2020 Research Projects
Projects are posted below; new projects will continue to be posted. To learn more about the type of research conducted by undergraduates, view the 2021 Research Symposium Abstracts (PDF) and search the past SURF projects.
This is a list of research projects that may have opportunities for undergraduate students. Please note that it is not a complete list of every SURF project. Undergraduates will discover other projects when talking directly to Purdue faculty.
You can browse all the projects on the list or view only projects in the following categories:
00 REMOTE Research Project Example for the COVID-Summer
Here is the description of your REMOTE summer research project. The typical project should be 20 hours per week and 10 weeks of work and paired with a graduate student mentor. Students will formally start the research on June 1 and work through August 7. Students will participate in a remote/online professional development program organized by SURF and project outcomes will be disseminated in an online symposium on July 30.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/MSE/news/2020/mse-sounds-like-the-future
3D Printed Mobile Microrobots
In this project, the student will be tasked with using a state-of-the-art two photon polymerization (TPP) 3D printer to fabricate mobile microrobots for biomedical and manufacturing applications. A new technique will be developed for printing with photoresist with embedded magnetic particles and aligning the particles during the 3D printing process. The student will explore various micro-3D printer settings and evaluate them for different microrobot designs. The mobile microrobots produced will be tested with an external magnetic field generating system.
More information: multiscalerobotics.org
3D printing at nanoscale
The ability to create 3D structures in the micro and nanoscale is important for many applications including electronics, microfluidics, and tissue engineering. This project deals with development and testing of a setup for building 3D structures using a femtosecond pulsed laser. A method known as two photon polymerization is typically used to fabricate such structures in which a polymer is exposed to laser and at the point of the exposure the polymer changes its structure. Moving the laser in a predefined path helps in getting the desired shape and the structures are then built in a layer by layer fashion. The setup incorporates all the steps from a designing a CAD model file to slicing the model in layers to generating the motion path of the laser needed for fabricating the structure. In order to make a 3D structure rapidly, a process called stimulated emission depletion (STED) is incorporated. Possible improvements to the process include control algorithms as well as development of new chemicals.
Advanced Processing of Functional Thin Film Materials and Devices
Lee’s research interests are in advanced processing and novel synthesis of functional thin film materials with a focus on high performance oxides, large area CVD polymers and low-temperature ionic conductors. These materials have potential applications in next generation flexible devices, energy conversion devices (e.g., solar cells and fuel cells) and bio-compatible devices (e.g., disposable medical devices and organic sensors).
1. Transparent and Flexible Electronics
Next generation high performance display devices require new materials that present high carrier mobility, excellent stability over time, and low cost-processability. We focus on the development of new types of materials including transition-metal oxides, conjugated polymers, and the fabrication of thin film transistors (TFTs) for the potential applications in high-performance active matrix displays.
2. Functional Materials for Energy Conversion Devices
There is a clear and urgent need for the development of new- and/or renewable energy technologies. Our research interests lie in unique materials processing using novel synthesis techniques (e.g., oxidative CVD, extremely low oxygen pressure annealing) and uncovering their physical properties for energy conversion device applications (e.g., Solar cells, Fuel cells).
3. Advanced Polymer Processing and Wearable Devices
Oxidative Chemical-Vapor-Deposition (oCVD) is a unique solvent-free polymer coating technique that offers a simple and easy approach to synthesize and deposit functional thin film polymers irrespective of polymer solubility or the properties of the substrate material, unlike solvent-involving processes or electrochemical polymerization. The oCVD method has the merits of excellent film uniformity over large areas, high electrical conductivity, conformal coating on non-planar substrates (e.g., textiles and trenches), and low process temperature (20-100 °C), along with scalability for roll-to-roll mass production. The uniform conformal polymeric coating provides a unique functionality to realize breathable wearable clothing devices.
More information: https://baylorme.wixsite.com/leethinfilm
Bio-inspired Nanocomposites for Radiative Cooling
In this project we will fabricate and characterize bio-inspired nanocomposites for efficient radiative cooling. Radiative cooling is a passive cooling technology that can cool outdoor surfaces to below ambient temperature without any power consumption, and hold the promise for saving energy for buildings and infrastructures and fighting global warming. The nanocomposites will be fabricated using coating or additive manufacturing methods. We need certain selective optical properties of the nanocomposites and these properties will be characterized using spectrometers.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/NANOENERGY/
Biomimetic microfluidic tumor models for high throughput drug screening
The overall objective of this project is to develop a new in-vitro tumor model for the rapid screening of drugs and nanoparticles compounds for treating drug-resistant cancers. This model, called as "tumor-microenvironment-on-chip," is based on tissue engineering and microfluidics technologies, to mimic highly dynamic and heterogeneous in-vivo human tumor microenvironment. In addition to its fabrication and development, its rapid screening capability for drugs and nanoparticle compounds will be tested on multidrug-resistant cancers.
