Student Research: VIPER Class of '17

Zachery Iton: Zachery's research has been conducted in the lab of Prof. Christopher Murray in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, with a focus on smart materials. His work specifically investigated achieving a phase change from VOx, which he synthesized, to thermochromic VO2. He attempted this effort using a microwave reactor irradiating the VOx nanocrystals in different solvents with varying powers for varying periods of time.

Jaron Ma: Jaron worked in Dr. Robert Carpick's group on nanotribology, which is the study of friction at the nanoscale. Using modified atomic force microscopy, he studied the common motor oil additive ZDDP, which forms protective films over surfaces during sliding. Through this technique, Jaron and his colleagues were able to image this film formation while taking frictional measurements, providing valuable data for further analysis.

Gautam Nagaraj: Gautam worked in Prof. Marija Drndic's lab designing a new experimental apparatus for DNA sequencing experiments involving nanopores. Using a variety of tools and techniques, including 3-D modeling, Gautam designed a new fluid cell to house the experiments and a grounding board to prevent the buildup of static charge. The end goal of the project is to sequence the entire human genome in fifteen minutes for a fraction of the current cost using graphene nanoribbons as auxiliary sensors for DNA detection.

Zach Stillman: Zach's research in the lab of Prof. Daeyeon Lee, in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, investigated methods of modeling solid-state electrolytes for dye sensitized solar cells. He used a spin coater to yield thin films from mixtures of titanium dioxide and polystyrene nanoparticles to model the photocatalyst/electrolyte component of the solar cell. He also used ellipsometry to determine the refractive index of thin films composed of silicon dioxide and polystyrene nanoparticles. In doing so, he observed the absence of a correlation between solution nanoparticle composition and thin film nanoparticle composition.

Robert Tannenbaum: In the lab group of Prof. John Vohs and Prof. Raymond Gorte, in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Robert worked on increasing the efficiency of Ion Transfer Membranes (ITMs) for use in the industrial production of Hydrogen gas via the formation of syngas, a mixture of CO and H2. He performed X-Ray Defraction to confirm the stability of the perovskite crystal structure of the LaCaFeO3 (LCF) mixed-ionic-and-electronic conducting (MIEC) ceramic membrane used for the autothermal reforming of methane (ATR-an oxidative thermodynamically favored reaction). The importance of catalysts in improving the efficiency of the oxygen ion transfer for the ATR across the ITM was also shown. Robert specifically worked on the synthesis of the LCF ITMs via a Sol-Gel method and sintering processes, as well as the generation of gas chromatography readings as a measure of the oxygen flux for the ITMs. Different methods of catalyst introduction into the membranes were also investigated, where Robert focused on the characterization of the exsolution process for the ITMs, and their impact on enhanced oxygen flux performance.

Carol Wang: For her research in the lab of Prof. Patrick Walsh, in the Department of Chemistry, Carol has studied palladium catalyzed cross-coupling reactions between aryl chlorides and aryl benzyl sulfoxides. Although sulfoxides are a ubiquitous group in chemistry and have uses ranging from pharmaceuticals to organic catalysts, current methods of synthesis via cross-coupling are often ineffective for aryl chlorides, mainly because of the strength of the C-Cl bond. Carol explored the substrate scope of a newly developed cross-coupling reaction of aryl benzyl sulfoxides and aryl chlorides to form diaryl sulfoxides, which proceeds through a triple relay process. This reaction is expected to have applications in all areas of organic synthesis involving this functional group.

Yifan Xu: Yifan worked in Dr. Vijay Kumar's lab, developing a recharging system for multiple Pico Quadrotors. The recharging system consists of multiple recharging stations and supporting software. "Qi" standard wireless recharging technology has been implemented to provide an on-board battery with stable energy, while the slope structure of the stations can greatly reduce ground effects in flight during landing. The recharging system can run autonomously until the task being performed by the Pico Quadrotor system is finished, which greatly reduces human intervention. Future work involves improving the design of the recharging stations to further reduce ground effects when landing and to increase robustness. Scalability of the recharging system can also be investigated, as future aerial robot systems can consist of tens or even hundreds of aerial robots.

William (Yu Ren) Zhou: William worked in Prof. A. T. Charlie Johnson's lab, in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, on carbon nanotube-based chemical sensors. The sensors consisted of transistors made of DNA-functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes. When the sensors are exposed to chemical vapor, some molecules from the vapor bind onto the DNA strands wrapped around the nanotubes. Because most molecules are polar and/or charged, the bound molecules create electric fields in the vicinity of the nanotubes, thereby changing the nanotubes' electrical properties (such as electrical conductivity). These changes could be measured using electrical instruments, thereby indicating the presence of bound molecules. The sensors have shown the ability to measure the concentration and chemical nature of vapors in the environment.