Spring/Summer 2023 Research Grant Round-up

Yury Gogotsi, PhD University Trustee and Bach Professor, is co-PI on the NSF funded Center for MXene Synthesis, Tunability and Reactivity (M-STAR) project. Gogotsi will study direct synthesis of MXenes by salt-assisted templating, in which a salt with a closely matching lattice parameters, like KCl, serves as a template to form an intermediate 2D product (e.g., MoO2) and facilitates MXene (e.g., Mo2C) formation without coarsening upon salt melting. Ability to produce flakes with thicknesses from monolayer (0.36 nm) to 10-layers (4.55 nm) will allow for study of the thickness effect on fundamental properties of MXenes, including their electrocatalytic activity.  The availability of large flakes of different thickness will also allow for studying the influence of the basal plane, edge sites, and thickness of Mo2C and other MXenes on HER catalytic activity.

Christopher Li, PhD, professor of materials science and engineering, has received funding from the ACS Petroleum Research Fund to develop a novel compatibilizer to facilitate plastic recycling. Polyolefins, mainly polyethylene (PE) and isotactic polypropylene (iPP), are the most abundantly produced plastics worldwide and they also account for the largest footprint in waste generation. Because of their excellent chemical stability, chemically upcycling polyolefins is challenging. Mechanical recycling PE and iPP, on the other hand, is typically hindered by the extremely difficult sorting process. One possible solution is to recycle and reuse them together as polymer blends, however, despite their chemical similarity, PE and iPP do not mix well and their blends typically are brittle with poor mechanical properties. In this project, Li’s group aims to develop a new compatibilizer system that can effectively weld PE and iPP to make tough blends from recycled resin mixtures. 

Steven May, PhD, professor and department head of materials science and engineering, Megan Creighton, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Yong-Jie Hu, PhD, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, have received a two-year NSF-FuSe (Future of Semiconductors) grant to develop research capabilities and collaborations centered around germanium oxide-based semiconductors that are of interest for applications such as power electronics and infrared detection. Together with faculty from the University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, Washington State University and University of Texas, El Paso, they will address fundamental scientific and engineering challenges associated with material design, manufacturing, property control and device integration, all of which are required to move germanium oxide semiconductors from academic laboratories into society-benefiting technologies such as electric vehicles and autonomous systems.

Antonios Zavaliangos, PhD, A. W. Grosvenor Professor of materials science and engineering, is co-PI on the NSF-MRI funded acquisition of a state-of-the-art high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (XCT) system. The new instrument caters to the research needs of faculty, staff and students across Drexel University in addition to the Drexel-affiliated Academy of Natural Sciences and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. It will further promote cutting-edge regional and nationwide collaborations with both universities and industry. This XCT system addresses the limiting technical and performance issues of the previous system and surpasses other similar and commercially available XCT systems in terms of capability. Specifically, it offers (a) improved submicron spatial resolution and nanometer-sized voxels, (b) contrast-enhancement using X-ray phase changes, (c) allows the evaluation of larger specimens compared to the existing systems, (d) is equipped with an X-ray source with voltage and power output which is appropriate for a wider range of materials, and (e) can accommodate in-situ testing stages without compromising the resolution.