2021 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:


Material Processing and Characterization (16)

 

3D Forming of Advanced Composites for Automotive and Sports Applications 

Professor:
Jan-Anders Mansson
Preferred major(s):
Materials Science, Aerospace, Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:
Enthusiasm for hands-on manufacturing and an interest in materials research. Prior experience with thermoplastic composites is preferred, but not required

The Manufacturing Design Laboratory (MDLab) at Purdue University is driven by today’s fast growing demands for cost-effectiveness and more sustainable solutions in the aerospace, automotive, and sports industries. Our research focuses on integrating next-generation composite manufacturing approaches with a full-scale Industry 4.0 Digital Manufacturing Testbed. As the utilization of advanced composites expands from the aerospace industry to high volume applications such as automotive and sports industries, increased complex forming, and cost-effective manufacturing has been increasingly demanded. The MDLab has integrated advanced robotics to automate the fiber preforming process which has led to a significant reduction of cycle times for complex shaped structures.
One of the equipment in the lab is the FREESTYLETM machine which is used to form M-TOW® (overbraided composite tow) into any desired shape and is synonymous to metal roll forming methods. The method is a free-forming method, no mold required, and raises the issues of dimensional and forming accuracy, which highlights our research focus in this area.
The student’s project will focus on mastering the forming of thermoplastic composites into 3D shapes. The student should have a desire to work with novel manufacturing equipment which may require modifying equipment for better performance. The results from this research will contribute to a deeper understanding of the dimensional stability of thermoplastic composites and will serve as a preform for over-molded components to be used in the automotive industry.

 

4D Materials Science - X-ray Microtomography, Image Analysis, and Machine Learning 

Professor:
Nik Chawla
Preferred major(s):
Materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, and/or computer engineering
Desired experience:
Microstructural Characterization Computer programming/coding Image analysis Junior or Seniors are particularly encouraged to apply.

The student will be working on state-of-the-art characterization techniques, such as x-ray microtomography and correlative microscopy of high performance materials. The project will involve image analysis and machine learning algorithms for efficiently and accurately analyzing the x-ray tomography datasets.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/MSE/people/ptProfile?resource_id=239946

 

Additive Manufacturing of Lightweight Metallic Alloys 

Professor:
Nik Chawla
Preferred major(s):
Materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering
Desired experience:
Independent, driven, and hard-working. Experience with sample preparation and optical microscopy would be a plus.

The student will work on microstructural characterization and mechanical properties of new aluminum-based additive manufactured alloys. Corrosion testing and analysis are also part of the existing project.

 

Adhesives at the Beach 

Professor:
Jonathan Wilker
Preferred major(s):
Chemistry or Materials Engineering or Biomedical Engineering or Chemical Engineering
Desired experience:
Students in our lab are not required to arrive with any particular expertise. Marine biology (e.g., working with live mussels), materials engineering (e.g., measuring mechanical properties of adhesives), and chemistry (e.g., making new polymers) are all involved in this work. Few people at any level will come in with knowledge about all aspects here. Consequently we are looking for adventurous students who are wanting to roll up their sleeves, get wet (literally), and learn several new things.

The oceans are home to a diverse collection of animals producing intriguing materials. Mussels, barnacles, oysters, starfish, and kelp are examples of the organisms generating adhesive matrices for affixing themselves to the sea floor. Our laboratory is characterizing these biological materials, designing synthetic polymer mimics, and developing applications. Characterization efforts include experiments with live animals, extracted proteins, and peptide models. Synthetic mimics of these bioadhesives begin with the chemistry learned from characterization studies and incorporate the findings into bulk polymers. For example, we are mimicking the cross-linking of DOPA-containing adhesive proteins by placing monomers with pendant catechols into various polymer backbones. Adhesion strengths of these new polymers can rival that of the cyanoacrylate “super glues.” Underwater bonding is also appreciable. Future efforts are planned in two different areas: A) Using biobased and biomimetic adhesives as the basis for making new plastic materials. This project will be more in the realm of materials engineering. B) Developing gel-based adhesives for wound closure. Work here will involve some aspects of biomedical engineering.