In the context of this overall objective, the SURF students will perform research to develop and characterize the tumor-microenvironment-on-chip platform. This platform with heterogeneous cancer types will further tested for their drug response. Specific research tasks include cell culture, microfabrication, fluorescence microscopy, and image analysis for drug response quantification. He/she will also participate in collaboration through Purdue Center for Cancer Research, and IU School of Medicine.
More information: http://www.biotransportgroup.org/
Cooling Technologies Research Center (CTRC)
The continued miniaturization of electronic devices, with expanded functionality at reduced cost, challenges the viability of products across a broad spectrum of industry applications. The electronics industry is driven by global trends in storage, transmission, and processing of extreme quantities of digital information (cloud computing, data centers), increasing electrification of the transportation sector (electric vehicles, hybrid aircraft, batteries), and the proliferation of interconnected computing devices (mobile computing, IoT, 5G). Proper thermal management of electronic devices is critical to avoid overheating failures and ensure energy efficient operation. In view of these rapidly evolving markets, most of the known electronics cooling technologies are approaching their limits and have a direct impact on system performance (e.g., computing power, driving range, device size, etc.).
Research projects in the Cooling Technologies Research Center (CTRC) are exploring new technologies and discovering ways to more effectively apply existing technologies to addresses the needs of companies and organizations in the area of high-performance heat removal from compact spaces. One of the distinctive features of working in this Center is training in practical applications relevant to industry. All of the projects involve close industrial support and collaboration in the research, often with direct transfer of the technologies to the participating industry members. Projects in the Center involve both experimental and computational aspects, are multi-disciplinary in nature, and are open to excellent students with various engineering and science backgrounds. Multiple different research project opportunities are available based on student interests and preferences.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/CTRC/
Enhancing Li-Ion Battery Performance Using Ion Implantation & Irradiation
Energy storage is one of the greatest challenges facing our planet's clean energy future. We need drastically improved energy storage capacity for carbon-neutral electricity generation such as wind and solar, as well as for advanced energy-efficient vehicles and electronic devices. Lithium-ion batteries are leading energy storage technologies due to their safety and reliability, but their charge storage capacity and lifetime must be improved. Li-ion batteries operate by intercalating (i.e. cycling) Li ions in and out of an anode such as TiO2. In this project, we aim to use ion implantation and irradiation to enhance the intercalation capacity, over a larger number of intercalation cycles. We are specifically studying the ionic and electronic conductivities of TiO2, following different ion irradiation doses and species. The student's contribution will include: (a) assist with crystal structure measurements, using techniques such as x-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM); (b) assist with microstructure characterization using TEM; and (c) conduct simulations of ion implantation and irradiation into TiO2, using various ion species, energies, and fluxes.
More information: http://engineering.purdue.edu/NuclearMaterials
Highly Selective Nanoengineering Polymer Membranes for Air Revitalization in Astronaut Life Support Systems
One of the most significant technological barriers to putting humans on mars is reliable carbon dioxide removal in air revitalization for life support systems. Health effects from high CO2 levels, occurring when CO2 partial pressures exceed 2.0 mmHg, are among the most common complaints and challenges from astronauts. CO2 poisoning causes drowsiness, headaches, and dangerously impairs cognitive function. If astronauts lose their ability to perform task that require immaculate attention to detail, especially in emergencies, it could cost their lives. Despite the potential of membrane technology to mitigate health concerns and address challenges of current materials, this technology has not been extensively explored . There is great opportunity to leverage transformative advances resulting from research efforts to reduce CO2 emissions in gas processing and apply them to air revitalization. High performance facilitated transport polymer membranes with a significantly enhanced affinity for CO2 have shown to be effective for the selective removal of CO2 in combustion by-products. Applied to air revitalization in space, membrane technology could provide a lower energy replacement for current heat-driven technologies. It also has the potential to reduce mass, power, and volume, and improve reliability and efficiency in comparison to current systems. However, membranes for selective removal of CO2 in combustion processing are typically designed to achieve a 95% purity. A higher purity level is instrumental for potential application in producing a breathable atmosphere in space with acceptable CO2 levels.
