Materials Science & Engineering 2023 SURE and SROP Research ProjectsMaterials Science & Engineering

MSE Project #1: Silsesquioxanes as Components in Hybrid Photovoltaics

Faculty Mentor: Richard M. Laine, talsdad@umich.edu  

Project Description: Silsesquioxanes are polyhedral structures that consist of an inner silica cage to which are appended, functional organic groups. Selected structures are shown below. The iodo T8 compound provides access to a wide variety of materials and especially to polymers (not shown). All of these materials seem to show 3-D conjugation in the excited state even in polymer chains…suggesting semiconducting behavior rather than the behavior expected for an insulating cage. The project will involve the synthesis and/or characterization of the properties of these materials.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #2: All-Solid-State Batteries

Faculty Mentor: Richard M. Laine, talsdad@umich.edu

Prerequisites:  Some chemistry background is welcomed. Enthusiasm is a requirement

Project Description: This project uses nanoparticle synthesis to make thin, dense flexible films for use as solid-state electrolytes, cathode, and anode materials. The student will assist in all phases of the design, synthesis, and assembly of battery components and to some extent test their properties.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #3: Improving stiffness of natural flax fibers

Faculty Mentor: Alan Taub, alantaub@umich.edu

Prerequisites: Looking for a student that finished Junior year

Project Description: The goal of this project is to replace glass fibers for structural polymer composites with a CO2-negative natural fiber. The best flax fibers used for linen have mechanical properties equal to e-glass. However, the variability is quite large and products need to be designed to the lower limit of performance. We are investigating how to reduce the variability created by damage to the fibers during the extraction process. In addition, we are incorporating nano-particles within the fibers to increase their stiffness. The SURE student will work with other graduate students on the project with a focus on measuring the performance of the fibers in both single-fiber tensile tests and composite pull-out tests.

Research Mode: This work is experimental in nature and needs to be done on-site in our laboratory.

MSE Project #4: Molten salt synthesis of battery materials

Faculty Mentor:  Yiyang Li, yiyangli@umich.edu

Prerequisites:  Laboratory experience in chemistry or materials science; ability to work in a safe manner

Project Description: The Li+ group is looking for a motivated undergraduate student to conduct molten salt synthesis for next-generation battery cathodes based on molten salt synthesis. The student will be investigating how synthetic conditions affect the size and shape of the battery particle. The student will have an opportunity to test the synthesis.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #5: Electrochemical Memory for Energy-Efficient Computing

Faculty Mentor: Yiyang Li, yiyangli@umich.edu

Prerequisites: MSE 220 or 250

Project Description: The Li+ group is looking for a motivated undergraduate student to investigate how to use electrochemistry for information storage, with the goal of making artificial intelligence more energy efficient. The student will create memory devices using physical vapor deposition, characterize them using diffraction and microscopy, and test their electrical properties for memory applications.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #6: Investigation of cellular sensors of shear stresses in ovarian cancers

Faculty Mentor: Geeta Mehta, mehtagee@umich.edu

Prerequisites: Enthusiasm for developing research skills in biomaterials, mechanobiology, and cancer bioengineering.

Project Description: Interactions with cellular, molecular, and mechanical components of the ovarian cancer microenvironment significantly affect cancer progression. Our lab has previously established that fluid shear stresses directly impact ovarian cancer and breast cancer cells. We have observed higher cellular proliferation, chemoresistance, migration, and epithelial-to-mesenchymal (EMT) phenotypes when cancer cells are stimulated with pulsatile interstitial shear stress in 3D custom-built bioreactors. We have also analyzed the transcriptome of shear stress stimulated vs static control cancer cells. However, we have an important unsolved mystery regarding shear stress sensing in cancer cells. We do not yet have a complete understanding of how ovarian cancer cells ‘sense’ the shear stresses around them. Therefore, in
this SURE project, our new undergraduate team member will investigate this very mystery. The
project will include an analysis of cell membrane-bound integrins, ion channels, and G-coupled
protein receptors, in order to identify the specific ‘sensors’ that relay the shear stress stimulation to the cellular biochemical machinery. We will use a variety of modern molecular biology techniques to probe the sensors. We expect our new undergraduate team members to take initiative in the project, work diligently to produce robust data, and become part of any upcoming manuscripts from our lab.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #7: Differential responses of ‘normal’ and cancer cells to shear stress stimulation

Faculty Mentor: Geeta Mehta, mehtagee@umich.edu

Prerequisites: Enthusiasm for developing research skills in biomaterials, mechanobiology, and cancer bioengineering.