More information: http://www.chem.purdue.edu/wilker/

 

Advanced Textile based Wearable Devices 

Professor:
Tian Li

We are developing advanced textile materials towards next generation comfortable and wearable devices. The student will be involved in the design, fabrication and demonstration of the wearable devices including sensors, circuit components, power generators, etc.

More information: https://www.tianliresearch.com/

 

Advancing Pharmaceutical Manufacturing through Process Modeling and Novel Sensor Development 

Professor:
Gintaras Reklaitis
Preferred major(s):
Chemical Engineering (but other majors are also welcome)
Desired experience:
Basic skills for MATLAB and powder characterization would be a plus, but they are not necessary. The student should be safety conscious, self-motivated, and can work with minimal supervision. Aptitude for mastering the use of gadgets is desired, as well as the ability to understand research papers, documents, and manuals. Any student who prefers a combination of simulation/modeling and hands-on pilot plant work is welcome. Moreover, this project is ideal for a student who is interested in a career in pharma or in powder manufacturing.

The limitations of batch processes to manufacture pharmaceutical products such as tablets, coupled with advances in process analytical technology (PAT) tools have led to a shift towards continuous manufacturing (CM), which represents the future of the pharmaceutical industry.

The flexibility of continuous processes can reduce wasted materials and facilitate scale-up more easily with active plant-wide control strategies. Ultimately, this results in cheaper and safer drugs, as well as a more reliable drug supply chain.

To fully realize the benefits of continuous manufacturing, it is important to capture the dynamics of the particulate process, which can be more complex than common liquid-based or gas-based chemical processes. In addition, effective fault detection and diagnostic systems need to be in place, so intervention strategies can be implemented in case the system goes awry.

All of these require the development of process models that leverages knowledge of the process and big data. Students in this part of the research would have a chance to gain experience in industry-leading software for process modeling (e.g. Simulink, gProms, OSI PI) and machine learning (e.g. Matlab, Python, .NET).

Most importantly, they would be able to test the models in Purdue's Newly Installed Tablet Manufacturing Pilot Plant at the FLEX Lab in Discovery Park.

Another important aspect of the research are sensors. In this project, we will be investigating the feasibility of two novel sensors: a capacitance-based sensor to measure mass flow, and a particle imaging sensor that directly captures images of the powder particles to give you a particle size distribution. We will be testing these sensors together with NIR and Raman sensors, and use data analytics to determine their feasibility of application in a drug product manufacturing process.

 

Bio-inspired Radiative Cooling Nanocomposites 

Professor:
Xiulin Ruan
Preferred major(s):
Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Chemical Engineering
Desired experience:
Courses in thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, heat transfer, materials, and polymers are all relevant but not required.

Radiative cooling is a passive cooling technology without power consumption, via reflecting sunlight and radiating heat into the deep space. Compared to conventional air conditioners, radiative cooling not only saves energy, but also combats global warming. Recently, our group has invented commercial-like particle-matrix paints that cool below the surrounding temperature under direct sunlight. The Purdue cooling paints attracted remarkable global attention. Read, for example, the BBC News coverage here: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-54632523. Currently we are working to improve the performance and create new radiative cooling solutions using bio-inspired concepts.

In this SURF project, we look for a self-motivated student to work with our PhD students. The student will first synthesize bio-inspired nanocomposites via some wet chemistry and/or nanoscale 3D printing methods. The optical, mechanical, and other relevant properties will then be characterized with spectrometers and specialized equipment, with a particular focus on the effect of different particle alignment/processing techniques on the optical and mechanical properties. Field testing will be performed to measure the cooling performance of the materials and devices. The work is expected to results in journal paper(s) of high quality. Students who make substantial contributions to the work can expect to be co-authors of the paper(s).

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/NANOENERGY/

 

Describing the collective motion of dislocations in metals 

Professor:
Anter EL-AZAB
Preferred major(s):
Physics, Mathematics, Materials Science
Desired experience:
Calculus 3 (vector calculus), familiarity with basic statistical concepts

The collective behavior of dislocations (line defects) in crystals is not well understood. This is somewhat strange considering that this collective behavior is the physical origin of deformation in many crystalline materials. The only tool that we currently have to study this involves simulating how individual dislocations move in a crystal. However, we are creating a theory that treats these dislocations like a fluid, as a density field.

