extent to which the particles respond to chemical gradients, because different particles will respond in different ways. So changing the property of even one type of object alters the interdependency of the whole system.”According to Dr. Balazs, the new findings indicate the ability to control activity within the microchamber in space and time, thereby enabling the sheets to respond to different commands only by changing the reactants added to the solution. “Our computations reveal the ability to direct microscopic objects to perform specific functions, such as transporting cells or building complex structures,” she said. “These design rules have the potential to diversify the functionality of microfluidic devices, allowing them to accomplish significantly more complex tasks.” ### Acknowledgements: This research is made possible through funding from NSF Grant 1740630, CCI Phase I, Center for Chemo-Mechanical Assembly, and computational facilities at the Center for Research Computing at the University of Pittsburgh. Biomimicry of Feeding: The enzyme-coated sheet generates an inward flow which pulls in fleeing, self-propelled particles (yellow spheres). Within the sheet or crab, the catalase-coated nodes are marked in green, and the heavier nodes at the apexes are indicated in black. (Abhrajit Laskar/Anna Balazs) Survival of the Fittest: The surface area of active sites on the red crab is twice that of the green grab; therefore, the red crab draws particles away from green competitors by generating stronger inward flows (marked with black arrows). (Abhrajit Laskar/Anna Balazs) To Each His Own: Two crabs, whose rates of decomposition are equal, generate comparable flows and thus gather an equal number of particles. (Abhrajit Laskar/Anna Balazs) Pack Mentality: Catalase-coated, movable sheets acting together can capture particles that individual sheets alone cannot. Inward fluid flows become even stronger (indicated by larger arrow sizes) as the sheets aggregate. (Abhrajit Laskar/Anna Balazs) A Timed Response: The pink crab decomposes glucose into two lighter products, H2O2 and gluconic acid, and the resulting inward flows drag particles toward it. However, the green crab’s catalyst decomposes H2O2, which generates a new, strong inward fluid flow that drags the particles from the pink crab, which gradually flattens as its glucose supply is depleted. This indicates the ability to “program” two sheets to perform temporal as well as spatial tasks. (Abhrajit Laskar/Anna Balazs)

Apr
24
2019

ChemE Assistant Professor John Keith Receives Funding for 10-month Collaboration with University of Luxembourg

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 24, 2019) — John Keith, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has received two awards to fund a 10-month collaboration with a researcher at the University of Luxembourg. Dr. Keith received the equivalent of $89,000 from the Luxembourg National Research Fund as well as a $26,746 NSF Travel Award supplement to support a 10-month visit to the University of Luxembourg, where he will work with Prof. Alexandre Tkatchenko, a world expert in developing atomistic machine learning methods that use artificial intelligence to make computer simulations faster and more accurate. Together, the researchers will study complex reaction mechanisms, such as carbon dioxide conversion into fuels and chemicals, and environmentally green chemical design of molecular chelating agents. The researchers also plan to develop a modern textbook on quantum chemistry and contemporary methods to study chemical bonding that would educate the next generation of computational researchers. “I very much look forward to the work made possible by these grants,” says Dr. Keith. “It’s an exciting opportunity to collaborate with an international expert to better improve technologies that would have a positive effect on our world.”
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
19
2019

Pitt ChemE Promotes Two to Associate Professor with Tenure

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 19, 2019) – Two professors in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering received promotions this week. John Keith, PhD, and Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis, PhD, have both received promotions to Associate Professor with tenure. “John and Yanni have made outstanding contributions to the department, its students and our reputation,” says Steven R. Little, PhD, professor and chair of the department. “Their letters of support from around the world were truly inspiring, and they made the Promotion and Tenure Committee’s decision an easy one.” About John Keith: John A. Keith, PhD, is an R.K. Mellon Faculty Fellow and associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. His Computational Chemistry lab studies atomic scale reaction mechanisms to understand how to design solar fuels catalysts, environmentally green chemicals, and anti-corrosion coatings. Dr. Keith earned his PhD in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and pursued postdoctoral research in electrochemistry at the University of Ulm in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. About Giannis Mpourmpakis: Giannis Mpourmpakis, PhD, is the Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. His Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELa) uses theory and computation to investigate the physiochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse nanotechnology areas, ranging from green energy generation and storage to materials engineering and catalysis. Dr. Mpourmpakis earned his PhD at Theoretical and Computational Chemistry from the University of Crete and was a Marie-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Delaware. ###
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
19
2019

