Research Projects

This is a list of research projects that may have opportunities for undergraduate students. You can browse all the projects, or view only projects in the following categories:

Physical Science

 

Center for Materials Under Extreme Environment (CMUXE) - Undergraduate research opportunities

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Nuclear Engineering
Professor: Ahmed Hassanein
Desired experience:   Minimum GPA 3.5
Number of positions: 3-5

The Center for Materials Under Extreme Environment (CMUXE) is looking for undergraduate research students for the following areas:

1. Ion beams and plasma interaction with materials for various applications
2. Magnetic and Inertial Nuclear Fusion
3. Laser-produced plasma (LPP) and Discharge-produced plasma (DPP)
4. Nanostructuring of material by ion and laser beams
5. High energy density physics applications
6. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)
7. Plasma for biomedical applications
8. Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography
9. Computational physics for nuclear fusion, lithography, and other applications

Research of undergraduate students at CMUXE during previous SURF programs has resulted in students acquiring new knowledge in different areas and led to several joint publications, participation in national and international conferences, seminars, and provided experience in collaborative international research.

Several undergraduate and graduate students working in CMUXE have won national and international awards and have presented their work in several countries including Australia, China, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and Russia.

Position is open to undergraduates in all engineering and science disciplines. High level commitment and participation in group meetings are compulsory. Interested candidates are encouraged to visit the center website below for further information.

 

Characterization of Homemade Explosives

Research categories:  Chemical, Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Steven Son
Preferred major(s): ME, AAE, MSE, or ChE
Desired experience:   Two or more years toward B.S. in engineering or science. US citizens are preferred because student will sometimes need to handle explosives.
Number of positions: 1

The SURF student will work with a team to explore characterization of homemade explosives using small scale experiments or explore “hot spot” formation in high explosives via acoustic stimulation. Microwave interferometry, schlieren imaging, or infrared imaging will be applied to these systems.

 

Combustion and Shock Synthesis of materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Steven Son
Preferred major(s): ME, AAE, MSE, or ChE
Desired experience:   Two or more years toward B.S. in engineer or science degree.
Number of positions: 1

The SURF student will work with a team to understand how reactive synthesis materials can be modified to enable successful synthesis of materials (such as cubic boron nitride) by shock-assisted reaction. A gas gun will be used to perform experiments. Dynamic experiments will be used to examine the response of the materials and final materials will be characterized.

 

Crystal Engineering of Organic Crystals

Research categories:  Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Industrial & Physical Pharmacy
Professor: Tonglei Li
Preferred major(s): chemistry, chemical engineering
Number of positions: 1

Crystallization of organic materials plays a central role in drug development. Mechanistic understanding of nucleation and crystal growth remains primitive and scantily developed despite decades of investigation. Of the same organic molecule, distinct crystal structures can be routinely formed. The intricacy of the so-called polymorphism largely originates from the rich and unpredictable supramolecular tessellations supported by intermolecular interactions. The subtleties in strength and directionality of the interactions are controlled by structural diversity and conformational flexibility of molecule. In fact, it is these molecular interactions that make organic crystal structures fascinating as it is unlikely to predict crystal structures of a given organic molecule a priori.

In this project, the student will learn how to grow drug crystals, characterize them, and connect the structural outcome with crystallization conditions. It is expected that the student will conduct both experimental and computational studies in order to understand formation mechanisms of drug crystals.

More information: http://xtal.ipph.purdue.edu

 

Development of Phase Transforming Cellular Materials (Design and 3D Printing)

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Pablo Zavattieri
Preferred major(s): Engineering (Aero, Civil, Mechanical)
Desired experience:   - Mechanics (mechanics of materials, strength of materials) - Background on CAD software, - Some programming experience would be desired
Number of positions: 1

Phase transforming cellular materials (PXCMs) are a new type of energy-absorbing material which can resist high impact loads without experiencing irreversible deformation. PXCMs exhibit the same level of energy dissipation as traditional cellular materials but are capable of returning to their original shape. This new type of material could be utilized in many applications: automobiles, protective gear, or buildings.
PXCMs consist of periodic unit cells. Each unit cell includes several sinusoidal beams and stiffened beams. A unit cell has multiple stable configurations and each stable configuration is associated with a unique stable material phase. Under an impact load, the progressive phase transformation of each unit cell in a PXCM results in energy dissipation.
PXCMs have exhibited excellent performance resisting loads in one direction. However, it is desirable to develop and test PXCMs that are capable of resisting loads from multiple (and even arbitrary) directions. The objective of this project is to fabricate and test new 3D PXCM models. Those models will be designed using computer-aided design (CAD) modeling software and fabricated using a 3D printer. Compression and tension tests will be conducted on testing machines to evaluate the performance of these 3D printed PXCMs. The test results will then be analyzed using scripts in any number of computer languages (e.g. MATLAB, Python, or C).

