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:

Chemical

 

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.

 

Hydrophobic Zeolites for Applications in Adsorption and Catalysis

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Rajamani Gounder
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering
Number of positions: 1

Zeolites are microporous materials whose internal pores and external properties can be functionalized to be hydrophobic. These materials open new opportunities for performing selective catalytic reactions in liquid water, and for selective separations of non-polar and organic molecules from polar and aqueous solvents. These are fundamental scientific issues that are relevant in the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to renewable chemicals and fuels, and for the conversion of natural and shale gas. This project will involve learning techniques to synthesize and functionalize hydrophobic zeolites and to characterize their hydrophobic properties.

 

Injet 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.

 

Metal-exchanged Zeolites for NOx Pollution Abatement Catalysis

Research categories:  Chemical, Environmental Science
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Rajamani Gounder
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering
Number of positions: 1

Copper- and iron-exchanged zeolite catalysts are used commercially for the abatement of nitrogen oxide pollutants in lean-burn diesel engine exhaust. The structure and density of metal ion active sites in zeolites depends on the distribution of framework aluminum atoms that serve as anchoring points for the active metal species. This research project will involve investigating methods to synthesize and control the arrangement of framework aluminum atoms in zeolites, and to characterize the aluminum distribution using metal ion-exchange techniques. These findings will be used to tailor the structure and reactivity of catalysts used for environmental protection and pollution abatement strategies in diesel vehicles.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Optoelectronic Characterization of Thin Film Semiconductors for Photovoltaics

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: School of Chemical Engineering
Professor: Rakesh Agrawal
Preferred major(s): Electrical Engineering
Desired experience:   Labview programming skills, both laboratory and data analysis is required.
Number of positions: 1

Thin film photovoltaics such as Cu2ZnSnSe4 and Cu(In,Ga)Se2 is an active area of research as they show great promise for use as large scale solar cell materials. In order to understand the limitations of these materials, a variety of optical and electronic characterizations are used to probe working solar cells as well as the solar absorber properties. This project will focus on several optoelectronic techniques including current-voltage response, capacitance measurements, external quantum efficiency, and time-resolved photoluminescence. In addition to performing the core measurements, the student will learn analysis techniques used throughout the semiconductor industry. These results will guide the groups' researchers in creating more ideal materials and solar cells.

 

Stimuli responsive fluidics controls on a paper-based bacterial detection platform

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Innovative Technology/Design, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering
Professor: Jacqueline Linnes
Preferred major(s): chemical, biomedical, materials, or mechanical engineering
Desired experience:   Helpful coursework: polymers, thermodynamics, organic chemistry Skills: Demonstrated ability to work independently and creative and resourceful thinking. Experience tinkering and rapid prototyping is favored.
Number of positions: 1

The Linnes Lab aims to develop a rapid, paper-based point-of-care diagnostics to enable timely and appropriate treatment of infectious diseases ranging from cholera to sepsis. To automate the multistep detection assays on these tests, we are integrating stimuli responsive polymers (e.g. wax) to control the flow of sample and assay reagents. We seek a motivated student to optimize the composition and high-throughput deposition of candidate polymers. You will gain technical experience in fluidics and bioassays through this cross-institutional project with collaborators in the mechanical engineering department and clinical partners in Eldoret, Kenya.

 

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.