Four Projects Receive Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation Seed Grants

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 19, 2019) — The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has announced its 2019-2020 seed grant recipients. The grants support graduate student and post-doctoral fellows on one-year research projects that are focused on sustainability. “All of the projects we have selected this year have the potential to make a lasting, positive impact on the environment,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of the Mascaro Center. “The Mascaro Center is excited to support these core teams of researchers who are passionate about sustainability.” This year’s recipients are: Towards Using Microbes for Sustainable Construction Materials:  Feasibility StudySarah Haig, civil & environmental engineeringSteven Sachs, civil & environmental engineeringMax Stephens, civil & environmental engineering*Jointly funded by MCSI and IRISE Chemical Recycling of Polyethylene to EthyleneEric Beckman, chemical & petroleum engineeringIoannis Bourmpakis, chemical & petroleum engineeringRobert Enick, chemical & petroleum engineeringGoetz Veser, chemical & petroleum engineering Investigating flexible piezoelectric materials with lower water pressuresKatherine Hornbostel, mechanical engineering & materials scienceMax Stephens, civil & environmental engineering Amplifying the efficiency of Tungsten Disulfide Thermoelectric DevicesFeng Xiong, electrical and computer engineering
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Presents Hanwant Singh with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering is Hanwant Singh, MS ’70, PhD ChE ‘72, Scientist (retired) at the NASA Ames Research Center and Director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory at SRI. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin II, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “For the past 25 years, Dr. Singh has applied the knowledge he gained from the Indian Institute of Technology and Pitt to better understand the composition and chemistry of our atmosphere,” said Dean Martin. “We would like to acknowledge him for his contributions in the field of climate science and in recognition of his research legacy at NASA.” About Hanwant B. Singh Hanwant Singh graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi, India in 1968 and earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972. He completed further postdoctoral research at Rutgers University. His research focus shifted from engineering to the environment. His primary research goal has been to better understand the impact of human activities on the chemistry and climate of the earth's atmosphere through direct observations and data analysis. Together with his co-workers, Dr. Singh has published over 220 scientific papers (h-index: 84; 21000 citations) and one textbook in this area. An environmental focus has provided him the opportunity to dedicate his efforts towards a highly relevant societal concern as well as the privilege of collaborating with partners from around the world. He shared the HJ Allen Prize for best paper with Nobel Laureate P. Crutzen. Prior to his recent retirement, Dr. Singh led a group of scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center and was a Director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory at SRI, formerly the Stanford Research Institute. Dr. Singh believes the rigorous scientific training he received at the University of Pittsburgh has provided him with the solid foundation to embrace new ideas and challenges. Being recognized by the Chemical Engineering Department and receiving the “225 medallion” from the University of Pittsburgh are “momentous.” ###

Apr
9
2019

Pitt Chem-E-Car Team Qualifies for National Competition in the Fall

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 9, 2019) — Undergraduate students from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering brought two cars sailing to the finish line in this year’s Regional Chem-E-Car Competition at the 2019 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) MidAtlantic Regional Student Conference. Their placements qualify them to compete in the AIChE Chem-E-Car International Competition at the AIChE Annual Conference, held in Orlando, Fla., in November. The Pitt team placed third and fifth for their two cars out of the 23 raced in the competition.  The qualifying teams are: 1.Virginia Tech 2.Stony Brook University3.University of Pittsburgh4.City College of New York 5.University of Pittsburgh (2)6.Rutgers University The Chem-E-Car Competition requires student teams to create a small car with chemical propulsion and stopping mechanisms such that it will travel a specified distance and carry a payload (0-500 ml of water). Prior to the competition, all teams had to complete safety training and testing and submit an engineering documentation package. Teams also had to provide a poster detailing the research they conducted for the creation of their car and pass the safety inspection to ensure that their car will compete safely. “The team was able to successfully create not only one car that placed in the top five, but two. It’s an impressive feat that they should be proud of,” says Taryn Bayles, PhD, vice chair for education and professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the Swanson School. “We’re excited to see what the competition in November brings.” On the day of the competition, the team received their chemicals and were provided the distance that their car must travel, which was 56 feet this year. The MidAtlantic Regional Student Conference, which included institutions in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, took place April 5-7, 2019, at Penn State University. Pitt’s Chem-E-Car team is made of a diverse group of students who range from freshmen to seniors with majors in chemical engineering, biology, and electrical and computer engineering. Chem-E-Car team members who were at the Regional Conference include:  Michael Bosley, Michael Bremer, Simon Cao, Claibourne Countess, Jean Fiore, Nicholas Hages, Pamela Keller, Harold Moll, Kevin Padgett, Anthony Popovski, Charles Robinson, Mor Shimshi, Grace Watson and Shiva Yagobian. The team was sponsored by Lubrizol and BASF. In addition to the ChemE Car competition, the ChemE Jeopardy team competed against 18 other teams, and after three rounds of competition made it to the finals to face teams from UPenn and Johns Hopkins. Jeopardy team members included Michael Bremer, Kenton Quach, Charles Robinson and Nicholas Youwakim.
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
5
2019

