In the news

Di Xiao and Rongchao Jin remain among world's most highly cited researchers

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 4 December 2019

Di Xiao and Rongchao Jin continue to be listed among the most cited researchers. Jin’s research focuses on nanochemistry, and he is well-known for developing new methodologies to create gold nanoparticles with precise numbers of atoms. Xiao’s research looks at the properties of materials in relation to quantum mechanics and how these properties can be harnessed for applications in electronic and magnetic devices.

Chandralekha Singh receives Diversity in Curriculum award

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 26 November 2019

Among five other faculty members, Chandralekha Singh was honored on Nov. 19 at the third annual Provost’s Diversity in the Curriculum awards, which recognizes faculty who have taught a modified course or revised curricula to strengthen diversity and inclusion, resulting in changes of impact.

“There’s a wealth of literature which suggests that serious engagement in diversity in the curriculum, connected with classroom and outside the classroom experiences positively affects students’ awareness and attitudes toward diversity,” said Paula Davis, assistant vice chancellor for health sciences diversity in the School of Health Sciences, in her keynote speech.

Dr. Singh was recognized for incorporating into introductory courses a new “belonging intervention,” which resulted in improved grades for all students. Using a random assignment of classrooms to enable assessment, the intervention aimed to address gender and racial gaps; it is now part of the standard curriculum in the classes in which it was introduced.

The Discipline-Based Science Education Research Center, or dB-SERC, has many excellent resources to share, learn more here and congratulations to Dr. Singh!

Givi and Daley model turbulence with quantum computing

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 20 November 2019

Turbulence in fluid mechanics has been a scientific challenge since at least the 16th century when Leonardo da Vinci sketched the chaotic movements of water flowing around obstacles in the Arno River. It is regularly described as one of the last unsolved problem of classical physics – a solution to the Navier-Stokes equation, the mathematical underpinning of turbulence, was declared a Millennium Prize Problem by MIT’s Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. The $1 million prize remains unclaimed in 2019.

Pitt researcher Peyman Givi hopes to confront that centuries-old challenge with the power of a new generation of computing. He and a team developed  an algorithm capable  of using quantum computing to model turbulence at an unprecedented level of detail.

Givi, Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, explains the importance of turbulence. “Turbulence is central to the efficiency of fuel. Turbulence enhances mixing –  more mixing creates more reactions and more reactions mean more power. No turbulence, little reaction, little power.”

The challenge of modeling turbulence is evident in the Da Vinci drawings. “We create simulations of eddies – the swirling wheels and whirls and vortices of all sizes you see in the drawings. Fluid mechanics is composed of very large differences in scales. If for example you calculate drag on an airplane wing [fluid mechanics involves both liquids and gases], the largest scale is the entire wing, the smallest scale is close to nanometers. A grid big enough to take in all the scales together won’t fit on a computer. So we simulate the largest part – I don’t need to resolve the smallest scale to model the effects. But the model is not an exact science – you are introducing art into science.”

The science may become more exact using quantum computing. Givi is co-author on a May 2019 paper in the journal Combustion Theory and Modelling – “Quantum algorithm for the computation of the reactant conversion rate in homogeneous turbulence” – presenting an algorithm for predicting the rate of reaction in simulated turbulence and exploring the potential for applications of quantum technology to fluid dynamics and combustion problems. Citing the rapid progress in the development of quantum computing hardware, the paper posits the importance of designing algorithms now that could eventually run on that hardware – “quantum algorithm with a real engineering application.” 

Paul Leu develops materials for next-gen electronic displays

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 13 November 2019

A $1 million award from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program will fund collaborative research to replace ITO with metal “microgrid” conductors to improve OLED performance. The research will be led by Paul Leu, PhD, associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, and Electroninks, a technology company in Austin, Texas.

“Electronink’s metal ink can cure at low temperatures, be printed into patterns, and has conductivity comparable to bulk metal,” says Leu. “By using a new metal patterning technique that prints the metal grid directly on glass or plastic, we can create ‘microgrid’ conductors that can outperform ITO at a lower manufacturing cost.” 

Leu and Electroninks began the project in 2018, working for a year in a proof-of-concept phase to show that their metal inks could work as a replacement for ITO. “The first phase of the project was successful,” says Ziyu Zhou, lead graduate student on the project. “We were able to achieve high performance, with transparency over 90 percent and sheet resistance under 1 ohm per square.” The DOE grant funds Phase II, in which Leu’s lab and Electroninks will continue to investigate and develop the technology, process, and implementation to commercial products with its industrial partners.  They will be developing and evaluating the technology for a variety of applications such as displays, lighting, touch sensors, and electromagnetic interference shielding.

