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CCI Technical Projects

CHEMICAL COMPOSITION ANALYSIS INTERN:  Wenyu Huang
The student in this CCI internship will majorly focus on identifying the composition of chemicals from catalytic reactions. The student will be highly involved with analytical instrumentations, such as gas chromatograph, liquid chromatograph, mass spectrometer, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The student will also learn how to identify the chemical formula and structure from the spectra using standards and structure database.

MATERIALS STRUCTURE CHARACTERIZATION INTERN:  Wenyu Huang
The student in this CCI internship will focus on identifying the elemental composition and structure of nanomaterials synthesized for catalytic reactions. The student will be highly involved with instrumentations for composition and structure analysis, such as Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and X-ray diffraction (XRD). The student will also learn how to identify the structure of the nanomaterial from the spectra using standards and structure database.

METHOD DEVELOPMENT AND APPLICATION OF MASS SPECTROMETRY IMAGING FOR BIORENEWABLES: Bo Xie 
Mass spectrometry imaging is making a significant impact in the fields of pathology, medicine and biology. It provides a unique capability to simultaneously measure, identify and especially visualize the spatial distribution of multiple metabolites at the molecular level. The ability to visualize biological materials or tissue samples has helped scientists to map the distribution of organs, organelles and cells, thereby providing a mechanistic understanding of complex biological processes. One can envision that mass spectrometry imaging could be applied to create “molecular anatomical atlases” of biological materials.

The student will spend 10 weeks to develop this technology as a powerful tool for identifying of biorenewable chemicals in plant cells, and elucidate the metabolism that gives rise to their biosynthesis. The student will gain experience in sample preparation, matrix application to mass spectrometry imaging acquisition for metabolite localization and develop a better understanding of this high-end analytical technology. The centerpiece of Mass Spectrometry Imaging facility for this project is a Bruker 7T SolariX Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry system with highest mass resolution (1,000,000) and the best mass accuracy (<2ppm) of any mass spectrometry techniques. The system is the first of its kind for a high performance imaging solution targeted specifically to the tissue distribution of metabolites down to 10um spatial resolution. 

MECHANICAL ENGINEERING INTERN: Terry Herrman
Intern candidate would assist with the design, fabrication, testing, and assembly of research equipment and systems for scientific staff at the Ames Laboratory. Duties might also include incorporating as-built changes into original shop drawings and archiving drawings into database. Individual will learn to work with computer aided design software and participate in the conceptual design phase of project development and provide feedback on system design.

ORGAN-ON-A-CHIP: Nastaran Hashemi
Drug testing targeted at the placenta has lacked reliable in vitro testing designs to mimic in vivo situations. With the plethora of different birth defects occurring around the world, attention needs to be drawn to finding a potential alternative to testing live subjects. Organ-on-a-chip technology has seen a vast increase in popularity, as the understanding of utilizing the properties of microfluidics has become more prevalent. Additionally, they are cost effective, use minimal product to create, and dodge the ethical dilemma of using in vivo animal models. Our goal is to create a microfluidic 3D cell culture system representing a “placenta-on-a-chip” in order to mimic the nutrient/waste transfer between maternal blood and fetal blood that occurs in the cotyledon section of the placenta, and to test and observe the effects of ethanol within the maternal bloodstream and compare it to a similar in vivo situation.

MICROFLUIDICALLY PRODUCED POLYMERIC MICROFIBERS: Nastaran Hashemi
Engineering 3D biomimetic scaffolds that incorporate both biochemical and mechanical properties required for cell culturing is critical for many biotechnology applications. Hydrogel-based scaffolds are widely used due to their biocompatibility, tunable biochemical properties, and tissue-like water content. In contrast to hydrogels, microfibers have high mechanical strength and are used as the building blocks to create highly porous scaffolds. We are interested in exploring different fabrication processes for the development of polymer microfibers and will study the effect of fabrication parameters such as flow rates and viscosity on microfiber properties. The morphology and mechanical properties of resulting scaffolds will be characterized using scanning electron microscopy and compression tests.

NANOMATERIALS BY DESIGN: Ludovico Cademartiri
Materials are the backbone of technology. Whenever a materials displays a new function, it transforms society: biodegradable scaffolds will enable the regeneration of tissues, shape memory alloys enabled stents that repair clogged vessels, superhydrophobic surfaces will prevent ice deposition on surfaces, ultrahard coatings will enable plastic electronics and reduce waste of materials and energy by abating friction and wear.

The properties of materials are dictated by their structure.  It is expected that complete control over the structure of materials will be an essential part in creating sustainable technologies that will reduce greenhouse emissions, purify air and water, and provide affordable healthcare solutions.

Our laboratory is exploring a radically different approach to the production of materials, in which every structural parameter can be designed. This project will aim at (i) providing materials with new properties and better performance, but also at (ii) resolving important scientific questions about the relationship between nanostructure and properties in materials. 