 

Development of a new NanoHUB Tool: Coarse graining of Crystalline Nano-Cellulose.

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Pablo Zavattieri
Preferred major(s): Engineering (Materials, Mechanical, Civil, Aero, Industrial, etc. ), Physics or Chemistry
Desired experience:   Required: Some Programming (the student will learn how to program in NanoHUB), Desired: - Some basic Mechanics (e.g., strength of materials) - Modeling (atomistic, mechanics)
Number of positions: 1

The purpose of this project is to provide numerical tools for understanding the mechanical properties of Crystalline Nano-cellulose (CNC) at different length scale. Due to defects formation at mesoscale, mechanical properties of nano-materials could decrease dramatically and influence the overall performance of materials. Although there are sufficient and advanced numerical packages for modeling materials at nano-scale and macro-scale, having an efficient and reliable numerical method for meso-scale is still challenging. Here we develop a coarse graining modeling tools which provides insight for CNCs interaction, defects formation and mechanical properties at meso-scale. Students working in this project not only learn some important concepts in engineering, but also learn how develop a tool and work with advanced numerical packages.

 

Earth History Visualization

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: EAPS
Professor: James Ogg
Preferred major(s): Computer Engineering, Computer Science or Earth-Atmos-Planetary Science
Desired experience:   The main special skill is ability to focus on developing and achieving goals. If software/web development, then Java, JavaScript and/or Python; or ability to rapidly learn these. If database development, then any introductory geology course, Excel, Adobe Illustrator and ability to locate published materials.
Number of positions: 2

This SURF team will focus on making our planet's history easily accessible to both public and scientific audiences. In particular, we are building on the past Purdue-developed "TimeScale Creator" visualization system for Earth history (http://www.tscreator.com/). This application creates charts of any portion of the geologic time scale with a choice of bio-, magneto-, chemo-, and other events in Earth history. This exciting set of projects has worked directly with international geologists, and our products are serving as THE global reference for authoritative information on our planet's fascinating and complex history. The experts provide the information, and we strive to make it easy to use by the global audience with various innovative methods.
All accomplishments are put onto the public websites and free downloads for use by a global audience of geologists, earth-science students and the general public.

 

Experimental Study of Breakage of Particles under Compression

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Weinong Chen
Preferred major(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics, Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering
Desired experience:   Any prior experience of using servo-hydraulic machines will be helpful but not required. Microscopy (optical and electron) experience will also be helpful.
Number of positions: 1

Particles in granular materials undergo compressive loading during their manufacturing, processing, handling, transportation, and use. Under large compressive load, some of the particles break. Common example of this phenomenon is breaking of sand particles in sand bags when bullets hit them. Aim of this project is to obtain the complete understanding of causes of particle fracture and also assess the effects of various parameters such as material properties on how particles fracture. To gain this understanding, we need to perform a number of particle compression experiments in which one or two particles will be compressed between two stiff platens at a constant speed. The compression experiments will be repeated for five different materials: soda lime glass, silica sand, polycrystalline silicon, yttria stabilized zirconia, and acrylic (PMMA). The selected student will perform these compression experiments using the servo-hydraulic loading machine. They will then analyze the compression data using MATLAB. They will also observe the fractured particles under optical or electron microscope. The compression data along with the microscopy images will provide us a valuable insight into why and how particles fracture.