We have two projects available, please apply for this position if you are interested in either one.

• One project will involve simulating dislocations in face centered cubic metals to extract statistical information about how they form junctions. This junctions are the physical basis of work-hardening, and this statistical information will allow us to incorporate junctions into the density-based, fluid-like model.

• Another project will involve simulating x-ray diffraction patterns in face-centered cubic metals containing dislocations in order to identify signals relevant to the fluid-like properties of the dislocations. Basic machine learning techniques will be used to identify these signals. No experience with x-ray diffraction or machine learning is needed. These results will allow experimentalists at our national labs to measure the fluid-like properties of dislocations in a lab rather than through simulations.

More information: Not yet

 

Efficient and renewable water treatment 

Professor:
David Warsinger
Preferred major(s):
Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Materials, Chemical, or Environmental Engineering
Desired experience:
Applicants should have an interest in thermodynamics, water treatment, and sustainability. Applicants with experience in some (not all) of the following are preferred: experimental design and prototyping, manufacturing, Python, LabView, EES, MATLAB, 3D CAD Software, & Adobe Illustrator. 2nd semester Sophomores, Juniors, and 1st semester Seniors are preferred.

Water and energy are tightly linked resources that must both become renewable for a successful future. However, today, water and energy resources are often in conflict with one another, especially related to impacts on electric grids. Further, advances in material science and artificial intelligence allow for new avenues to improve the widespread implementation of desalination and water purification technology. This project aims to explore nanofabricated membranes, artificial intelligence control algorithms, and thermodynamically optimized system designs. The student will be responsible for fabricating membranes, building hydraulic systems, modeling thermal fluid phenomenon, analyzing data, or implementing control strategies in novel system configurations.

More information: www.warsinger.com

 

High Performance Concrete from Recycled Hydrogel-Based Superabsorbent Materials 

Professor:
Kendra Erk
Preferred major(s):
Any
Desired experience:
Enthusiasm for chemistry and an interest in materials research. Prior experiences with cement and concrete would be a benefit to the project but are not required.

Concrete that is internally cured by water-swollen superabsorbent polymer (SAP) particles has improved strength and durability. Widespread adoption of SAP-cured concrete is hindered by the lack of commercial SAP formulations that maintain their absorbency in cement’s high-pH environment. Most commercial SAP formulations are designed for disposable diapers and other absorbent hygiene products (AHPs), which account for ~12% (3.4M tons) of all non-durable goods in landfills. Over 70% of a diaper’s weight is composed of absorbent materials – mainly cellulose and polyacrylamide(PAM)-based SAP particles – the latter being chemically equivalent to the SAP particles that perform well in concrete research. Thus, a sustainable strategy to create effective concrete curing agents is to recycle the absorbent materials from AHPs and reprocess for use in concrete. AHP recycling efforts are already underway, including a plant in Italy with a 10,000-tonne annual capacity for AHP recycling. However, synthetic strategies must be developed to convert recycled AHPs into absorbent particles that perform well in concrete. Hypothesis and Objectives: We hypothesize that the PAM and cellulose components of AHPs can be separated and chemically crosslinked to form particles that display high absorption capacity in alkaline environments. The SURF student will: (1) obtain recycled absorbent materials and characterize the structures of the materials including composition, particle morphology, and swelling behavior; (2) design and synthesize absorbent particles by combining different ratios of recycled absorbent materials with a crosslinking agent and grinding/sieving to create particles with dry sizes of 10-100 micron; (3) identify the dosages of absorbent particles required to create internally cured concrete with good workability and mechanical strength; and (4) perform cost-benefit analysis of concrete cured by recycled particles and commercial SAP.

More information: https://soft-material-mechanics.squarespace.com/home/

 

High Performance Halide Perovskite Solar Cells 

Professor:
Letian Dou

Sunlight is the most abundant renewable energy resource available to human beings, and yet it remains one of the most poorly utilized sources of clean energy. Solar cell modules incorporating single crystalline silicon and gallium arsenide currently provide the highest efficiencies for solar energy conversion to electricity but remain limited due to their high costs.