For Those Too Tired to Brush

Chemical & Petroleum, Diversity, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

Reposted with permission from Pittwire. Emily Siegel, a Pitt senior majoring in chemical engineering and biological sciences, admits she’s part of a generation of ever busy, on-the-go multitaskers. Like many people her age, she’s fallen into bed after a long day of classes and late night of studying without even brushing her teeth, too drained to get up. The exhausting experience has propelled Siegel’s entrepreneurial path. In a product design class last fall, chemical engineering professor and veteran innovator-entrepreneur Eric Beckman gave an assignment: “He challenged us to think of a problem and come up with a product to solve it,” she said. The memory of those multiple late nights sparked her idea. “If I had something on my nightstand that I could use right then…” she thought. Her solution: Trek, a biodegradable chewing gum that kills bacteria and removes and prevents plaque, marketed initially toward busy young adults. Siegel’s attention-grabbing pitch cites a study by insurer Delta Dental that leaves little doubt that there’s a real problem for Trek to solve: The research found that 37 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 have gone two or more days without brushing their teeth. Siegel pitches Trek as better than what’s on the market today: It removes and prevents plaque, something ordinary gum can’t do, she said. “And it’s better for the environment because it creates no plastic waste, unlike disposable single-use toothbrushes. It’s 100% biodegradable.” Siegel envisions that this product not only will benefit busy millennials, but also will appeal to travelers, members of the military and people in places where clean water is difficult to come by. It’s a winning idea that’s being advanced through the Big Idea Center, the Pitt Innovation Institute’s hub for student entrepreneurship programming. Trek took the top prize in the most recent Big Idea Blitz, a 24-hour event in which student innovators recruit fellow students to their teams and work with Innovation Institute entrepreneurs-in-residence to develop their ideas, understand the market need and hone their pitches. More big ideas The Randall Family Big Idea competition, coordinated by the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, is open to all Pitt students from first-year through postdoc. Established in 2009 by Pitt alumnus Bob Randall (A&S ’65) and family, the competition is the region’s largest student innovation and entrepreneurship program. The annual competition kicks off in February, and culminates in a final round in March, in which 50 teams vie for a total of $100,000 in prize money. That’s where the product became Trek, as Siegel — with only five minutes left to complete her pitch — hurriedly searched for synonyms for “on-the-go” and found the short and sweet name that connotes being on the move. In March, Siegel paired up with Lauren Yocum, a biology major, as Team Trek to compete in the Randall Family Big Idea Competition. They finished first among 50 finalists. Sam Bunke, a chemical engineering major, who, like Siegel and Yocum will graduate in December, has joined the team to further advance the product. Trek’s prize money — $1,500 from the Big Idea Blitz and the $25,000 Randall Family Big Idea Competition grand prize — are going toward further development of this idea around which Siegel intends to create a company and an entrepreneurial career. Her summer plans include participating in Pitt’s Blast Furnace student accelerator. Babs Carryer, director of the Big Idea Center, said, “We offer award money to teams like Trek to encourage and support them in their innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors. I have high hopes for Trek being one of the Big Idea Center’s latest student startups.” Siegel’s drive and desire to take this product to market were key factors in the Big Idea Center’s decision to send Trek to represent Pitt in the ACC InVenture Prize competition set for April 16-17 at North Carolina State University. The choice was made before the Randall Family Big Idea Competition winners were selected. “The Randall judges’ agreement is added confirmation that Trek is a strong competitor,” Carryer said. In 2018, Pitt’s Four Growers team, which is developing a robotic tomato harvesting system, placed second in the ACC competition after winning the Randall Family Big Idea competition. The company recently moved into offices on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. The ACC InVenture Prize is an innovation competition in which teams of undergraduates representing Atlantic Coast Conference universities pitch their inventions or businesses to a panel of judges in front of a live audience. Five finalists will compete for a total of $30,000 in prizes. Innovation Institute entrepreneur-in-residence Don Morrison, who mentored Trek through the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, is helping the team hone its pitch and business model in anticipation of this next challenge. Morrison, former CEO of American Eagle Outfitters, is committed to helping young entrepreneurs by being the mentor he never had. “I had great business mentors who helped me understand retail, but I didn’t have an entrepreneurial mentor. Throughout my career I developed innovations that solved real problems for my companies. My solutions could have been taken to market to solve the same problem for other retailers. That’s why I’m passionate about paying it forward through entrepreneurial mentorship,” Morrison said. “The Trek team is very coachable and passionate about what they’re doing. Their idea solves a real problem. These are key ingredients for success,” he said. “I think that Trek really is a big idea.” The Randall Family Big Idea competition, coordinated by the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, is open to all Pitt students from first-year through postdoc. ### Established in 2009 by Pitt alumnus Bob Randall (A&S ’65) and family, the competition is the region’s largest student innovation and entrepreneurship program. The annual competition kicks off in February, and culminates in a final round in March, in which 50 teams vie for a total of $100,000 in prize money. Read more about this year’s winning teams on the Innovation Institute blog, or take a peek at the finalists’ pitch videos.
Kimberly K. Barlow, University Communications