More information: http://www.warsinger.com
Hybrid halide perovskite nanomaterials for next generation photovoltaics and electronics
Modern society relies on electronics and optoelectronic devices (e.g. transistors, light emitting diodes, lasers, solar cells, and detectors). Semiconductor materials are the basis of these devices. Currently, the state-of-the-art devices are dominated by conventional inorganic materials, which are expensive to produce and hard to be incorporated into the next-generation flexible/wearable and bio-compatible devices. While organic materials are advantageous in terms of costs and mechanical flexibility, their electronic properties are usually not as good as inorganic materials. Organic-inorganic hybrid materials provide a promising solution, if the best of the two worlds can be combined.
The design of new hybrid materials for the next generation of optoelectronic and sensing devices and the elucidation of their fundamental structure-property-performance relationships are the key focus of the Dou research group. Specifically, we aim to assemble organic and inorganic materials together through non-covalent and covalent interactions. We tailor the properties of these materials at the nano scale and molecular level in order to deliver new fundamental insights regarding the semiconducting organic-inorganic interface. In turn, this will allow for improved performance of solar energy harvesting and solid-state lighting, and chemical/biological sensing devices. Our research is highly interdisciplinary as it bridges chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science such that new research paradigms that cut across traditional science and engineering disciplines can be established.
More information: https://letiandougroup.com/
Hypervelocity impact screen recording diagnostics and spectroscopy
Need undergraduate researchers to help perform meteor impact experiments, hypervelocity (> 1 km/sec) impact damage measurements, space based additive manufacturing, space self healing material experiments, and damage tolerant sensor designs.
Machine Learning Guided Modeling for Concrete Strength Prediction using Piezoelectric sensor based Electromechanical Impedance (EMI) Technique
The objective of this work is developing a machine learning guided model to predict concrete compressive strength gain using electromechanical impedance (EMI) method coupled with piezoelectric sensor. EMI method can monitor the compressive strength gain of concrete through electro-mechanical coupling effect of piezoelectric sensors. Our previous work has approved the feasibility of using this technology through a series of lab test with various type of sample incorporated with different type of cement, supplementary materials (SCMs) and water-to-cement ratio. The correlation results we obtained using EMI-root mean square deviation (RMSD) index, which are highly correlated with the compressive strength of concrete. However, the field condition is quite different compared with lab such as ambient temperature, humidity, internal temperature of concrete and sensing zone etc. Thus, these factors have to be taken into consideration to develop the reliable mathematical model on concrete strength prediction.
To reach this goal, data sets of impedance and compressive strength data of large concrete slab samples will be collected to train the predictive model using convolution neuron network (CNN). The aim of this project is to establish the function via machine learning algorithms to improve the accuracy for concrete strength monitoring and prediction.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/SMARTLab
Metal Nanofoam Fabrication and Characterization
Metallic nanofoam structures (with ligament and pore diameters on the order of 100 - 400 nm) have been formed using templates formed from electrospinning. Starting with a polymer precursor, we oxidize and then reduce a non-woven fibrous mat to create a 3D metal foam. Metal foams have extremely high strength to weight ratios, we aim to increase this by creating core-shell foams (where we deposit additional metals onto the ligaments). The student on this project will be responsible for materials processing, carrying out electron microscopy to characterize the structures, electroplating the foams, and quantifying the structure of the foam. The work will be primarily experimental, and requires a working knowledge of chemistry and materials characterization tools.
Micro/nano Scale 3D Laser Printing
The ability to create 3D structures in the micro and nanoscale is important in many fields including electronics, microfluidics, and tissue engineering and is an emerging area of research and development. This project deals with the development and testing of a setup for building microscopic 3D structures with the help of a femtosecond laser. A method known as two photon polymerization is typically used to fabricate such structures in which a polymer is exposed to laser and at the point of the exposure the polymer changes its structure. Moving the laser in a predefined path helps in getting the desired shape and the structures are then built in a layer by layer fashion. The setup incorporates all the steps from a designing a CAD model file to slicing the model in layers to generating the motion path of the laser needed for fabricating the structure. In order to make a solid and stable structure, investigation of better materials and optimization of the process parameters is needed. Besides, possible improvements to the control algorithms used in the setup can be done to increase the efficiency of the process and build the structures faster.
