Each year more than eight million tons of plastics pollute the ocean, forming mammoth, so-called “garbage patches” via strong currents. Even with new collection methods, only 0.5 percent out of that volume is currently removed from the seas. One solution to this growing crisis is to prevent plastic from becoming waste, to begin with – and Susan Fullerton and colleagues are one of five international teams awarded for their novel solutions to this problem. The group was one of two winners in Category 1: “Make unrecyclable packaging recyclable,” and proposes using nano-engineering to create a recyclable material that can replace complex multi-layered packaging – mimicking the way nature uses just a few molecular building blocks to create a huge variety of materials.
The mission of the Kaufman Foundation is to support fundamental research in biology, chemistry, and physics at Pennsylvania institutions of higher education. The Kaufman Foundation grants to institutes of higher learning in Pennsylvania for scientists pursuing research that explores their field’s essential questions and/or crosses disciplinary boundaries. Mr. Kaufman believed in the potential impact of fundamental, curiosity-driven science and the strength of working across interdisciplinary boundaries. He also recognized the importance of supporting early and mid-career scientists, while acknowledging the major accomplishments achieved after a lifetime of high-impact contributions. When he died in 2010, Charles Kaufman, a respected chemical engineer, left $50 million to The Pittsburgh Foundation of which $40 million is earmarked for continuing his life-long commitment to scientific research with the potential to improve human life. Since 2013, and including 2017, the Foundation has awarded 43 grants totaling $9.1 million.
Kevin Chen received $1.275 million to develop radiation-hard, multi-functional, distributed fiber sensors, and sensor-fused components that can be placed in a nuclear reactor core to improve safety and efficiency. The grant is from the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies (NEET) program as part of the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP).
“This NEET grant will allow our lab to continue its partnerships with leading technological companies and national laboratories to develop solutions to some of the most pressing issues affecting nuclear energy production,” said Chen. “Advances in sensor technology can greatly enhance the sensitivity and resolution of data in harsh environments like a nuclear reaction, thereby improving safety operations.”
The 2017 Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) awards were announced last week. The Department of Defense (DoD) has issued 23 awards totaling $163 million to academic institutions to perform multidisciplinary basic research. Vincent Liu and David Snoke are part of two teams who received a MURI award:
Brian D'Urso received an NSF award for a project, entitled "Collaborative Research: Measuring G with a Microsphere in a Magneto-Gravitational Trap".
The Office of Naval Research has announced awards of $16 million through its 2017 Young Investigator Program (YIP). The awards were made to 33 scientists whose research holds strong promise across several naval-relevant science and technology areas.
Sergey Frolov was among this year's Young Investigator Award recipients for his proposal "Semiconductor Nanowire-Based Quantum Emulators".
The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation of The Pittsburgh Foundation will award annual research grants in 2017 to researchers at Pennsylvania universities to carry out fundamental research in the areas of biology, chemistry, and physics.
Grant programs include:
Tevis Jacobs received an NSF grant to observe and measure nanoscale contact inside an electron microscope, enabling for the first time the visualization of the atomic structure of the component materials while they are in contact.
Jacobs will serve as principal investigator of the study, “Collaborative Research: Understanding the Formation and Separation of Nanoscale Contacts,” which received $298,834 over three years.
He and his team will collaborate with the University of California-Merced. As the electron microscopy examines the materials’ surfaces, the experiments using molecular dynamics computer simulations will be replicated to reveal atomic-scale.
Energy expert Venkat Viswanathan have received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) to study the use of dendrite-blocking polymers in lithium-ion batteries.
When charged repeatedly, lithium-ion batteries run the risk of overheating, and even catching fire. This is due to the formation of dendrites, or microscopic fibers of lithium that can form during the charging cycle. Over time, these dendrites can grow long enough that they connect the battery’s electrodes to one another, causing the battery to short-circuit and become a potential hazard. In order to fully implement future lithium-ion battery technologies, which could greatly increase the battery power of our smartphones, electric vehicles, and more, engineers need to find a way to stop these dendrites from forming.
Hrvoje Petek and Jin Zhao received a $675,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a proposal entitled “TiO2 photocatalysis: the coupling of electrons, plasmons, polarons, and molecules by ultrafast photoemission spectroscopy and theory.”
This is a continuation of Petek’s and Zhao’s joint experimental/theoretical studies on femtosecond time scale photoinduced dynamics in the photocatalytically active material TiO2. In this iteration of the continuing research effort, the focus is on how plasmonic excitations and ionic lattice response influence the interaction of photoexcited electrons with adsorbed molecules.