RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SWANSON SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING - Winter 2018
“The universe will reward you for taking risks on its behalf” - Shakri Gawain, American publisher and author, 1948-2018
On behalf of the Swanson School of Engineering and US Steel Dean James R. Martin II, it's my pleasure to send you our Winter 2019 Research eNewsletter. The most innovative research is often high risk, but also high reward. It is high risk in that the hypothesis on which it is based could very well not be sound and could thus fail, but it is high reward in that if the idea is sound it could lead to a major paradigm shift or technology disruption. This newsletter highlights such high risk, high reward research by my Swanson School colleagues.
For example, Dr. Warren Ruder from our Bioengineering Department recently won a highly competitive and prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award for “Creating Magnetically Inducible Synthetic Gene Networks for Cell and Tissue Therapies.” This work will create new biomimetic systems to provide insight into biological phenomena while also serving as platform technologies for future medical applications. Civil & Environmental Engineering’s Dr. Radisav Vidic and Dr. Vikas Khanna, as part of a $5.3 million grant from the Department of Energy RAPID
Manufacturing Institute, are conducting pilot testing of membrane distillation technology that will greatly reduce the amount of fresh water used in the hydrofracturing industry, but also leverage the waste heat available at drilling sites and natural gas compressor stations to safely treat shale gas wastewater for reuse.
This issue also has several items relating to a class of nanomaterials called metal-organic frameworks or “MOFs” which have a growing number of innovative, practical applications. Dr. Karl Johnson of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering found a MOF that can be used to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and combine it with hydrogen atoms to convert it into valuable chemicals and fuels. Dr. Christopher Wilmer, also of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, used computational modeling
of both hypothetical and real MOFs (cover photo above) to create a new database of more than a million mixed matrix membranes with corresponding carbon capture performance and associated costs. This work may help easy identification and design of new carbon capture and storage materials, e.g., for use by the nation’s coal-fired power plants.
Finally, the Swanson School of Engineering has been conducting more and more innovative space-related research in recent years. In this issue, you can read about Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science’s Dr. Wei Xiong and Dr. Albert To, along with collaborators from QuesTek Innovations, creating a game-changing opportunity for the space industry to produce complex components with greater efficiency at a lower cost. Through a grant from NASA, they are utilizing new computer modeling and optimization techniques, combined with a nickel-iron super-alloy, to enable faster adoption of additive manufacturing in various NASA missions.
I hope you enjoy these and the many other highlights of the research being conducted by the faculty and students in the Swanson School.
Hail to Pitt!
David A. Vorp, PhD
Associate Dean for Research, Swanson School of Engineering