2022 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:


Chemical Unit Operations (12)

 

AAMP UP- Adhesion of Printed Energetic Materials  

Professor:
Stephen Beaudoin
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
Desired experience:
Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident of the United States. Must have completed at least one academic semester of full-time study at associate's or bachelor's degree level from an accredited college or university.

This project is part of the AAMP-UP '22 program, which focuses on energetic material research.
AAMP-UP is separate but highly partnered with SURF.

The project is run by Dr. Stephen Beaudoin and his team. Additively manufactured energetic materials do not adhere to themselves and casings with sufficient strength to survive gun launch. This project is focused on assessing the properties of the energetic composites that dictate how strongly the composites adhere to themselves and to their casings. The measurements will be made by cutting the composites and measuring the force required to initiate and propagate a crack, and also by using atomic force microscopy to measure directly the adhesion between energetic particles and binders and casings.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ChE/people/ptProfile?resource_id=11574

 

AAMP UP- Conducting Polymer Energetic Binders  

Professor:
Bryan Boudouris
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
Desired experience:
Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident of the United States. Must have completed at least one academic semester of full-time study at associate's or bachelor's degree level from an accredited college or university.

This project is part of the AAMP-UP '22 program, which focuses on energetic material research.
AAMP-UP is separate but highly partnered with SURF.

The project is run by Dr. Bryan Boudouris and his team. The overarching objective of this project is to create polymeric binders that have robust electrical and mechanical properties. This will be achieved by modifying commercially-available materials as well as synthesizing next-generation conducting polymers. By developing the appropriate structure-property-processing relationships, we will develop, and eventually deploy, binders with electronically-triggerable properties. Specifically, the student associated with this project will focus on the design and mechanical testing of polymers and polymer-based binders for energetic materials applications.

There are no specific prerequisites in coursework or associated knowledge for this project. However, a chemistry or chemical engineering major would be the most relevant degree plan.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ChE/people/ptProfile?resource_id=71151

 

AAMP UP- Extrusion Studies to Understand 3D Printing Parameters 

Professor:
Steve Son
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
Desired experience:
Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident of the United States. Must have completed at least one academic semester of full-time study at associate's or bachelor's degree level from an accredited college or university.

This project is part of the AAMP-UP '22 program, which focuses on energetic material research.
AAMP-UP is separate but highly partnered with SURF.

The project is run by Dr. Steve Son and his team. The objective of this project would be to determine the similarity of mass flow rate for a variety of inert materials and ammonium perchlorate (AP) for multi-modal size distributions. The undergraduate student would gain experience researching relevant literature, mixing samples, designing experiments, and analyzing the data for the mock materials as well as assisting with the same tests using energetic materials.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ME/People/ptProfile?resource_id=29385

 

AAMP UP- Novel Fuels in Energetic Materials 

Professor:
Steven Son
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
Desired experience:
Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident of the United States. Must have completed at least one academic semester of full-time study at associate's or bachelor's degree level from an accredited college or university.

This project is part of the AAMP-UP '22 program, which focuses on energetic material research.
AAMP-UP is separate but highly partnered with SURF.

The project is run by Dr. Steven Son and his team. High density fuels, typically metals, are commonly added to propellants and explosives to improve their performance, as well as other factors such as sensitivity and toxicity. Other novel fuels could include solvated electrons (dissolved metals in ammonia, for example). This research topic explores the development, small-scale manufacturing, and characterization of high-density fuels in energetic materials. Particular emphasis is placed on emergent material systems, such as aluminum-lithium alloys, oxide-free coated nano-aluminum, and mechanically activated (MA) fuels. The REU student would work closely with Research Scientists and graduate students to design experiments, perform experiments, analyze data, and report/share these results.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ME/People/ptProfile?resource_id=29385

 

AAMP UP- Synthesis of New Materials 

Professor:
Davin Piercey
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
Desired experience:
Organic Chemistry classes & labs. Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident of the United States. Must have completed at least one academic semester of full-time study at associate's or bachelor's degree level from an accredited college or university.

This project is part of the AAMP-UP '22 program, which focuses on energetic material research.
AAMP-UP is separate but highly partnered with SURF.

The project is run by Dr. Davin Piercey and his team. It is centered around chemical synthesis of new materials for use in propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics.

