News and Events

Du's research on glucose poly(ortho esters) featured as cover story of Angewandte Chemie

February 13, 2014 - Assistant professor AC-cover-300of chemistry and Science of Advanced Materials research scientist Wenjun Du recently had his research featured as the cover story on the journal, Angewandte Chemie.

His paper - "Synthesis of Highly pH-Responsive Glucose Poly(orthoester)" - hypothesizes that pH-responsive polymers have great potential in biomedical applications, including targeted drug delivery.

Since tumors and inflammatory tissues tend to have low pH values and existing pH-responsive materials, such as polyketal copolymers, had known limitations and were falling short in terms of treating conditions optimally, Du and his research colleagues synthesized a glucose poly(orthoester) as a highly pH-responsive polymer to address these issues. Their research demonstrates the first, successful creation of a new class of sugar-based polymers, in which the sugar units are connected through orthoester linkages.

Ths new discovery has broad applications and may be useful in the synthesis of highly pH-responsive materials that could selectively and rapidly deliver drugs to diseased tissues with low pH values.

Du and his team plan to continue their study of glucose poly (ortho esters), with additional research studies already underway in his laboratory.

Angewandte Chemie is one of the premier chemistry journals in the world. It is the only journal in the field that delivers a mix of review articles, highlights and communications weekly, and also regularly publishes Nobel lectures in chemistry and related fields.

Fornari invited to provide expert commentary about materials research in Physics' Viewpoint paper

February 13, 2014, 2013 - Physics professor and Science of Advanced Materials research scientist Marco Fornari was recently published in Physics, the online publication of the American Physical Society that spotlights exceptional research. Fornari was invited to write a Viewpoint commentary on the research article, "Comprehensive Search for New Phases and Compounds in Binary Alloy Systems Based on Platinum-Group Metals, Using a Computational First-Principles Approach," explaining the results of recent research conducted at Brigham Young University to physicists in other subfields.

In his invited paper, Fornari notes that being able to use powerful computers to search for new and improved functional materials - particularly new platinum-group-metal-containing alloys that have proven useful for a wide range of industrial applications - yields significant time-saving by allowing researchers to explore potentially useful chemical combinations of elements and structures in a fraction of the time that real experiments would take. Results are organized in a database that researchers then go through to analyze the relationships between multiple materials. Through their analysis, they create what are called "property descriptors" - quantities that link the calculated microscopic and macroscopic properties - and what research scientists use as a compass to navigate these complex, multidimensional materials databases. They hope that this "high-throughput materials modeling" will expedite the discovery and development of new materials, and their applications to real-world issues.

The researchers at Brigham Young University used a supercomputer and software called AFLOW to process 153 binary combinations of platinum group and transition metals, calculating the energies of 250 different possible crystal structures. They were able to identify crystal structures that had already been found, but also discovered 28 new, unexplored alloys that could have potential use.

Fornari indicates in his review that although years might be needed to examine all of the leads yielded by this particular study, it highlights the need for greater standardization in how materials are catalogued in various databases. This would help achieve a long-term goal of high-throughput materials modeling of allowing searches to automatically generate new descriptors for new functionalities, and in turn, enhancing material scientists' research abilities through data mining to expedite the discovery of new materials and their potential uses.

Click here to read Fornari's full Viewpoint paper, "Computational Materials Discovery Goes Platinum."


Barone and Jackson awarded research grants from National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy

February 11, 2014 - Two CMU Science of Advanced Materials faculty members were recently recognized for their research:

  • Assistant professor of physics Veronica Barone was awarded a Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) grant from the National Science Foundation to work on sodium-ion batteries research in collaboration with professor Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland. Due to the low cost and abundance of sodium on Earth, sodium-ion batteries are emerging as a viable technology to meet the requirements for transportation and other energy storage applications. Although sodium is much more abundant than lithium, sodium ions have a much larger size, which poses grand challenges for sodium-ion technologies. Barone's research group at CMU will address these issues by utilizing computational tools to investigate possible sodium-ion storage mechanisms, such as intercalation and cluster formation.

  • Professor of physics Koblar Alan Jackson has received a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Science to study the physics and chemistry of cluster-based catalyst systems using computer simulations. The grant will support Science of Advanced Materials and CMU Department of Physics graduate students who have research interests in computational studies of atomic clusters and nanomaterials.

SAM graduates recognized for outstanding dissertations

February 4, 2014 - December 2013 graduates of the Science of Advanced Materials Ph.D. program Jordan Phillips and Chananate Uthaisar have each been recognized by the CMU College of Graduate Studies with a 2013 Outstanding Dissertation Award.

Phillips' dissertation, "Towards the Blackbox Computation of Magnetic Exchange Coupling Parameters in Polynuclear Transition-Metal Complexes" and Uthaisar's dissertation, "Optimizing Graphene Oxide Derivatives as High Performance Anodes in Lithium-Ion Batteries: From Density Functional Theory Calculations to Fundamental Experimental Research" earned them their awards.

Phillips is now working as a postdoctoral researcher in the chemistry department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Uthaisar recently took a position as a research scientist with Fraunhofer USA in the Center for Coatings and Laser Applications located in Lansing, Michigan.

Howell publishes new book about high performance polymers

November 26, 2013 - Central Michigan University professor of chemistry and Science of Advanced Materials researcher Bob A. Howell recently published "Foundations of High Performance Polymers: Properties, Performance and Applications" along with U.K. polymer scientist Abbas Hamrang. This 332-page book presents phenomena associated with the remarkable features of high performance polymers and also provides an update on applications of modern polymers.