 

Experimental testing and validation of P-band bistatic remote sensing of soil moisture

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Electronics, Environmental Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: James Garrison
Preferred major(s): Electrical engineering, physics, aerospace engineering
Desired experience:   Basic signal processing, linear systems. Experience in working with electronic equipment and computer programming. Some knowledge of statistics helpful.
Number of positions: 1

This activity is part of a larger research project, funded under the NASA Instrument Incubator Program, to develop and test a prototype for a new instrument for the remote sensing of sub-surface, or “root-zone” soil moisture. This is an important quantity to measure for our understanding of the water cycle and for practical applications in agricultural forecasting. The innovative technology in this instrument, is the use of “signals of opportunity” (SoOp’s), which are reflections of communication satellite transmissions. In contrast to active radar remote sensing, a SoOp instrument will be much smaller and lower power, as it does not need an transmitter. SoOp also allows measurements to be made in frequency bands that are not protected for scientific use, essentially making the entire microwave spectrum available for remote sensing.

In this particular application, we will use communication signals in P-band (230-270 MHz), which can penetrate the soil to several decimeters. For comparison, satellite instruments today operate in L-band which has a penetration depth of ~5 cm.

On this project, a SURF student would learn the fundamental physical models, apply them in simulations, to predict the sensitivity of the P-band reflectivity to soil moisture variation and instrument calibration. The student would also assist in assembling instrumentation for ground experimentation, processing the data and interpreting the results.

Students should have some experience with electronic equipment and computer programming, and know basic signal processing and linear systems. An interest in Earth and environmental sciences is desirable.

 

Hotspot imaging analysis for experimental cancer

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computational/Mathematical, Electronics, Life Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering
Professor: Young Kim
Preferred major(s): BME, ECE, ME, Physics
Desired experience:   Imaging analysis, hardware interfacing, optical bench work, optical imaging
Number of positions: 1

Our group has recently developed an optical microvascular imaging platform to predict tumor formation in skin cancer. The primary goal of this project is to examine cancer prevention effects of skin resurfacing on experimental skin cancer, by comparing microvascular imaging with aminolevulinic acid-induced fluorescence imaging in animal models. While fractional ablative lasers are extensively used for cosmetic/aesthetic purposes, we will utilize this light-based treatment modality to prevent against neoplastic formation, because stromal alterations during early carcinogenesis serve as fertile tissue environments for subsequent tumor development. In preliminary data in mice, focal areas of persistent inflammatory angiogenesis are highly reliable predictors of future tumor development. To accurately determine cancer prevention effects, we will combine the two imaging modalities in small animal settings and visualize alterations in the spatial extents of detailed microvascularity. During this research, students will be able to get familiarized with 1) biophotonics technologies, 2) imaging processing, 3) basic cancer biology. This study could have a translational commercial impact, as this non-invasive instrument could be used clinically to assess an individual's risk of future tumor formation and to provide an early assessment of the effectiveness of current and emerging therapeutic and preventive treatment strategies.

 

Inkjet Printing of Energetic Material in a MEMs Device

Research categories:  Chemical, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Steven Son
Preferred major(s): ME, AAE, MSE, or ChE
Desired experience:   Two or more years towards a B.S. in engineering or science.
Number of positions: 1

The SURF student will work with a multidisciplinary team to explore printing energetic materials that will be integrated in a MEMs device. Thermite or explosive materials will be printed. High speed imaging, IR imaging, microscopy etc. will be used to characterize the deposition and performance.

 

Laser Diagnostics Applied to Reacting Fluid Flows for Propulsion Devices

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Terrence Meyer
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Aerospace, or Chemical Engineering; Physics; Chemistry
Desired experience:   Physics, chemistry, and mathematics courses
Number of positions: 1

Propulsion, transportation, and energy systems rely on the turbulent mixing and efficient chemical reaction of fuels and oxidizers. Such reactions can take place in the liquid, gas, or solid phases and are investigated using sophisticated imaging and spectroscopic techniques. The undergraduate research assistant will work with graduate students and research faculty to assemble and operate flow hardware, align and test optical diagnostic instrumentation, and help collect and analyze data acquired using such techniques. The flows are designed to simulate conditions that are present in a variety of practical devices. The student will gain valuable hands-on experience and theoretical background that will be of use in a variety of fields related to mechanical, aerospace, and chemical engineering, as well as gain insight into potential areas of research for graduate study.

 

Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from maize canopies

Research categories:  Agricultural, Environmental Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Agronomy
Professor: Richard Grant
Preferred major(s): applied meteorology, meteorology, chemistry
Desired experience:   Willingness to work day or night
Number of positions: 1

Measure CO2 and N2O emissions from several maize fields at West Lafayette, IN using state-of-the-art instrumentation. This project is in collaboration with crop systems scientists and soil chemistry scientists.