The student will be synthesizing nanoparticles, learning and developing self-assembly strategies, and processing the materials by plasma processing. The materials will be then characterized by nanoindentations to verify the effect of plasma processing on the mechanical properties of the nanoparticle superlattice.

POLYMER-LIKE NANOWIRES: Ludovico Cademartiri
Unique properties (e.g., rubber elasticity, viscoelasticity, folding, reptation) determine the utility of polymer molecules and derive from their morphology (i.e., one-dimensional connectivity and large aspect ratios) and flexibility. Crystals do not display similar properties because they have smaller aspect ratios, they are rigid, and they are often too large and heavy to be colloidally stable. These limitations are not fundamental and they can be overcome by growth processes that mimic polymerization.

Our laboratory works with a unique class of materials: crystalline nanowires that display the morphological properties of polymer molecules. We use these materials as a testbed to answer fundamental questions about analogies between polymers and crystals. We also use them for their unique properties. For example, we are currently using these materials as a completely new kind of photoresist that has the potential to revolutionize the lithography processes with which most microchips are made.

The students will learn the synthesis of these nanowires and characterize their polymer-like properties and their behaviour as photoresists.

UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIAL NETWORK OF PLANTS: Ludovico Cademartiri
Recent estimates state that the supply of food should increase by 50% in the next 40 years to accommodate the changes in demographics and eating habits. We are at a remarkable juncture where (i) the price of oil and nitrogen-based fertilizers is expected to increase, (ii) the long term availability of phosphorus for fertilizers is in doubt, (iii) the erosion of soil is reducing yields, and (iv) climate change brings extreme weather that impacts crop survival and productivity.

This extraordinary challenge to feed the planet will require new insights in two areas of knowledge: the interactions of roots with soil, and the “communication” between organisms (plant/plant and plant/microorganism), especially at a network level.

We are creating experimental systems to conduct controlled studies on the growth of engineered networks of plants. This project will address fundamental questions about synergic and competitive interactions between plants, especially under stressful growth conditions that are meaningful to future agriculture in marginal soils.

The student will design and grow network of plants with different connectivities and explore how the plant community tolerates stresses (e.g., drought) as a function of the connectivity.

INTERFACIAL CHEMISTRY OF ELECTRONICS 3D-PRINTED ON SOFT SUBSTRATES: Reza Montazami
Utilization of additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, electrohydrodynamic jet printing, and self-assembly is a common approach to fabricate a wide range of patterns and structures. Due to the nature of such additive manufacturing techniques, resultant printed objects have layered structures. Physical and chemical properties of the printed object at the interface between the layers is different from that of each individual layer. Although these properties are deemed to be influential on mechanical and electrical properties of 3D printed layered structures, such correlations are not yet established. In addition, soft substrates are not suitable for conventional microfabrication techniques; thus, despite fast growth of demand for soft electronics, limitations in fabrication techniques hinder progress in this field.
This project aims to explore mechanical and electrical properties at the interface of conductive layers 3D-printed on soft substrates to pave the way for high-resolution 3D printing of soft electronics.

MECHANICS OF SOFT AND DEGRADABLE MATERIALS: Reza Montazami
This project is a coordinated simulation and experimental research effort to enable understanding of micromechanics of thin-films with dynamic mechanical properties. Specifically, we will investigate micromechanics of soft thin-films with variable mechanical properties as a function of time. This case is true for degrading structures, where mechanical properties are nonlinear functions of time and other environmental conditions when material is degrading. 

POLYMER-METAL HYBRID LAMINATE COMPOSITES: UNDERSTANDING AND UTILIZING SURFACE CHEMISTRY AT THE INTERFACE: Reza Montazami
Polymer-metal hybrid laminate composites have significantly lower densities than metal alloys and composites with potential for wide range of applications including aerospace, automotive, and biomedical prosthetics. Conventionally, layered polymer-metal hybrid laminates are assembled using epoxy and adhesives; which results in formation of an additional layer with distinct mechanical and thermal properties. Epoxy-free layered polymer-metal hybrid laminate composites, however, has largely been unexplored compared with their epoxy-reinforced counterparts and polymer matrix composites that are typically reinforced with discrete particles or fibers. One of the major challenges has been the lack of fundamental understanding of bonding at the interface between the polymeric and metallic materials. The overarching goal of this project is to explore the correlation between molecular-scale chemical (and physical) bonding at polymer-metal interface and large-scale mechanical properties of polymer-metal hybrid laminates

ELECTRONIC-STRUCTURE CODE DEVELOPMENT: Durga Paudyal
Intern candidate would assist with the development of electronic-structure code suitable for rare-earth materials. Individual would learn about program development and implementation.   Some knowledge of FORTRAN and general programming techniques is preferred. Individual would work with theoretical and computational materials scientist.