In the past few years, perovskite solar cell technology has made significant progress, improving in efficiency to ~25%, while maintaining attractive economics due to the use of inexpensive soluble materials coupled with ultra low-cost deposition technologies. However, the real applications of these devices requires new breakthroughs in device performance, large-scale manufacturing, and improved stability. Among these, stability and degradation are among the most significant challenges for perovskite technologies. Perovskite absorber layer and organic charge transport materials can be sensitive to water, oxygen, high temperatures, ultraviolet light, and even electric field, all of which will be encountered during operation. To address these issues, significant efforts have been made, including mixed dimensionality and surface passivation; alternative absorber materials and formulations, new charge transport layers, and advanced encapsulation techniques, etc. Now, T80 lifetimes (i.e., the length of time in operation until measured output power is 80% of original output power) of over 1,000 hours have been demonstrated. However, it is still far below the industry required 20 years lifetime, indicating the ineffectiveness of current approaches. To make this advance, non-incremental and fundamentally new strategies are required to improve the intrinsic stability of perovskite active materials.

In this project, we propose a new paradigm to develop intrinsically robust perovskite active layers through the incorporation of multi-functional semiconducting conjugated ligands. In preliminary work, we have demonstrated that semiconducting ligands can spontaneously organize within the active layer to passivate defects and restrict halide diffusion, resulting in dramatic improvements in moisture and oxygen tolerance, reduced phase segregation, and increased thermal stability. Combining a team with expertise spanning the gamut of materials synthesis, computational materials design, and device engineering, we will develop a suite of multi-functional semiconducting ligands capable of improving the intrinsic stability perovskite materials while preserving and even enhancing their electronic properties. Through this strategy, we aim to achieve over 25% cell efficiency with operational stability over 20 years for future commercial use.

More information: https://letiandougroup.com/

 

Identification, Verification and Validation of a Surfactant Formulation for Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery in the Illinois Basin 

Professor:
Nathan Schultheiss
Preferred major(s):
Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Materials

Challenge: The Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Lab has an ardent interest in developing a practical and economical program for the Illinois Basin. The Illinois basin is characterized as a mature asset that is typified by its shallow depths and low temperatures. Many of the fields have been waterflooded for the last several decades to aid in the recovery of the stranded oil within the sandstone and carbonate reservoirs. Significant progress has been made in understanding the brine constituents, oil viscosity/API gravity and reservoir mineralogy of the Illinois Basin; however, suitable chemical formulations, primarily surfactant/polymer combinations are still elusive. Considerable chemical testing is necessary to complement the Illinois Basin reservoir characteristics in order to move a project to pilot scale implementation.
The most pressing technical challenge is the design of a surfactant formulation that provides technical confidence (performance) for the reservoir brine and the crude oil. Notwithstanding, the areas of low/ultralow IFT, phase behavior and core flood are all key areas that need to demonstrate performance before implementing a field pilot program. Once a suitable surfactant formulation is determined, its stability, compatibility and performance with respect to the addition of polymer must also be understood and evaluated.

Targeted Goal: This project will focus on using the library of commercial surfactant products available in the EOR lab to find a suitable formulation for a target reservoir in the Illinois Basin. Once a surfactant formulation is determined through satisfactory phase behavior testing, Interfacial tension testing followed by core flood validation experiments will be carried out. Students should expect to learn about chemical enhanced oil recovery while performing experiments with surfactants, various brine solutions and oils.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/cheeor/

 

Nanostructural Evaluation of Human Bone Under Applied Loading  

Professor:
John Howarter
Preferred major(s):
Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics
Desired experience:
no experience required. ready to learn. completion of MSE 335 (Characterization Methods) or similar course is considered a plus

Student will design a test method for collecting small angle x-ray scattering data for bone specimen under in-situ loading conditions. Test parameters will be optimized for human bone and other associated materials. Data will be analyzed to determine extent of internal damage related to applied stress/strain conditions.