Completion of both Organic Chemistry classes and labs is a requirement for the students who fill this position. There is not a specific major requirement, but Chemistry and Chemical Engineering degree plans would be the most relevant.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/MSE/people/ptProfile?resource_id=184725

 

AAMP-UP: Additive Manufacturing 

Professor:
Jeff Rhoads
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
Desired experience:
U.S. Citizenship Required Must have completed 1 semester of undergraduate courses

This research project seeks to additively manufacture (3D print) highly viscous materials using a novel 3D-printing method: Vibration Assisted Printing (VAP). This technique uses high frequency vibrations concentrated at the tip of the printing nozzle to enable flow of viscous materials at low pressures and temperatures. VAP has the potential to create next-generation munitions with more precision, customizability, and safety than traditional additive manufacturing methods. The objective of this project is to design formulations which are capable of being vibration-assisted printed, maintain energetic performance, and retain desirable mechanical properties after printing. The REU student would be mentored by graduate students and work within a team to design experiments, perform experiments, analyze data, and disseminate the results. The REU student will have the opportunity to present the findings in regular meetings, poster sessions, formal presentations, and papers.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ME/People/ptProfile?resource_id=34218

 

Advancing Pharmaceutical Manufacturing through Process Modeling and Novel Sensor Development 

Professor:
Gintaras Reklaitis
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
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.

 

Autonomous 3D printing platform for manufacturing pharmaceuticals 

Professor:
Gintaras Reklaitis
Preferred major(s):
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Materials Engineering
Desired experience:
No prior experience required.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions in supply chains for nearly all consumer goods leading to shortages and delays across the product spectrum. This has highlighted the need for robust logistics networks to ensure reliable product supply insulated from market fluctuations. In pharmaceuticals, one approach to strengthen supply chains is to use continuous, automated and agile production sites to make the drug products.
At present there is a dearth of such advanced manufacturing systems. Previous studies by our group have sought to bridge this gap by developing a novel 3D printing platform that possesses the desired features. It is an inkjet style printer that processes the active ingredient and excipient as a solution, melt or suspension formulation and prints it onto capsules or placebo tablets. The goal of this project is to further development of the 3D printing platform in two broad directions: 1) Sensing and real time process monitoring of critical quality attributes (experimental), 2) Investigating the operating regime for different drug excipient systems (experimental).

 

CISTAR - Zero Carbon Dioxide Emission Ethylene Production Process 

Professor:
Cornelius Masuku
Preferred major(s):
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
Desired experience:
Note - Chemical Engineering – Preferred; Mechanical and Electrical Engineering – Acceptable.

This project is supported by CISTAR, an NSF Engineering Research Center headquartered at Purdue.

Ethylene and propylene are the largest volume organic intermediates. Almost all ethylene is produced by steam cracking of natural gas condensates (mostly ethane and propane) or of refinery light naphtha (also mostly ethane and propane), co-producing hydrogen. Because of natural gas combustion in the cracking furnaces, and the gasification of coke deposits, and all the electricity required for the process and refrigeration systems compressors, ethylene production indirectly results large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, which is unsustainable.
One possible carbon dioxide mitigation strategy would be to fit carbon capture and sequestration technologies onto the cracking furnace flues, onto the CO2 absorption strippers (if used), and onto the fossil-fueled power plants producing electricity for the process and refrigeration compressors. As an alternative to fossil-fueled power plants with carbon capture and sequestration, there are other existing (near) zero-carbon electricity sources including for example nuclear, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar thermal, and solar photovoltaic.
The aim of this project is to design a world-scale condensate cracking plant to produce polymer-grade ethylene and propylene using only renewable electricity utilities.

Students working on this project will also have the opportunity to participate in information sessions, tours and informal mentoring with CISTAR's partner companies.

Purdue students are not eligible for this project. Students must be from outside institutions. Participants must be US Citizens. Students with disabilities, veterans, and those from traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM are encouraged to apply.

More information: https://cistar.us/

 

CISTAR - Zero Emission Chemical Production from Shale Gas 

Professor:
Rakesh Agrawal
Preferred major(s):
  • Chemical Engineering

This project is supported by CISTAR, an NSF Engineering Research Center headquartered at Purdue.