Mar

Mar
28
2019

Four Pitt engineering faculty capture more than $2 million in total NSF CAREER awards for 2018/2019

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 28, 2019) … Four faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have been named CAREER Award recipients by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Recognized as the NSF’s most competitive award for junior faculty, the grants total more than $2 million in funding both for research and community engagement. The CAREER program “recognizes faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.” The four awards – one each in the departments of Chemical and Petroleum, Civil and Environmental, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science – are the second most received by Pitt and Swanson School faculty in a single NSF CAREER funding announcement. Previously in 2017, five Swanson School faculty were recipients. “Federal funding for academic research is extremely competitive, especially for faculty just beginning their academic careers. Receiving four prestigious NSF CAREER Awards in one cycle – exceeded only by our five two years ago – is a reflection of our winners’ distinctive research and support by their respective departments and the Swanson School,” noted David Vorp, PhD, the Swanson School’s Associate Dean for Research. He added, “Since a CAREER Award is also focused on community engagement, this is an opportunity for our faculty and their graduate students to promote STEM to children in the area, especially in underserved populations, and we will be working with them to develop impactful outreach programs.”Dr. Vorp also noted that the Swanson School’s recent success with CAREER awards can be attributed to a number of factors, including the School’s Center for Faculty Excellence, directed by Prof. Anne Robertson, and the CAREER writing group developed and run by Julie Myers-Irvin, PhD, the Swanson School’s Grants Developer. “Participating faculty acknowledge that the writing group focus on early preparation, group comradery, technical feedback, and discussions of grantsmanship practices attribute to more well-rounded proposals,” Dr. Myers-Irvin says.The award recipients include:Murat Akcakaya, Assistant Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, with Carla A. Mazefsky, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and PsychologyTitle: Toward a Biologically Informed Intervention for Emotionally Dysregulated Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (#1844885)Summary: Although clinical techniques are used to help patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) respond to stress and other factors, none are known to couple with technology that could monitor brain response in real time and provide the patient with feedback. Drs. Akcakaya and Mazefsky are developing a new intervention using electroencephalography (EEG)-guided, non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) technology could complement clinical treatments and improve emotion regulation in people with ASD.Dr. Akcakaya will also develop courses related to the research and outreach activities to promote STEM and ASD research to K-12 populations and the broader public. Outreach will focus especially on individuals with ASD, their families, and caretakers. Susan Fullerton, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering ($540,000)Title:Scaling Electrolytes to a Single Monolayer for Low-Power Ion-Gated Electronics with Unconventional Characteristics (#1847808)Summary: Two-dimensional (2D) materials are being explored for their exciting new physics that can impart novel functionalities in application spaces such as information storage, neuromorphic computing, and hardware security. Dr. 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 increase storage capacity, decrease power consumption, and vastly accelerate processing speed.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. Tevis Jacobs, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science ($500,000)Title: Understanding Nanoparticle Adhesion to Guide the Surface Engineering of Supporting Structures (#1844739) Summary: Although far thinner than a human hair, metal nanoparticles play an important role in advanced industries and technologies from electronics and pharmaceuticals to catalysts and sensors. Nanoparticles can be as small as ten atoms in diameter, and their small size makes them especially susceptible to coarsening with continued use, which reduces functionality and degrades performance. Dr. Jacobs will utilize electron microscopy to develop new methods to measure the attachment and stability of nanoparticles on surfaces under various conditions, allowing researchers to enhance both surfaces and nanoparticles in tandem to work more effectively together.Additionally, Dr. Jacobs and his lab group will engage with the University of Pittsburgh School of Education and a local elementary school to create and nationally disseminate surface engineering-focused curricular units for sixth- to eighth-grade students and professional development training modules for teachers. Carla Ng, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering ($500,000)Title: Harnessing biology to tackle fluorinated alkyl substances in the environment (#1845336) Summary: Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that are useful in a variety of industries because of their durability, but do not naturally break down in the environment or human body. Because of their useful oil- and water-repellent properties, PFAS are used in many consumer products, industrial processes, and in firefighting foams, but unfortunately, their manufacturing and widespread use has contributed to the undesired release of these chemicals into the environment. With evidence showing that PFAS may have adverse effects on human health, Dr. Ng wants to further investigate the potential impacts of these chemicals and identify ways to remove them from the environment. She plans to elevate K-12 and undergraduate education through the use of collaborative model-building in a game-like environment. Dr. Ng in particular will utilize the agent-based modeling language NetLogo, a freely available and accessible model-building tool that can be equally powerful for cutting edge research or for students exploring new STEM concepts in science and engineering. ###