James McKone highlighted as an emerging investigator in materials chemistry

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 6 November 2019

From the design of improved batteries to the use of solar and wind power for commodity chemical production, the University of Pittsburgh’s James McKone explores ways that chemical engineering can make the world more sustainable. That’s why his most recent work, investigating ways that the chemical industry can use renewable electricity as its energy source, is featured in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A Emerging Investigators special issue.

The themed issue highlights the rising stars of materials chemistry research, from nanoparticle inks to next-generation solar cells. The featured investigators are early in their careers and were recommended by other experts in the field.  “We’re glad to have James on our faculty and know this honor is well-deserved,” says Steven Little, PhD, chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. “It confirms what we already know: that his lab’s work has the potential to influence the direction of future discoveries in energy production, energy storage and beyond.” 

Tevis Jacobs: Infectiously inspiring in the classroom

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 15 October 2019

In his classroom, engineering faculty member Tevis Jacobs is one animated presenter.

He speaks rapidly and enthusiastically while adding diagrams to clear overlays on two screens of slides projected onto the white board.  The course is “Mechanical Behavior of Materials,” which examines how things bend and break, down to their atomic structures. Today’s class encompasses the concepts of “work hardening,” “twinning,” and nickel-based super alloys (“You guys know that is my favorite topic,” Jacobs says). 

Jacobs joined the faculty of the Swanson School of Engineering in fall 2015, teaching this undergraduate class and another on experimental techniques, and offering one on tribology — the study of friction, wear and lubrication of sliding surfaces — to graduate students.

“I’ve always wanted to understand how the world works,” Jacobs says. “Mechanical engineering and materials science: what I like about them is that they are all around us. We are constantly interacting with objects, seeing how they perform. I like the idea of making them better in the future … but the current goal is (studying) ‘Why did this thing happen in this way?’ “What I love,” he adds, “especially in the classes I’m teaching now: we can answer that.”

Swanson Engineering faculty promotions

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 2 October 2019

The Autumnal Equinox ushers in a season of welcome changes in the Swanson Engineering Department, in the form of faculty promotions! Congratulations to Giannis Mpourmpakis and John Keith for their promotions and to Karl Johnson, Chris Wilmer, and Susan Fullerton for receiving the William Kepler Whiteford Professorship, William Kepler Whiteford Fellowship, and Bicentennial Board of Visitors Faculty Fellowship, respectively.

Ben Hunt honored with endowed CMU professorship

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 18 September 2019

Among six Mellon College of Science (MCS) faculty members, Ben Hunt has been honored with a career development professorship that supports scientists at the beginning of their careers. He and the other faculty were recognized at a reception Sept. 12 in the Mellon Institute. “An endowed professorship is one of the highest honors that our institution bestows upon faculty, and this honor symbolizes the high esteem to which they are held,” said Carnegie Mellon University Provost Jim Garrett.

“Each of these faculty members are being recognized for their important work in fields that will be some of the most important of the 21st century,” said Rebecca W. Doerge, Glen de Vries Dean of the Mellon College of Science. “While their discoveries will make a significant impact in the world, that impact is equaled by their contributions to the students who they teach in class and mentor in the lab.”

Heng Ban, Jung-Kun Lee, and Kevin Chen awarded DOE grants in nuclear energy research

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 18 September 2019

The Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has received three substantial grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) totaling $2.3 million. PQI faculty members Dr. Heng Ban, Dr. Jung-Kun Lee, and Dr. Kevin Chen are among the recipients.

The awards are three of the 40 grants in 23 states issued by the DOE, which awarded more than $28.5 million to research programs through the NEUP this year to maintain the U.S.’s leadership in nuclear research. 

“Nuclear energy research is a vital and growing source of clean energy in the U.S., and we are at the forefront of this exciting field,” says Heng Ban, PhD, R.K. Mellon Professor in Energy and director of the Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program at the Swanson School of Engineering. “These grants will enable us to collaborate with leading international experts, conducting research that will help shape future of nuclear energy.” 

Congratulations!

First Universal Computer Model for Metal Nanoparticle Adsorption

  • By Ke Xu
  • 16 September 2019

New research from the Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis and his team introduces the first universal adsorption model that accounts for detailed nanoparticle structural characteristics, metal composition and different adsorbates, making it possible to not only predict adsorption behavior on any metal nanoparticles but screen their stability, as well. The research combines computational chemistry modeling with machine learning to fit a large number of data and accurately predict adsorption trends on nanoparticles that have not previously been seen. By connecting adsorption with the stability of nanoparticles, nanoparticles can now be optimized in terms of their synthetic accessibility and application property behavior. This improvement will significantly accelerate nanomaterials design and avoid trial and error experimentation in the lab. Their work was published in Science Advances on Sept. 13, 2019.

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