Open Source Analysis and Modeling of Experimental Ferroelectric Data
Since the discovery of CMOS-compatible ferroelectric films in the early 2010's, interest in these materials for improved memory and logic devices has dramatically increased. With this increased demand comes the need for widely available tools to bridge the gap between experimental data and theoretical modeling. The applicant will familiarize themselves with the different models applied to ferroelectric devices and work to improve the existing Ferro package (https://github.com/JAnderson419/Ferro). Possible improvements based on student interest include but are not limited to: txt file parsing to support data from additional test instrument sources, implementation and fitting of theoretical models to experimental test data, and automated generation of SPICE-compatible output files based on experimental devices for further simulation.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/hybridmems/
Open to Many Topics
Interested in multiple project areas.
Optimization of Quantum Circuits for Noisy Environments
Our research group works on encoding and processing quantum information in the frequency domain. The platform we work with – biphoton frequency combs (BFCs) – are photon pairs that are entangled in time and energy (frequency). We use commercial hardware like phase modulators and pulse shapers for quantum state preparation and manipulation. Some recent demonstrations include measurement of high dimensional frequency-bin entanglement and tunable quantum gates, among others. Our current efforts are focused on developing quantum circuits to simulate the dynamics of molecules.
The SURF student’s contribution would be as follows:
(1) Develop an instrument control interface to automate the process of quantum state preparation. In particular, we often use commercial pulse shapers to “carve” BFCs from a continuous down conversion spectrum. However, carving a BFCs requires precise positioning of frequency bins in order to ensure that one passes energy-matched (anti-correlated in frequency) comb line pairs. The student would automate this process by interfacing with the pump laser, pulse shaper, and single photon detectors and implementing appropriate instrument control.
(2) What we often measure in our quantum experiments is coincident single photon detection events or, simply, coincidences. However, the number of coincidences depends on factors like loss in the experimental system, the timing jitter of single photon detectors, and the resolution of the timing electronics. The student will carry out a systematic study to evaluate the effect of these factors on the coincidence rate out of a quantum circuit and make recommendations on how to optimize the detection system for high coincidence rates or high coincidence-to-accidental ratios (analogous to signal to noise ratio).
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/~fsoptics/
Photonic Component Design for Quantum and Classical Information Processing
Photons are ideal carriers of quantum information because they are robust against decoherence and are compatible with fiber optic networks. Our research group works on encoding and processing quantum information in the frequency domain. One limitation of conventional or bulk optical equipment is that these devices have high optical losses, which is a major issue for applications in the quantum regime. We recently designed photonic integrated circuits to implement elementary quantum gates and carry out operations like parallel single qubit rotations.
The SURF student’s contribution would be as follows:
(1) Design and simulate photonic elements (microresonators for generation of Kerr and quantum frequency combs, pulse shapers, etc.) for our next round of chip fabrication. The student will be given performance specifications and be expected to use analytical expressions, as well as FDTD and/or FEM simulation tool, and come up with recommendation for appropriate device geometries.
(2) Characterize on-chip optical devices/systems and relate actual performance in our first batch of chips to the original design specifications. Depending on the student’s level of experience, he/she will collect data from our testbed, compare it to the design specifications, and draw appropriate inferences from the data.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/~fsoptics/
Piezoenergetic Material Development
Undergraduate would help with the research of piezoelectric materials and their uses within energetics such as propellants, thermites, and other reactive materials. Currently we are investigating using piezoenergetics as igniters for solid rocket propellant. This involves taking advantage of piezoenergetics unique properties such as their photoflash and spark sensitivity. The primary focus of this research will be studying the combustion and burning characteristics of energetics with piezoenergetic inclusions. Additionally, this research involves working with nanomaterials that are used in piezoenergetics, as well as various techniques to produce them. Over the course of the summer the student will gain hands on experience manufacturing these materials, additively manufacturing them using 3D printing, and running burn tests to study the combustion of propellants with these materials.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/Energetics/
Roll-to-Roll Fabrication of High Performance Conformal Thermoelectric Generators
Thermoelectric generator (TEG) is a solid-state technology that can convert thermal energy directly into electricity through the Seebeck phenomenon. Over 2.5 quadrillion BTU/year of energy generated in US is wasted as a form of heat, which can be reclaimed as electricity using flexible TEG to power sensors and other microelectronics for civil communications and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Unfortunately, the current TEG technology is suffering from its rigid device structured, low efficiency and high cost in both device fabrication and installations.