Mar
28
2019

Northwestern Engineering Dean Julio M. Ottino Selected as 2019 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer at Pitt

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (March 27, 2019) — In honor of his influential work in diverse fields from fluid dynamics to geophysical sciences, Northwestern University’s Julio M. Ottino, PhD has been chosen as this year’s Covestro Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Dr. Ottino is currently the dean of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University and Applied Science at Northwestern University. He also holds the titles of Distinguished Robert R. McCormick Institute Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. His research has been featured on the covers of Nature, Science, Scientific American, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, and other publications. The Covestro Distinguished Lectureship (a continuation of the Bayer Distinguished Lectureship) is presented annually by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and recognizes excellence in chemical education, outreach and research. The lecture is sponsored by Covestro LLC, a world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials. “The effects of Dr. Ottino’s work have rippled through so many fields, including fluid dynamics, granular dynamics, microfluidics, geophysical sciences, and nonlinear dynamics and chaos,” says Steven R. Little, PhD, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School.  “Our department is honored to welcome such a widely influential scientist to our campus.” “Covestro is proud to sponsor the Distinguished Lecture Series through our continued partnership with the Swanson School of Engineering, and we join the university in extending a warm welcome to this year’s deserving honoree,” said Don S. Wardius, Senior Manager of University Relations, Covestro LLC. “Dr. Ottino’s impressive career reflects a passion for innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability – all of which align with Covestro’s vision to make the world a brighter place.” Dr. Ottino received his PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota and held positions at UMass/Amherst and chaired and held senior appointments at Caltech and Stanford. He has been recognized by AlChE with the Alpha Chi Sigma Award, the William H. Walker Award, the Institute Lecture, and was named one of the “100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Area.” He was awarded the Fluid Dynamics Prize from the American Physical Society. In 2017, Ottino was awarded the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education from the National Academy of Engineering, the nation’s highest award for engineering education, for the development of Whole-Brain Engineering at Northwestern. He is a member of both the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Covestro lectures will be held on Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m. with a reception to follow, and on Friday, April 5, at 9:30 a.m. Both lectures will be held in 102 Benedum Hall, 3700 O’Hara Street. The lectures are open to the public. For more information, email che@engr.pitt.edu or call 412-624-9630. Lecture 1: When Art, Technology, and Science Were One: Why They Split, and Why They May Join AgainThursday, April 4, at 5 p.m. – Benedum 102 (Reception follows) There was a time before science and technology were known by those names. Art, technology, and science formed a continuum, and the modes of thinking enriched each other. The 16th century has many examples of cooperative enterprises between scientists and artists; Galileo Galilei may be the clearest case of Italian Renaissance art affecting the course of science. Galileo is also associated with birth of the scientific method, and the scientific method changed everything: science broke company with art, and mixing imagery with analytical thinking became suspect (at least by some). This view is far too narrow—visual imagination is a central element of scientific imagination. This talk with cover the links between art, technology, and science through time, starting when people had a foot in two camps and when new technologies appeared and the scientific basics of those technologies were still evolving, until reaching examples of the present time. It closes with lessons that can be transferred across domains. Lecture 2: The Evolution of Mixing: From Stretching and Folding to Cutting and Shuffling: Parallels, Divergences, and LessonsFriday, April 5, at 9:30 p.m. – Benedum 102 The birth of mixing of fluids and some of the first incursions into granular matter and segregation offer valuable insights and lessons. These two topics developed in wildly different ways and serve as examples of the power of couching ideas in mathematical formalisms, but also of the challenges that ensue when a general formalism is elusive. We present an array of results, spanning fluid mixing at one extreme and granular matter and segregation at the other. Examples cover vibration, surface flow, segregation, and pattern formation, and serve to illustrate how fundamental work can affect fields as far apart as multiple branches of engineering and geophysical sciences. ### About Covestro LLC Covestro LLC is one of the leading producers of high-performance polymers in North America and is part of the global Covestro business, which is among the world’s largest polymer companies with 2018 sales of EUR 14.6 billion. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, electrical and electronics, and healthcare industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employed approximately 16,800 people at the end of 2018. About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department’s  research expenditures exceeded $9 million in 2018.
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
26
2019