The student will be involved in the measurement and analysis of CO2 and N2O measurements and their coupling with wind measurements to determine gas emissions. These emissions will then be related to the weather and soil conditions to determine the driving variables in emissions.

 

Microbes in the Air: Dynamics of Airborne Bacteria, Fungi & Pollen in a Living Laboratory

Research categories:  Agricultural, Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Environmental Science, Life Science, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Brandon Boor
Preferred major(s): I am recruiting students from all engineering and science majors
Desired experience:   Some experience with MATLAB and programming is preferred.
Number of positions: 1

Our homes and offices are home to trillions of microorganisms, including diverse communities of bacteria and fungi. My research group explores the dynamics of airborne microorganisms, or bioaerosols, in buildings. These are incredibly small airborne particles, less than 10 micrometers in size - one-tenth the thickness of your hair! Bioaerosols can be released from our bodies, stirred-up from house dust, and can flow into buildings from the outside via ventilation. By developing a deeper understanding of the emissions, transport, and control of bioaerosols, we can work towards buildings that promote healthy microbial communities.

In this project, you will use our state-of-the-art research facilities to measure, in real-time, concentrations of bioaerosols in a living laboratory (occupied office) at Herrick Laboratories in Discovery Park. You will learn how to develop an experimental plan, conduct air quality measurements, and analyze bioaerosol data. Most importantly, the data you collect will help us learn how people, and the buildings in which we live, influence the behavior of these tiny airborne particles. The project is very well-suited for anyone interested in microbiology, air quality, human health, HVAC systems, or atmospheric science.

More information: http://www.brandonboor.com/

 

Nano-Piezotronics for Smarter Electronics

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Electronics, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Industrial Engineering
Professor: Wenzhuo Wu
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Electrical, Materials, Biomedical, Industrial Engineering
Number of positions: 1

The seamless and adaptive interactions between electronics and their environment (e.g. the human body) are crucial for advancing emerging technologies e.g. wearable devices, implantable sensors, and novel surgical tools. Non-electrical stimuli, e.g. mechanical agitations, are ubiquitous and abundant in these applications for interacting with the electronics. Current scheme of operation not only requires complex integration of heterogeneous components, but also lacks direct interfacing between electronics and mechanical actuations.

Piezotronics is an emerging field in nanomaterials research and offers novel means of manipulating electronic processes via dynamically tunable strain. In this research, the SURF students will develop flexible and transparent piezotronic nanowires transistors for active and adaptive bio-electronics sensing and interfacing. The device is capable of self-powered active sensing by converting mechanical stimulations into electrical controlling signals without applied bias, which emulates the physiological operations of mechanoreceptors in biological entities, e.g. hair cells in the cochlea.

This project is scientifically novel with transformative impact because it not only dramatically advances fundamental understanding of the emerging research in piezotronics, but also enables new opportunities in designing “smarter” electronics that are capable of interacting with the environment seamlessly and adaptively, which is not available in existing technologies, for societally pervasive applications in intelligent wearable devices, surgical tools and bio-probes. The SURF student will work with two PhD students on the nanomaterials synthesis, nanodevices fabrication and measurement. For more information, please visit our lab, the Nanosystems and Nanomanufacturing Lab or feel free to contact me. Contact information appears in the website.

 

Nanostructured Nitrides and Oxides for High Temperature Thermoelectric Power Generation

Research categories:  Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Luna Lu
Preferred major(s): Materials science, chemical engineering, physics, electrical engineering etc
Desired experience:   Curiosity, good work ethics, passion about research are far more important than any course work or training in the past.
Number of positions: 1

