Tuesday, August 6, 2019

OU Professor Recipient of DOE Early Career Research Program Funding

NORMAN—A University of Oklahoma assistant professor, Bin Wang, is the recipient of a five-year, $750,869 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science as part of the DOE Early Career Research Program. DOE selected Wang, an early career researcher in the School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, Gallogly College of Engineering, for the award on computational modeling of complex chemical systems to understand the basic science behind and enable chemical and energy transformation with high efficiency and selectivity.

In the chemical industry, controlling selectivity of a chemical conversion process is important because the presence of multiple products may complicate the separation process leading to intensive energy cost. Dissipation of energy drives chemical transformation in a catalysis process, such as refinery and ammonia synthesis. In most cases, however, it is challenging to control the flow of thermal energy into a specific location, such as a particular chemical bond for its reaction.

Wang’s research will deliver essential details that will allow for design of an all-optical process of chemical transformation at low temperatures with high chemical selectivity. His research will provide fundamental understanding of the light-driven reaction at the molecular level. Using modern computational theory, he proposes to control precisely both energies and locations of the positive and negative charges by positioning them in microporous materials and liquid solvents. These varied environments may help localize the positive and negative charges that accelerate bond dissociation and formation.

Introduction of the light-sensitive solid materials into catalysis provides a powerful strategy for reaching high selectivity. In this process, positive and negative charges stimulate the dynamics of the chemical bonds in the reactants. In addition, the light-driven reaction can be operated at lower temperature compared to thermal reactions. For more information about Wang’s DOE Early Career Research Program award, contact wang_cbme@ou.edu. To learn more about the program, visit the DOE Office of Science site: https://www.energy.gov/science/office-science.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

OK Catalyst Research Training Program

The OK Catalyst Researchers program provides training and resources on how to start a business for graduate students, post-docs, and faculty conducting research in STEM-related fields from Oklahoma universities. There will be lectures from subject matter experts every week and a chance to win up to $3,000. Applicants should have an interest in entrepreneurship and product development and propose an innovative project in a STEM-related field.

Benefits include:
  • Understanding of basic principles of entrepreneurship 
  • Access to Oklahoma experts and resources for small businesses
  • Refined value proposition for your product/service
  • Assistance with business model canvas and pitch deck
  • Compete to win up to $3,000 
If interested in applying, please visit our website at okcatalyst.com/researchers. Applications are due 11:59 pm on Monday, May 6th.


Who is eligible for the program?
The program is open to graduate, post-doctoral, and faculty researchers from OK universities who work in STEM-related fields and is only available to first-time participants.

When and where will meetings take place?
Meetings will be 6-8 pm on Tuesday nights from May 14th to July 2nd at the Gene Rainbolt Graduate School of Business in Oklahoma City.

Who is eligible to win program award money?
Program award money is available to graduate and post-doctoral researchers with U.S. citizenship. Faculty and non-U.S. citizens are welcome to participate but are not eligible for award money.

What types of proposed projects will be accepted?
Proposed projects in STEM-related fields must fit into one of the following categories:

  • Technology Transition: Pursuing a project or business idea based on current or previous research. May still be currently funded or supported by the research institution where work was/is being performed.
  • Independent Venture: Pursuing a novel project or business idea not based on current or previous research. No funding or support from the institution where work was/is being performed.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

OU Mechanical Engineering Professor Receives 2018 NSF CAREER Award

Garg recognized for project exploring thermal conductivity

University of Oklahoma professor Jivtesh Garg recently won the prestigious National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program Award for his research on the design of advanced composite materials for thermal management and energy conversion.

Garg is an aerospace and mechanical engineering researcher in the Gallogly College of Engineering. His research aims to develop materials with more efficient heat dissipation, with applications in a wide array of industries. 

“Increasing transistor density in electronics has led to increasing heat fluxes,” Garg explains. “By developing high thermal conductivity polymers and semiconductors, we can lower temperatures, which improves reliability and performance in an array of electronic technologies.” 

The new materials also would be beneficial to the automotive and aerospace industries. Replacing metals with Garg’s polymers would enhance fuel efficiency due to their significantly lower weight. 

