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:
Advanced Textile based Wearable Devices
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/
Bio-inspired Radiative Cooling Nanocomposites
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
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
Development of an anti-deterrent formulation against opioid abuse
Prescription analgesics such as opioids are an indispensable resource for managing pain. While these drugs may provide relief from the discomfort that occurs after a medical procedure, opioids are highly addictive. If taken as prescribed, the overall risk to the patient’s health is minimal. However, some addicts alter the method of ingestion in order to feel the effects as quickly as possible. These alternative ingestion strategies result in a rapid and dangerous increase in the concentration of the drug in the blood that can lead to death. In fact, overdose deaths caused by prescription drug abuse now exceed the total number of deaths caused by heroin or cocaine combined. To help minimize the risk of overdose, we are developing an advanced pill formulation designed to deter addicts from using alternative ingestion strategies.
Efficient and renewable water treatment
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 Halide Perovskite Solar Cells
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/
Mass spectrometry of biomolecules and nanoclusters
We are using mass spectrometry to study the localization of lipids, drugs, and proteins in biological tissues and to prepare novel functional interfaces using well-defined polyatomic ions. The student will work with a graduate student mentor to either perform nanocluster synthesis and characterization using mass spectrometry and electrochemical measurements or to develop new analytical approaches for quantitative analysis of biomolecules in biological samples. In both projects, the student will be trained to operate state-of-the-art mass spectrometers and perform independent data acquisition and analysis. The student will also work with the scientific literature to obtain a broader understanding of the field.
More information: https://www.chem.purdue.edu/jlaskin/
Modeling High Efficiency Thermophotovoltaic Systems
This project studies by numerical simulation the impact of optical multilayer structure on improving the efficiency of thermophotovoltaic (TPV) devices. TPV devices convert heat to electricity using thermal radiation to illuminate a photo-voltaic (PV) diode made from semiconductor materials. Typically, this radiation is generated by a blackbody-like emitter. Thermal radiation includes a broad range of wavelengths, but only high energy photons can be converted to heat by the PV diode, which severely limits efficiency. Thus, introducing a selective emitter and filter to recycle unwanted photons can greatly enhance performance.
In this project, the student will develop/upgrade a GUI-based tool to calculate the emittance spectrum and efficiency of a multilayer structure based TPV device. The tool is hosted and run through nanoHUB.org - an open-access science gateway for cloud-based simulation tools and resources in nanoscale science and technology. The student will also work with graduate students and use this tool to study how to improve the TPV efficiency based on physical models.
Nanostructural Evaluation of Human Bone Under Applied Loading
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.
Printable functional filaments and sensor for biomedical devices
Current surgical mesh implants require manual size adjustment from pre-fabricated sheets that can lead to improper fitting and thus post-surgical complications. 3D printing surgical mesh would avoid manual errors in addition to providing surgeons and hospitals with an increased number of choices for mesh design. This allows for greater personalization of treatment for patients suffering from hernias.
Design and characterize a novel 3D printable filament imbued with an antibacterial and piezoelectric electrical stimulating agent. This mesh should be biocompatible, flexible, and biodegradable over a period of years.
A second part of project will be focused on printing low-cost biosensors for detecting COVID-19 virus.
Simulations of nanofluid flow in inkjet 3D printing
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/
SoCET: System on Chip Extension Technologies
The processors inside your cell-phone, automobile, television, etc. are some of the most complex and smallest devices created in human history, but with access to the right tools, design techniques, and fabrication facilities you can create new capabilities to be fabricated on silicon. Such processors are implemented in the form of a System-on-Chip (SoC). Design of SoC's and access to fabrication facilities are ordinarily extremely expensive and very restricted. However, thanks to industry and governmental support, interested undergraduates are able to join in the design, fabrication, and test of custom SoC's. The primary reason for the existence of the SoC team is to give students an integrated circuit design experience that as close as possible to what they would encounter in industry.
The technical objective of the SoC Team is to create and keep improving on an SoC design that we can then customize for special application and research needs. The team's major project is that of creating an SoC that is optimized for very small scale and low power machine learning applications, but there are numerous problems one can work on including modelling of a secure SoC architecture, design of chiplets, FPGA prototyping, extending a RISCV open source processor design, testing of recent chips designed by SoCET, analog circuit design, and using industry grade design verification techniques.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/SoC-Team