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Drexel Student Receives Fellowships for Research in Australia

January 24, 2019

Ariana Levitt is a fourth-year PhD student in the Materials Science and Engineering department and she spent two months conducting research in Australia in 2018. She was awarded two fellowships, the Australia-Americas PhD fellowship, funded by the Australian Academy of Science, and the NSF-GROW (Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide) fellowship, to pursue this work. Ariana is co-advised by Prof. Yury Gogotsi and Prof. Genevieve Dion and her research focuses on the development of MXene-based fiber and yarn electrodes for wearable energy storage devices. During her two-month placement in Australia, she worked with Prof. Joselito (Joe) Razal and his team at the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) at Deakin University in Geelong Australia.  

At Deakin, Ariana continued her work on the development of MXene-based conductive yarns. More specifically, she worked on scaling the production of these yarns to enable the development of knitted textile devices, which make the basis of future smart clothes and wearable internet. Fibers and textiles are one of the main areas of research at the IFM and the institute is equipped with specialized equipment for fiber processing and characterization. During her placement, Ariana worked with an industrial-scale fiber spinning line, which she used to coat fibers and yarns with MXene. She also had access to custom electrospinning equipment for producing large mats of nanoscale fibers and tensile testing machines for characterizing the mechanical properties of these materials.

In addition to equipment access, Ariana had the opportunity to tour industrial-scale fiber manufacturing facilities on campus, including Carbon Nexus, a facility dedicated to the development of carbon fiber and carbon fiber composites, and a cotton mill. At the cotton mill, Ariana saw the entire process of making cotton yarns, from the raw fibers up to the final twisted yarns. These visits sparked new ideas for the development of MXene-based yarns. Ariana also attended a fibers symposium at the IFM, which provided an opportunity for PhD students and industry partners to share their research and discuss new potential research directions. During the eight-week program, Ariana felt completely immersed in the graduate program at the IFM; she attended many seminars given by students and professors, shared her research with Joe’s team at weekly group meetings, and worked closely with post-doctoral and PhD students on related projects.

Cotton mill Prof Razal

 At the cotton mill

Since returning to Drexel, the collaboration between Drexel and Deakin has continued to strengthen. The universities received support from the Australian Research Council and became partners in the Materials for Energy Storage and Conversion (MESC+) MS program funded by the European Commission.

Ariana has regular calls with Joe and his group to discuss project updates and research directions. In addition, research samples are sent back and forth between labs for further characterization and development of textile prototypes. Working at Deakin gave Ariana the opportunity to expand her international network, learn new laboratory skills, and advance the development of scalable, flexible, and durable conductive yarns to power the next generation of smart garments.