Expanding a summer camp program for students from different high schools also is a part of Garg’s grant. Junior Science, Engineering Excellency and Diversity Program, or JrSEED, engages students in hands-on activities related to thermoelectricity, fuel cells, shape memory polymers and wind energy. Students also get to learn from industry professionals and participate in competitions. 

“Seeing our young attendees’ enthusiasm toward science and technology fields is very rewarding,” says Garg. “I count the program a success if we are able to motivate more students to pursue careers in STEM.” 

Garg has taught at OU since 2014. His research has been recently published in Annual Review of Heat Transfer, Applied Physics Letters and Nature Communications. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology – Chennai, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

CEES Alumnus Cites "Learning How to Learn" as Essential to Career Success at NASA

Crawler Transporter (CT-1)
inside the Vehicle Assembly Building,
(VAB) HB-2
Jesse Berdis earned a bachelor of science degree in architectural engineering in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science in 2011 and a master's degree in civil engineering in 2013.

Berdis explains how his OU Engineering experience prepared him for his position as a structural engineer for NASA at the Florida Kennedy Space Center.

Astronaut Training
"The most pronounced skill that OU engineering provided was teaching me to learn how to learn. Of course, OU provided the technical essentials required to receive an engineering degree in structure; how to identify W-sections in the AISC code book, or how to determine the edge thickness of concrete when rebar is present, I learned how to calculate the required pre-tensioned stress and camber in pre-stressed concrete forms, and the recommended ratio of concrete mixtures in different applications. I had the foundation of structural engineering down. But, the most important skill: learning to learn, empowered cross-coordination between multiple disciplines, almost always, beyond my structural engineering foundation…an opportunity which is inevitable for every engineer (especially working at NASA).

Perspective from the Top of the Mobile Launcher
I currently collaborate with electrical, cryogenics, mechanical, aerospace, chemical, and rocket engineers to develop infrastructure for the next big flagship in space exploration, the Space Launch System (SLS). OU taught me how to use information available to locate problems in unfamiliar textbooks, research and find, calculate, and problem solve. Without OU’s provided foundation of structural engineering essentials combined with the power to problem solve…problems, I would never be where I am today. Thank you OU Engineering!"

Friday, October 19, 2018

Water activist honored with OU International Water Prize

Martha Gebeyehu, coordinator for Ethiopia’s Water Expertise and Training Centre, was recently named the recipient of the 2019 International Water Prize. A panel of water experts from around the world selected Gebeyehu for her ongoing commitment to empowering and training people to manage their own water and sanitation. 

“Martha is serving some of the world’s poorest in some of the most rural and remote regions of Ethiopia,” said Shauna Curry, chief executive officer of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology. “Her belief in the power of people to bring change to their own homes led to her work in the area of household water treatment. This quickly broadened to the entire area of water, sanitation and hygiene with low-cost technology that people can implement themselves.” 

While pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, Gebeyehu became the first water quality analyst for the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission implementing safe testing practices and procedures. Her growing knowledge, coupled with an eagerness to share her expertise, led her to initiate the development of a laboratory and facilitate the first water quality workshops. She has personally educated and trained over 1,000 individuals for the WET Center. Now she serves as WET Center coordinator, guiding WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene projects from conception and implementing research projects to effectively link government water policy to rural communities. 

“I became interested in working with WASH through a strong understanding of the technical aspects of water quality and a drive to share my knowledge with others,” says Gebeyehu. “Ultimately, I am dedicated to serving those in need so that they can reach their full potential and well-being.” 

Sponsored by the University of Oklahoma Water Technologies for Emerging Regions Center, the International Water Prize is one of the first and largest prizes dedicated solely to the field of water supply and sanitation in remote areas of emerging regions. The award-winner is selected through a nomination process and honors an individual that has made significant contributions in these areas, particularly communities in rural or remote regions. 

Gebeyehu will formally receive the OU International Water Prize and give the plenary lecture at the sixth Biennial OU International WaTER Conference, scheduled for Sept. 16-19, 2019. The conference includes local and international speakers, breakout sessions and poster and paper sessions in the fields of social entrepreneurship, behavior change, water technologies, climate change and hydro-philanthropy in the developing world. For more information about the OU International Water Prize and the conference, visit WaTER.ou.edu.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

OU Researcher Determines Catalytic Active Sites Using Carbon Nanotubes

University of Oklahoma researcher Steven Crossley and his team have devised a novel method to determine the cause of catalytic activity.