Ipsita Banerjee Wins 2019 Faculty Diversity Award

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2019) — Ipsita Banerjee, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is the recipient of the School’s 2019 Faculty Diversity Award. “It would be an understatement to say that Ipsita earnestly strives each year to improve the academic environment fostering the success of under-represented minority students at the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels,” says Steven Little, department chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. The Faculty Diversity Award Committee cited Dr. Banerjee’s accomplishments as: Commitment to community engagement through active participation in INVESTING NOW program, as well as collaboration the Carnegie Science Center and REU programs; Leadership and mentorship for women in STEM, through participation in the Women in STEM Conferences and AlChE Women’s Initiative Committee (WIC); Recognized excellence in mentorship, including the 2016 Summer Research Internship (SRI) Faculty Mentor Award by PITT EXCEL program; Service to the Swanson School in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students through various internal and external programs. Beyond her work with organizations on campus, Dr. Banerjee devotes time and effort into programs like the Carnegie Science Center’s CanTEEN Career Exploration Program, sharing her experience with middle school girls and encouraging them to pursue an education in STEM.  She has also been involved with the Women Student Networking conference, AlChE Women’s Initiatives Committee, and in panels for Women in Science and Medicine organized by UPMC. In addition to the award, Dr. Banerjee will receive a $2,000 grant and induction into the Office of Diversity’s Champions for Diversity Honor Roll. Dr. Banerjee’s mentees endorsed her nomination for this award because of her thoughtful support, encouragement and motivation. Her own professional success, they noted, makes her a valuable role model for other women and under-represented minorities in STEM. “Being a Hispanic woman in the field of science and technology, it is sometimes hard to find examples of other women and/or minorities who have gone through the process of pursuing a career in academia with as much success as Dr. Banerjee has,” says Dr. Maria Jaramillo, a senior scientist at IVIVA Medical and the first graduate student to work with Dr. Banerjee at Pitt. She adds that Dr. Banerjee’s help and encouragement to network, collaborate with other scientists at Pitt and beyond, and present her research are among the things that have been most influential to her career. “These opportunities were instrumental for the continuance of my career in academia, and even today, several years after finishing my PhD under her supervision, Dr. Banerjee still provides great support.” “Dr. Banerjee embodies the phrase ‘women empowering women,’” says Brittany Givens Rassoolkhani, a former PITT EXCEL Summer Research Intern who is now a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa. “Throughout my time working with her, it was apparent that she was both brilliant and dedicated. Most importantly, I was encouraged to also be dedicated and brilliant in my own work via the way she mentored myself and other students in the laboratory.” Not only did Dr. Banerjee’s mentorship inspire her students to conduct their own research and find their professional paths, but it also inspired them to be better mentors themselves. Brittany Givens Rassolkhani notes that now she is also a mentor and never forgot the lessons Dr. Banerjee taught. “Throughout this process, Dr. Banerjee has been instrumental in reminding me how important it is as a woman, particularly a woman of color, in the sciences and engineering to be cultivated in an environment that encourages women to be equal, if not better than, their male counterparts,” she says. “Dr. Banerjee never let my goals be big and scary, as I so often saw them; instead, in her eyes our goals as researchers were always achievable. I hope that when I become a professor and start my own laboratory, I am able to provide even half as much support to and faith in my students as I witnessed from Dr. Banerjee.” ###