 

Simulations of nanofluid flow in inkjet 3D printing 

Professor:
Xiulin Ruan
Preferred major(s):
Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:
junior or senior standing is preferred

Nanofluids are colloidal suspensions of metallic and nonmetallic nanoparticles in conventional base fluids, and are widely used because of their superior properties. Experiments have shown that the viscosity of the nanofluid increases with an increase on the number of nanoparticles and this can be a challenge regarding to the printability of the material, such as via the nozzle of an inkjet 3D printer.

In this SURF project, we look for a self-motivated student to work with our PhD students. By the end of this project the student will get familiarized with Finite Element Method (FEM), simple cluster commands and various computational tools, like COMSOL Multiphysics or ANSYS. The work is expected to result in journal paper(s) of high quality. Students who make substantial contributions to the work can expect to be co-authors of the paper(s).

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/NANOENERGY/

 

Study on the effects of non-traditional supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) on transport properties and durability of concrete 

Professor:
Jan Olek
Preferred major(s):
Civil Engineering, Materials Science
Desired experience:
Seeking student passionate about materials research and having general interest in the instrumentation and hands-on, laboratory work. 2nd semester Sophomores, Juniors and first semester Seniors are preferred

The global increase in emissions of the carbon dioxide and rapid decrease of natural resources create a great demand for study and development of new materials, modified approaches to old technologies or new vision for already known materials. Usage of supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) has been already proven as one of the efficient ways of reducing the CO2 emissions contributed by the cement industry. However, diminishing supply of traditional SCMs leads to the need to evaluate applicability of some of the alternative (non-traditional) pozzolanic materials for use in concrete. Some of the most promising materials in this category include potentially promising research direction on non-traditional SCMs which are known clays, natural pozzolans and bottom ashes.
One of the goals of this project is to develop a better understanding of the effects of the non-traditional SCMs on microstructure and transport properties of the concrete. In order to accomplish this goal, an experimental work on microstructural analysis of concrete, chemical analysis of the pore solution, water absorption and electrical resistivity of concrete needs to be performed. Some of the planned experiments involve concrete mixing and casting of the specimens, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) evaluation of microstructure, pore fluid extraction, chemical analysis of the pore fluid, evaluation of water sorption and electrical resistivity of concrete.
In addition, the scope of this project also involves evaluation of the impact of the non-traditional SCMs on durability performance of the concrete. Specifically, the chemical interaction of the concrete blended with SCMs with de-icing salts will be studied. The testing will involve use of Low-Temperature Differential Scanning Calorimeter (LT-DSC) to evaluate the durability of hydrated cement pastes with various amounts of non-traditional SCMs in the presence of de-icing salt solution. Also, DSC analysis will be used for so-called “low-temperature porosimetry” test to study the fluid amount in gel pores of the cementitious matrix. This part of the project will involve such tasks as preparation of paste specimens, preparation of de-icing salt solutions, setting up of the LT-DSC, performing of the measurements and analysis of data.
The student will assist the graduate student already working on the project with conducting the above-mentioned experiments, data analysis, reporting, and presentation of the results. The student will learn how operate certain equipment together with data analysis software, how to write a research report and will present a poster at the SURF research symposium

 

UAM Enabled Smart Metallic Structures 

Professor:
James Gibert
Preferred major(s):
Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:
Matlab, Data Acquisition, Machining

Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) machine consists of an ultrasonic horn, also known as the sonotrode, transducers, a heater, and a movable base. The process begins with the placement of a thin metal foil, on a sacrificial base plate bolted on a heated anvil. The foil is compressed under pressure by the rolling sonotrode, which is also excited by the piezoelectric transducers at a constant frequency with amplitudes ranging on the order of microns in a direction transversal to the rolling motion. Once the first layer is bonded, additional layers are added and can be machined as needed until the desired geometry and dimensions of a feature are realized.
The ADAMs lab is currently exploring techniques to create multi-functional material systems utilizing UAM. Candidate projects include embedded piezoelectric actuator for sensing applications and shape memory alloy sheets to create localized structural changes in a metal skin. Other potential projects are the creation of metal structures beam with magno-elastic properties. One embodiment is the creation of composite aluminum beams elastomer core filled with magnetic materials. Different configurations of magnetic materials will be explored to create structures that buckle or stiffen in the presence of magnetic fields.