In this work, a novel roll-to-roll production line of conformal thermoelectric generator (cTEG) will be reported. In-line fabrication includes several micro-deposition processes on a roll-to-roll equipment for a continuous manufacturing platform. The specific activities include: (a) depositing top metal contact layers using screen printing technique; (b) creating micro-porous channels on polymer substrates using pulsed laser irradiation system; (c) filling of micro-channels with p- and n-type TE materials using pipet dispensing systems or similar technique for nanoparticles depositions; (d) laser sintering of p- and n- type TE materials for in-situ crystallization with minimal thermal damage, followed by screen printing the top layer metal contacts to achieve high power output of conformal TEG as power sources for sensors. Thermoplastics with low thermal conductivity (i.e. Kapton, PDMS, polyamide etc.) will be used as substrate and insulating materials between p-n legs.
The cTEG with polymer substrate and insulating materials lead to maximum heat gain to reach high efficiency at the device level for power generation. The performance of cTEG will be discussed with regards to the materials quality and manufacturing process. The fundamental science developed here will have a broad interest to flexible electronic and nanomanufacturing community.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/SMARTLab
Thermal Conduction in Heterogeneous Media
The operating temperature of commercial grade electronic chips used in laptops, modems/routers, gaming consoles, hand-held devices such as smartphones, tablets, and supercomputers can reach dangerous levels (>80 C) as computing tasks intensify. If unchecked, this can lead to material degradation and hamper the performance of the device. Thermal interface materials (TIMs) are used for efficient heat dissipation from junction to ambient in such devices as contact thermal resistances impede efficient heat conduction to the outer surface, to be dissipated to the surroundings. Examples of different types of TIMs are pastes/grease, gels, pads, metallic TIMs, phase change materials and thermal adhesive tapes. Thermal pastes contain high conductivity filler particles in a polymer matrix. Prior research has explored filler particle chemistry (e.g., ceramic, metal, carbon black), morphology, filler loading or volume fraction, state of dispersion and fabrication strategies (i.e., functionalization, particle alignment, self-assembly) to fully exploit the high conductivity property of the microscopic filler and the highest reported value is in the range of 5-10 W/m-K.
Industry grade thermal pastes generally contain high loading of particles in the polymer matrix. Beyond a certain loading known as the percolation threshold, thermal conductivity is known to increase and to evaluate this enhancement, an experimental study involving cylindrical particles-filled epoxy is proposed. Effective thermal conductivity of different types of particle arrangements, up to the percolation threshold, will be measured using an infrared (IR) microscope. Conduction patterns in the different arrangements will be assessed for better thermal management. For the purpose, a rig that can hold the particle-epoxy medium needs to be fabricated. Additionally, novel experimental rig designs may be required depending on the specific choice of materials for various arrangements of the particles within the epoxy.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/MTEC
Water-energy micro-grids for remote communities in Latin America
Peru and Cusco have a major challenge in water, both from waterborne disease (a common challenge throughout Latin America) and water contaminated by mining practices (which has even included using mercury). The integration of renewable energy with reverse osmosis desalination is a promising technology to handle both issues. The overall goal of this project is to develop a portable clean water and renewable energy co-production microsystem for the Cusco region using a new hybrid power generation system—microgrids (integrating solar, wind energy & energy storage) integrated with a novel water desalination based on reverse osmosis. By effective integration of renewable energy sources in a portable microgrid system with water, we will enable electricity production and water purification with minimum energy requirements—typically evident of such water treatments. Moreover, by using a data-driven look-ahead and real-time planning and operation framework, the proposed system will enable vast accessibility to self-sufficient clean electricity and water systems for rural and remote communities in the region, while providing city planners with unique tools for optimum use of resources for the community.
Students will help build these water energy micro-grids. We will bring as many of them as he can on a study abroad trip to Peru, with travel expenses and a trip to Machu Picchu covered. This will include design, construction, and testing of the water-energy apparatuses, and also examination of the health side of things: impacts of heavy metals contamination and waterborne disease that can be prevented with the membranes.
More information: www.warsinger.com