While chemical engineering evolved against the backdrop of an abundant supply of fossil resources, re-cent trend of carbon neutrality offers an unprecedented opportunity to imagine more sustainable chemical plants with net-zero carbon emission. In CISTAR, we are interested in converting shale gas into useful chemicals without any carbon emissions during the process, which requires careful selection of product combination and innovative design of chemical processes. In this project, the student will participate in synthesis, simulation and optimization of processes described above.

Students working on this project will also have the opportunity to participate in information sessions, tours and informal mentoring with CISTAR's partner companies.

Purdue students are not eligible for this project. Students must be from outside institutions. Participants must be US Citizens. Students with disabilities, veterans, and those from traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM are encouraged to apply.

More information: https://cistar.us/

 

Decisions for handling contaminated personal effects and plumbing after drinking water contamination 

Professor:
Andrew Whelton
Preferred major(s):
  • Environmental and Ecological Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Materials Engineering
  • Materials Science
  • Plastics Engineering
  • Agricultural Engineering
  • Pharmacy
  • Military Science
  • Public Health
  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Food Science
Desired experience:
Strong internal motivation to learn Basic understanding of chemistry

Chemical spills and backflow incidents are common threats to drinking water distribution and plumbing systems. Sometimes free product and drinking water with dissolved contaminants can travel through this infrastructure and reach building faucets. When this occurs health officials, system owners, and infrastructure owners rapidly seek information about whether individual constituents became sequestered in certain parts of the systems and how best to remove them. Plastics are an important concern because many are easily permeated by organic compounds which prompts them to leach chemicals into clean water making it unsafe.

In response to drinking water contamination incidents over the past 20 years and requests from health departments and households affected, this project will examine the fate of fuel chemicals in contact with plumbing materials (i.e., pipes, gaskets) and plastic personal effect materials (i.e., baby bottles, plates, cups, etc.). Diesel, gasoline and crude oil are being considered. The student will conduct the contamination experiments, collect water samples and analyze them using state-of-the-art instrumentation. The student will analyze, interpret, and report the information with advisement of one graduate research assistant and two faculty who respond to these types of water contamination incidents.

Other questions that may be explored include the chlorination of the fuel components and formation of disinfectant byproducts, mechanical integrity impacts on the plastic materials, chemical transformations of the leached products. This work directly supports emergency response and recovery activities of the Center for Plumbing Safety.

More information: www.PlumbingSafety.org

 

Electrical Dehydrogenation Reactor Optimization for The Production of Ethylene Using Renewable Energies 

Professor:
Rakesh Agrawal
Preferred major(s):
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
Desired experience:
• It is advisable the student has a strong motivation for computer simulations • Experience working with Ansys Fluent and Aspen Plus could be beneficial

Ethylene is one of the most important building blocks of the chemical industry1. Its global market was estimated at ~160 million Tons in 2020 and it is forecast to reach ~210 million Tons by 20272. Between 1.0 and 1.6 tons of CO2 are emitted per ton of Ethylene produced. This means Ethylene production accounted for around 0.47-0.75% of the world’s total carbon emissions in 2020, estimated at 34 billion tons3. The U.S. has set a course to reach net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 20507,8. This makes it imperative decarbonizing Ethylene production.
Ethylene is mainly produced by Steam Cracking (SC), where hydrocarbons transform into ethylene in the presence of steam at high temperatures11. SC normally implements hydrocarbon combustion to produce the necessary energy for reaction. This is the main reason why SC emits so much CO21. The NSF Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources (CISTAR)5 is currently researching the coupling of SC with renewable electricity. This would allow a significant reduction of CO2 emissions during SC4.
As part of its research, CISTAR carries out detailed Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations. This allows evaluating the impact of fluid behavior during reactions. Several geometries are currently under evaluation. As part of the SURF Program, CISTAR is interested in recruiting one student to support the CFD simulations team. The goal is to evaluate the performance of the different reactor geometries considered, as well as propose potentially attractive new configurations. No previous experience with CFD simulations is necessary. However, it is advisable the student has a strong motivation for computer simulations. Experience working with Ansys Fluent and Aspen Plus could be beneficial.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/RARG/ and https://cistar.us/