Feb

Feb
14
2019

A New Wrinkle on Vascular Implants

Chemical & Petroleum

Joe Pugar has always been fascinated with the elegant structures, systems and mechanics of nature.  From the tensile strength of spider silk to the energy conversion ability of photosynthesis, he has been intrigued at adapting the genius of natural design to engineering challenges. That’s what attracted him as a sophomore student in chemical engineering to a summer research project in the lab of Sachin Velankar at the Swanson School of Engineering. The project was a collaboration between Valenkar, professor of chemical engineering, and Luka Pocivavsek, at the time a cardiovascular surgical resident at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, who is now at the University of Chicago. Pocivavsek had the initial idea of developing a vascular implant that mimics the natural surface “wrinkling” that occurs in real blood vessels to keep blood from clotting on the interior vessel walls. What Pugar couldn’t have imagined then is that within three years he would be taking this research out of the university in a startup company called Aruga Technologies with him spearheading the effort as CEO. Read the full article from Pitt's Innovation Institute.
Michael C. Yeomans Marketing and Special Events Manager, Innovation Institute

Jan

Jan
25
2019

Penn State Chemical Engineering features Pitt Assistant Professor Susan Fullerton in its "Alumni Spotlight"

Chemical & Petroleum, Diversity

Our latest Alumni Spotlight features Susan Fullerton, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Fullerton earned her bachelor of science and PhD in chemical engineering at Penn State (2002 and 2009, respectively) and currently leads a research group that seeks to establish a fundamental understanding of ion-electron transport at the molecular level to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic, and energy storage. Among her most recent recognitions include the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2019 Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences, and the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Early Career (CAREER) award. Read the full spotlight here.