Helping to fill the gap between theory and practice, "Foundations of High Performance Polymers" offers new research insights into structure-property relationships, synthesis and purification, and potential applications of high performance polymers. The collection of topics discussed reflects the diversity of recent advances in modern polymers with a broad perspective that scientists, graduate students and engineers will also find useful.

Howell's research interests include flame retardants for polymeric materials, new polymeric fuel-cell membranes, polymerization techniques, thermal methods of analysis, polymer-supported organoplatinum antitumor agents, barrier plastic packaging, bioplastics, and polymers from renewable sources. A particular current research interest is the development of nontoxic, environmentally friendly flame retardants based on renewable biosources.

SAM professor is one of 15 recipients of Department of Defense MURI research award

June 6, 2013 - A team of six scientists, Marco Fornariincluding Science of Advanced Materials and physics professor Marco Fornari, is receiving $8.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop and apply computational methods that will replace expensive and rare chemical elements from critical technologies.

Their award-winning research proposal, "Rare Element Replacement Strategies," is a combined effort between Fornari and his colleagues at Duke University, Brigham Young University, University of North Texas and University of Maryland - College Park. The team is receiving one of 15 awards given by the DoD to academic institutions to perform multidisciplinary basic research. Totaling $105 million, the awards are presented by the Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research under the DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program.

The MURI program supports research by teams of investigators across traditional science and engineering disciplines to accelerate research progress. Fornari, along with his research colleagues, will investigate topological decompositions and spectral sampling algorithms for elements substitution in critical technologies. In simpler terms, he will develop and apply methods to design advanced materials with improved functionalities for applications that are crucial for the mission of the DoD.

The Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals in 16 topics important to the DoD and received a total of 193 papers, followed by 43 proposals. The 15 awards handed out are for a five year period, with the research expected to produce significant advances in capabilities for U.S. military forces, and to open up entirely new lines of research. A total of 43 academic institutions are expected to participate in these select 15 research projects.

Science of Advanced Materials student Phillip Medina receives a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

April 26, 2013 - 2012 graduate and Phillip Medinachemistry major Phillip Medina recently received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This highly competitive, multi-year award will provide him with $30,000 per year to help cover his graduate school expenses.

Medina is continuing his education at CMU where he is enrolled in his second year as a graduate student in the Science of Advanced Materials (SAM) program. He plans to continue his research on lithium-ion batteries with chemistry professor and SAM researcher Bradley Fahlman, searching for methods to increase the potential capacity of the batteries through the use of porous silicon and vertically aligned nanowires.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. 

NSF received over 13,000 submitted applications for the 2013 competition. Medina was one of only 2,000 recipients who received an award.

Howell receives international award for work in thermal analysis

April 22, 2013 - Central Michigan Bob HowellUniversity professor of chemistry and polymer science Bob Howell has received the 2012 North American Thermal Analysis Society Award for Outstanding Achievement in thermal analysis research.

"Thermal analysis has to do with just the response of materials to a change in temperature," Howell said. "You can learn about the structure of the material based on the way it responds, and so that's the fundamental technique."

Howell applies his research in a number of ways, focusing primarily on studying polymer degradation at different temperature ranges. For example, his research to address the issue of foul taste and brown streaking in milk jugs - and his proposed solution - helped reduce the cost of milk production and was considered particularly noteworthy by the society.  

The solution to issues with milk containers linked back to Howell's research with The Dow Chemical Co., where in the mid-1980s he was asked by Dow to experiment with using polymeric materials in food packaging, and successfully adapted the materials to stop the streaking.

Most containers are made with different layers of various polymer materials, each with a different composition. The elimination of the streaking allows the milk to be stored at room temperature. "Because no oxygen gets in, the milk doesn't spoil," Howell said.

Howell has also worked to remove odors from degrading polystyrene, the plastic material used in packaging food, such as cookies and pastries.

The Outstanding Achievement award from NATAS is unique to a university of CMU's size. Given annually, it recognizes distinguished achievement in the field of thermal analysis, including but not restricted to thermogravimetry, differential thermal methods and effluent gas analysis. The award recipient must have performed outstanding work in the utilization, creation or refinement of thermal techniques of generally wide interest and impact. 

Howell is the 44th recipient of this award, which represents the highest honor bestowed by the Society.

Fahlman selected to be Contributing Editor for InterNano

April 11, 2013 - Professor of chemistry and Bradley FahlmanScience of Advanced Materials researcher Bradley Fahlman has been selected to be a Contributing Editor for InterNano, a project of the National Nanomanufacturing Network. Fahlman will generate original content about topics in nanomanufacturing and write expert reviews based on relevant and recent news in the industry.

Nanomanufacturing is the controllable manipulation of materials structures, components, devices and systems at the nanoscale (1 to 100 nanometers) in one, two and three dimensions for large-scale reproducibility of value-added components and devices. It remains the essential bridge between the discoveries of the nanosciences and real-world nanotechnology products.

The National Nanomanufacturing Network (NNN) is an alliance of academic, government and industry partners that cooperate to advance nanomanufacturing strength in the U.S. and serves as a catalyst for progress by facilitating and promoting workshops, roadmapping, inter-institutional collaborations, technology transition, test beds and information exchange services.

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