NORMAN – Catalytic research led by University of Oklahoma researcher Steven Crossley has developed a new and more definitive way to determine the active site in a complex catalyst. His team’s research was recently published in Nature Communications.

Catalysts consisting of metal particles supported on reducible oxides show promising performance for a variety of current and emerging industrial reactions, such as the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. Although the beneficial results of the new materials are evident, identifying the cause of the activity of the catalyst can be challenging. Catalysts often are discovered and optimized by trial and error, making it difficult to decouple the numerous possibilities. This can lead to decisions based on speculative or indirect evidence.

“When placing the metal on the active support, the catalytic activity and selectivity is much better than you would expect than if you were to combine the performance of metal with the support alone,” explained Crossley, a chemical engineer, Teigen Presidential Professor and Sam A. Wilson Professor within the Gallogly College of Engineering. “The challenge is that, when you put the two components together, it is difficult to understand the cause of the promising performance.” Understanding the nature of the catalytic active site is critical for controlling a catalyst’s activity and selectivity.

Crossley’s novel method of separating active sites while maintaining the ability of the metal to create potential active sites on the support uses vertically grown carbon nanotubes that act as “hydrogen highways.” To determine if catalytic activity was from either direct contact between the support and the metal or from metal-induced promoter effects on the oxide support, Crossley’s team separated the metal palladium from the oxide catalyst titanium by a controlled distance on a conductive bridge of carbon nanotubes. The researchers introduced hydrogen to the system and verified that hydrogen was able to migrate along the nanotubes to create new potential active sites on the oxide support. They then tested the catalytic activity of these materials and contrasted it with the activity of the same materials when the metal and the support were in direct physical contact.

“In three experiments, we were able to rule out different scenarios and prove that it is necessary to have physical contact between the palladium and titanium to produce methyl furan under these conditions,” Crossley said.

The carbon nanotube hydrogen highways can be used with a variety of different bifunctional catalysts.

“Using this straightforward and simple method, we can better understand how these complex materials work, and use this information to make better catalysts,” Crossley said.

Crossley and his OU team are working in collaboration with Jeff Miller, a chemical engineering professor at Purdue University. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation CAREER award 165393.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

OU Radar Team Developing Mobile Radar Testbed for U.S. Navy

By Jana Smith, Director
Strategic Communications for R&D
University of Oklahoma

NORMAN—The University of Oklahoma Advanced Radar Research Center is developing an all-digital polarimetric phased array mobile radar testbed with a $5.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research, to address significant near-term obstacles and fulfill many operational missions. The ARRC team is providing a mobile radar testbed that can demonstrate multiple radar modes that increase public safety outcomes, such as weather monitoring and air traffic surveillance and control.

“The University of Oklahoma is the only university developing a system like this one,” said Mark Yeary, OU ARRC team leader and professor of electrical and computer engineering, OU Gallogly College of Engineering. “The ARRC has been successful in attracting the attention of the U.S. Navy and other agencies by building a team of experts that includes both meteorologists and engineers.”

Yeary and ARRC team members Robert Palmer, Caleb Fulton, Hjalti Sigmarrson, Jorge Salazar Cerrano and Nathan Goodman are working with Redmond Kelley, Matt McCord and John Meier, ARRC engineers on the project. The team is responsible for all aspects of the project, including electrical and mechanical design, mechanical assembly, thermal designs, data and processing control, a chiller system, truck with factory integrated generator, array positioner, enclosure and truck modifications.

“The all-digital radar can do what most radars cannot do, which is why the U.S. Navy is extremely interested in the capabilities of this mobile radar testbed. We are fully engaged in the research and development the U.S. Navy is doing and are addressing their needs with this project,” said Caleb Fulton, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Gallogly College of Engineering.

The funding from the U.S. Navy was made possible by foundational work on the so-called Horus all-digital polarimetric phased array radar done in collaboration with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory for the weather applications. The new system will build upon this work with NOAA and is defined by its flexibility and the software is easily reconfigured to address the challenges the U.S. Navy will face in the future.

This is the second grant the ARRC team has received from the ONR this year for developing new technologies that will advance the U.S. Navy’s mission. For more information, contact Yeary at yeary@ou.edu or visit the ARRC website at https://arrc.ou.edu.