Jan
22
2019

New method uses ultraviolet light to control fluid flow and organize particles

Chemical & Petroleum

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (January 22, 2019) ... A new, simple, and inexpensive method that uses ultraviolet light to control particle motion and assembly within liquids could improve drug delivery, chemical sensors, and fluid pumps. The method encourages particles—from plastic microbeads, to bacterial spores, to pollutants—to gather and organize at a specific location within a liquid and, if desired, to move to new locations. A paper describing the new method appears in the journal Angewandte Chemie ("Organization of Particle Islands Via Light‐Powered Fluid Pumping," DOI: 10.1002/anie.201811568.) “Many applications related to sensors, drug delivery, and nanotechnology require the precise control of the flow of fluids,” said Ayusman Sen, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Penn State and senior author of the paper. “Researchers have developed a number of strategies to do so, including nanomotors and fluid pumps, but prior to this study we did not have an easy way to gather particles at a particular location so that they can perform a useful function and then move them to a new location so they can perform the function again. “Say for example you want to build a sensor to detect particles of a pollutant, or bacterial spores in a water sample,” said Sen. “With this new method, we can simply add nanoparticles of gold or titanium dioxide and shine a light to encourage the pollutant particles or spores to gather. By concentrating them in one spot, they become easier to detect. And because light is so easy to manipulate, we have a high degree of control.” Just as pollutant particles could be gathered at a particular location, the method could be used to gather silica or polymer beads that carry a payload, like antibodies or drugs, at particular locations within a fluid. The new method first involves adding a small amount of titanium dioxide or gold nanoparticles to a liquid, like water, that also contains larger particles of interest, like pollutants or beads carrying a payload. Shining a light at a specific point in the liquid heats up the tiny metal nanoparticles, and the heat is then transferred to the fluid. The warmer liquid then rises at the point of light —just as warm air rises in a chilly room—and cooler water rushes in to fill the space that the warm water just left, bringing the larger particles with it. “This causes the larger particles to collect at the point of UV light, where they form closely packed, well-organized structures called colloidal crystals,” said Benjamin Tansi, graduate student in chemistry at Penn State and first author of the paper. “Changing the intensity of the light or the amount of titanium dioxide or gold particles alters how quickly this process occurs.” When the light is removed, the larger particles randomly diffuse through the liquid. But if the light is instead relocated, the larger particles move toward the new point of light, mostly maintaining their structure as they move. This dynamic assembly, disassembly, and movement of organized particles may have important implications for sensing and drug delivery. Using the new method, the researchers gather particles of interest into an organized structure at the point of light (left). When the light is moved to a new location (right), the particles move toward the new point of light, as depicted in this video. Credit: Sen Lab, Penn State “This process is most efficient when gold nanoparticles are used, but we wanted to find an alternative that was less expensive and more accessible,” said Tansi. “We were pleased to find that this method also works with titanium dioxide, an inexpensive and harmless nanoparticle used in cosmetics and as a food additive.” In addition to water, the researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of this method in hexadecane, an organic liquid. “Particles usually don’t assemble very well in salty or non-aqueous environments because everything sticks together,” said Sen. “But here we show that particles can assemble using this method in hexadecane, which suggests we may be able to apply this technique in, for example, biological fluids. To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of light-driven fluid pumping in an organic medium.” Members of the research team at the University of Pittsburgh led by Anna Balazs used mathematical models to describe the dynamics of the system. In addition to describing how particles move in the system, the models confirm that only a minor change in temperature—less than a degree Celsius—from the ultraviolet light is required to induce the fluid flow. The research team is currently testing the limits of this method, for example if particles can move uphill toward the light source or if the method can be used to sort particles by size. “We knew that heating gold nanoparticles in suspension could create a fluid flow,” said Tansi, “but prior to this study no one had looked to see if these kinds of thermally-driven fluid flows could be used to do anything useful. Because ultraviolet light and titanium dioxide are so easy to control, we think this method could be harnessed in various technologies in the future. For example, a fluid pump that relies on this method could potentially replace the bulky and more expensive traditional pumps that require a power source or that rely on magnetics or mechanical movement to function.” In addition to Sen, Tansi, and Balazs, the research team includes Matthew Peris at Penn State and Oleg Shklyaev at the University of Pittsburgh. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF-CCI Award Number 1740630). ### Originally published by Penn State University. Reposted with permission.
Gail McCormick, Penn State University
Jan
18
2019

Tenure-Stream Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering with a Focus in Regenerative Medicine

Chemical & Petroleum, Open Positions

The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering (www.engineering.pitt.edu/Departments/Chemical-Petroleum) invites applications from accomplished individuals with a PhD in Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering or a closely related discipline.  This is a tenure-stream faculty position at the rank of assistant professor in the research area of regenerative medicine including focus areas of tissue engineering, organ engineering, organ/ disease on a chip, biomaterials, medical devices, synthetic biology, and immunotherapy. The candidate should have a strong interest in the translation of their research through the generation and licensing of intellectual property. This unique position will be supported by two personalized mentoring teams. One comprising a group of physicians focused on clinical need in the candidate’s topic areas, and a second group of experts in technology transfer in the medical space. The laboratories for the successful candidate will be within the highly collaborative and clinically-focused McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In addition, the candidate must be committed to contributing to the high quality education of a diverse student body at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is a top-five institution in terms of NIH funding and provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary research, strengthened through its affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and collaborations with Carnegie Mellon University.  The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, ranked among the top programs in the country, has outstanding research and educational programs. The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (www.mirm.pitt.edu), Musculoskeletal Research Center (www.pitt.edu/~msrc), Center for Neuroscience (cnup.neurobio.pitt.edu), Drug Discovery Institute (www.upddi.pitt.edu), Vascular Medicine Institute (www.vmi.pitt.edu), and the Cancer Institute (www.upci.upmc.edu) offer many collaborative research opportunities. Interested individuals should send the following as a single PDF attachments via email to che@pitt.edu (include REGENERATIVE MEDICINE CHEME POSITION in the subject line): (1) cover letter, (2) complete CV (including funding record), (3) research statement, (4) teaching statement and (5) list of four references (names and complete contact information).  Applications will be reviewed beginning February 1, 2019. The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering is strongly committed to a diverse academic environment and places high priority on attracting female and underrepresented minority candidates.  We strongly encourage candidates from these groups to apply for the position. One of the major strategic goals of The University of Pittsburgh 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.

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 CO 2 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
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.” ###