In the news

Karl Johnson and John Keith unlocked the secrets of Polyisobutylene’s reaction mechanism

  • By Ke Xu
  • 28 August 2018

Karl Johnson and John Keith lead a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Wickliffe, Ohio-based Lubrizol Corporation to unlock the secrets of Polyisobutylene (PIB)’s reaction mechanism.

PIB is a workhorse polymer that is found in a multitude of products, ranging from chewing gum, to tires, to engine oil and gasoline additives. Although commercially produced in large quantities since the 1940s, PIB chemistry was a mystery – scientists weren’t sure how the reaction mechanism that creates the polymer happens at the molecular level, which limited further potential. 

Utilizing the University’s Center for Research Computing to analyze the molecular processes, the Pitt/Lubrizol group found that the assumed reaction mechanism was not correct and that initiation of the reaction requires a “superacid” catalyst. 

The group’s findings were published this month in the journal ACS Catalysis.

David Waldeck selected as the winner of the Bioelectrochemistry Prize of the International Society of Electrochemistry

  • By Ke Xu
  • 21 August 2018

David Waldeck has been selected as the winner of the Bioelectrochemistry Prize of the International Society of Electrochemistry, in recognition of his fundamental work on charge transport phenomena associated with biomolecules, electron transport through proteins and nucleic acids, and electron transfer at biomolecule/electrode interfaces. The Society will present the Bioelectrochemistry Prize publicly at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Durban, South Africa.

Low-Temperature Scanning Tunneling Microscope commissioned at CMU

  • By Ke Xu
  • 14 August 2018

A low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope (LT-STM) has recently been commissioned at Carnegie Mellon University, and is available for use by external users. The instrument allows atomic-resolution studies of surface structure and spectroscopic studies of electronic states within a few eV on either side of the Fermi energy. Base temperature is 7 K, and there is a magnetic field capability of up to 2T perpendicular to the sample surface.

First results have been obtained by a team led by Randall Feenstra and Ben Hunt, working with postdoc Felix Lupke, grad student Dacen Waters, and undergrads Nicolas Iskos and Nick Speeney. They studied a two-dimensional (2D) material, Tungsten Ditelluride (WTe2), which is a topological insulator, with properties that will likely spur technological innovations such as spintronics and quantum computing.

Users interested in utilized the LT-STM should contact Prof. Feenstra (feenstra@cmu.edu).

Paul Leu featured as one of the 22 young Pittsburgh leaders in technology field

  • By Ke Xu
  • 14 August 2018

Paul Leu is featured as one of the 22 young Pittsburgh leaders paving the way in Pittsburgh's technology field. The honorees are selected by The Incline website in the Who's Next series, which is a monthly series honoring under-40 professionals making Pittsburgh a better place. Paul Leu is awarded for his work on making solar energy economical with new materials for solar cells that are more efficient, lighter, flexible and less expensive. 
 

Mostafa Bedewy Wins $330K NSF Grant to Study “Nanotube Forests”

  • By Ke Xu
  • 7 August 2018

Mostafa Bedewy has been awarded a new research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for $330,000 as a single principal investigator (PI).  The award, titled “Functionally Graded Carbon Nanotubes by Dynamic Control of Morphology during Chemical Vapor Deposition”, will fund research in the NanoProduct Lab (Bedewy Research Group) for three years focusing on studying and controlling the catalytic activation and deactivation during the chemical synthesis of vertically aligned nanotubes.

Manufacturers use carbon nanotubes in a variety of commercial products from baseball bats and bicycle frames to aerospace structures. Attributes such as a tensile strength 20 times higher than steel and an electrical conductivity 10 times that of copper have caused the global carbon nanotube market to soar to $3.43 billion in 2016, and it is projected to double by 2022.

Bedewy will employ a combination of experimental and modeling techniques to reveal the kinetics of activation and deactivation in large populations of carbon nanotubes known as “nanotube forests.”

Low‐power electrochemically tunable graphene synapses for neuromorphic computing

  • By Ke Xu
  • 24 July 2018

Feng Xiong and his group developed an “artificial synapse” that does not process information like a digital computer but rather mimics the analog way the human brain completes tasks. 

For applications in neuromorphic computing, Xiong and his team focuses on the design of computational hardware inspired by the human brain and built graphene-based artificial synapses in a two-dimensional honeycomb configuration of carbon atoms. Graphene’s conductive properties allowed the researchers to finely tune its electrical conductance, which is the strength of the synaptic connection or the synaptic weight.

Their work was published in the recent issue of the journal Advanced Materials. Other co-authors include Mohammad Sharbati (first author), Yanhao Du, Jorge Torres, Nolan Ardolino, and Minhee Yun.

Giannis Mpourmpakis named as one of 25 Emerging Investigators

  • By Ke Xu
  • 17 July 2018

Giannis Mpourmpakis named as one of 25 researchers around the world as Emerging Investigators in a special issue of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data.

Mpourmpakis leads the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELA) where his group researches the physicochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse nanotechnological areas ranging from energy generation and storage to materials design and catalysis.

Mpourmpakis contributed his paper “Understanding the Gas Phase Chemistry of Alkanes with First-Principles Calculations” to the ACS special issue. 

Noa Marom selected to lead an Aurora exascale system project

  • By Ke Xu
  • 10 July 2018

Noa Marom has been selected as the leader of a data science project that's part of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility’s (ALCF) Aurora Early Science Program (ESP). 

The program’s goal is to prepare key applications, libraries, and infrastructure for the architecture and scale of exascale computing. 

Marom’s project will combine quantum-mechanical simulations with machine learning and data science, to advance physical understanding of singlet fission and discover materials to create more efficient organic solar cells.

Research from John Keith's lab featured on the back cover of Chemical Science

  • By Ke Xu
  • 10 July 2018

An artistic depiction of research from John Keith's lab was featured on the back cover of Royal Society of Chemistry journal Chemical Science. Yasemin Basdogan, a PhD student in Keith’s lab, designed the back cover image, which shows several molecules reacting in a cross-shaped container slowly filling with a liquid.

Their study titled “A paramedic treatment for modeling explicitly solvated chemical reaction mechanisms” analyzed a very complex chemical system called the Morita-Baylis Hillman reaction. Basdogan and Keith brought improvements to the modeling that allows better understanding of these types of chemical reactions that will impact areas of chemical engineering and chemistry. 

Giannis Mpourmpakis applies high-performance computing to the problem of viscosity creep

  • By Ke Xu
  • 3 July 2018

Giannis Mpourmpakis is collaborating with with Lubrizol Corporation, a specialty chemical manufacturer, on a project applying high-performance computing simulations to address a problem known as viscosity creep, a phenomenon which affects the performance of lubricating fluids.

Mpourmpakis focuses much of his research on the properties and potential applications of nanomaterials, employing Pitt CRC clusters for high-performance computation to create molecular level simulations. 

The results were published in June in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

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