Thermoelectric (TE) materials have the ability to directly convert heat into electricity due to Seebeck effect. However, the potential impact of TE materials is hindered by the heavy use of toxic, rare, and expensive (e.g. Te and Se) elements. Nanostructured oxides and nitrides, in particularly zinc oxide (ZnO) and gallium nitride (GaN), are promising cost effective TE materials to overcome this challenge, due to their favorable TE properties and earth abundance. To further advance this opportunity, this project investigates a novel mechanism for nanostructuring bulk Nitrides and Oxides with multiple length-scale structures to improve their thermoelectric (TE) properties for power generation. A total of 60% of energy produced in the United States is wasted as heat, which could be directly converted into 3.6 MWh of electricity using cost-effective thermoelectric (TE) materials. Successful completion of this program will enable high temperature TE power generation to recover this wasted energy. More broadly, the science generated from this project will significantly advance the research associated with processing nanostructured bulk materials with decoupled electrical and thermal properties. The fundamental knowledge gained from this program is critical to the development of next-generation electronic devices, such as thermoelectric, photovoltaic, high power electronics, and laser devices, since tunable thermal and electrical properties are of vital importance for further advancement of these technologies.

 

NeuroPhotonics: High speed calcium imaging of dendritic spine in behaving mouse brain

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics, Innovative Technology/Design, Life Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: ECE
Professor: Meng Cui
Preferred major(s): ECE, Physics
Desired experience:   Labview and FPGA programing
Number of positions: 1

There is a ongoing project in our lab to develop an ultrahigh speed imaging system to perform large scale high resolution imaging of dendritic spines of neurons in behaving mouse brain. This development is crucial to push the envelope of neuroscience research.

Students with engineering or physics background are needed. In particular, skills in labview and FPGA programing will be very helpful to this project.

 

Oil-in-water Emulsion Flows through Confined Channels

Research categories:  Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Arezoo Ardekani
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Physics
Desired experience:   Fluid dynamics, Programming experience
Number of positions: 1

The main goal of this project is to characterize transport of monodisperse and poly-disperse oil-in-water emulsions through confined channels by utilizing LAMMPS as well as experiments. A mesoscopic method called dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) will be used to capture the interaction of the droplets with hydrophilic and hydrophobic boundaries of the channel. We will quantify the transport properties of the emulsion for different scenarios, by varying the droplet size, surface properties of the channel, and addition of surfactants. Surfactant molecules are amphiphilic molecules, containing a hydrophobic tail and a hydrophilic head.

 

Turbulence characterization in the bottom boundary layer of Lake Michigan

Research categories:  Civil and Construction, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Cary Troy
Preferred major(s): Civil or mechanical engineering
Desired experience:   Student must be proficient in use of Matlab, and should have taken a first course in fluid mechanics or hydraulics. Experience with water (lakes, rivers, oceans) is also helpful, as are courses in basic statistics.
Number of positions: 1

This project aims to characterize near-bottom turbulence in the deep waters of Lake Michigan, for the purpose of better understanding the impact of invasive mussels in the lake. Turbulence remains one of the most challenging topics in fluid mechanics, particularly in the deeper waters of large lakes. The student researcher will analyze a set of velocity, temperature, and fluorescence data collected in Lake Michigan for the purpose of estimating turbulence quantities, including turbulent kinetic energy, shear velocity, Reynolds Stress, and turbulent kinetic energy dissipation. The student will work closely with graduate student researchers and the summer project may involve additional field work.

 

Ultra-Flexible Triboelectric Nanogenerators for Self-Powered Wearable Sensors

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Electronics, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Industrial Engineering
Professor: Wenzhuo Wu
Preferred major(s): Biomedical, Mechanical, Electrical, Materials, Industrial Engineering
Number of positions: 1

Triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) has emerged as a promising technology for efficiently harvesting mechanical energy due to high conversion efficiency, low fabrication cost, and broad choice of materials. TENGs utilize contact electrification to generate surface charges and convert mechanical energy into electricity from contact and separation between triboelectric layers. Apart from material selection and device structure, one crucial factor affecting the performance of contact electrification process is materials properties and topography of triboelectric contact surfaces. In this project, we will manufacture large scale TENG with modifiable properties at high production rate. These flexible TENGs will be used to harvest mechanical energy from human body, e.g. muscle stretching/motion, and from ambient environment, e.g. wind, raindrops. The converted electricity can be utilized to power small electronic devices, e.g. sensors and processers. The TENGs can also function as self-powered wearable sensors to quantitatively track human motion and monitor posture. The student will work with our PhD students on the nanomaterials synthesis, nanodevices fabrication and measurement.

For more information, please visit our lab, the Nanosystems and Nanomanufacturing Lab or feel free to contact me. Contact information appears in the website.