Project Description: Within our bodies, cells in different tissues respond to a variety of mechanical forces, which include stiffness of the extracellular matrix, tension, compression, and shear stress. Our lab has an active interest in the investigation of how these mechanical stimuli influence the behavior of cancer cells. We have previously established that fluid shear stresses and solid compressive stresses directly impact ovarian cancer and breast cancer cells. We have observed higher cellular proliferation, chemoresistance, migration, and epithelial-to-mesenchymal (EMT) phenotypes when cancer cells are stimulated with pulsatile interstitial shear stress in 3D custom-built bioreactors. When tumors develop in a solid organ, the surrounding ‘normal’ cells remain intact and do not become cancerous. We do not yet understand how do normal cells that exist in the proximity of the tumors, and are also stimulated with the same mechanical stresses, are influenced by them. Therefore, in this SURE project, our new undergraduate team member will investigate this very mystery. The project will include analysis of ‘normal healthy’ and cancer cells stimulated with various levels and durations of shear stresses. We will use a variety of modern molecular biology techniques to quantify the differences between normal and cancer cells and identify the activated molecular pathways that lead to divergent behaviors of these cells. We expect our selected
undergraduate team members to take initiative in the project, work diligently to produce robust data, and become part of any upcoming manuscripts from our lab.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #8: Hydrogel-based microwells for organoid culture

Faculty Mentor: Claudia Loebel, loebelcl@umich.edu

Prerequisites: Some background in materials science and cell biology is welcomed, but not mandatory. Enthusiasm for science is required.

Project Description: This project aims to determine the role that different hydrogels play in airway organoid culture. We have developed a scalable, hydrogel-based microwell method for the culturing of lung organoids. However, the impact of polymer types (natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic) on organoid culture remains poorly understood. The summer project will ]involve the generation of microwells made of different hydrogels, the characterization of material properties, and the impact on organoid formation and cellular outcomes. The student will gain experience in foundational cell culture methods and materials characterization methods in an interdisciplinary research group at the intersection of polymer science, engineering, and lung biology.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #9: Dynamic hydrogel folding for mimicking tissue patterns

Faculty Mentor: Claudia Loebel, loebelcl@umich.edu

Prerequisites: Some background in materials science is welcomed, but not mandatory.

Project Description: This project aims to engineer static and dynamic hydrogel patterns based on mechanical instabilities and the incorporation of magnetoactive particles. Our previous data have shown that hydrogels can be actuated with various patterns and fully reversed. Cells are known to respond to these patterns by recognizing various strain patterns across their underlying substrate. This summer project will involve the fabrication of hydrogel patterns, computational modeling, and characterization of strain values (compression and tension) and cellular outcomes if desired. The student will gain experience in polymeric hydrogel fabrication and characterization methods, magnetoactive hydrogel design, computational modeling, and basic cell culture experience.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #10: Engineering of on-demand stiffening and softening hydrogels

Faculty Mentor: Claudia Loebel, loebelcl@umich.edu

Prerequisites: none

Project Description: This project aims to engineer interpenetrating polymer networks (IPNs) based on thermoreversible and photocrosslinked hydrogels. The goal is to engineer a hydrogel substrate that can be stiffened (i.e, increase in elastic modulus) or softened (i.e., decrease in elastic modulus) by applying either different temperatures or light-induced crosslinking. This summer project will involve the synthesis of IPN components, fabrication of IPN hydrogels, and characterization of their mechanical properties. The student will gain experience in the chemical synthesis of functionalized polymers, hydrogel fabrication techniques, and mechanical analysis, including rheology and compression testing.

Research Mode: In Lab 

MSE Project #11: Gallium Nanoparticle Plasmonics

Faculty Mentor: Rachel Goldman, rsgold@umich.edu

Prerequisites:  A strong interest in experimental science and/or engineering is required. Completion of Introductory Chemistry and Physics Labs is preferred but not required.

Project Description: Metal nanoparticle arrays often exhibit collective electron oscillations (plasmon resonances) which are promising for enhanced light emission, efficient solar energy harvesting, ultra-sensitive biosensing, and optical cloaking.  To date, materials research and device fabrication have focused nearly exclusively on silver and gold nanoparticle dispersions in two dimensions; these arrays exhibit plasmon resonances limited to visible wavelengths.  Recently, we demonstrated a novel method to assemble high-quality gallium nanoparticle arrays with surface plasmon resonances tunable from the infrared to visible wavelength range.  In this summer project, we explore the influence of gallium nanoparticle arrays on the properties of compound semiconductor solar cells, using a combination of electromagnetic simulations, molecular-beam epitaxy, atomic-force microscopy, and optical spectroscopy.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #12: Enhancing p-type Doping of GaN for Power Electronics: A Combined Computational-Experimental Approach

Faculty Mentor:  Rachel Goldman, rsgold@umich.edu

Prerequisites:  A strong interest in experimental science and/or engineering is required. Completion of Introductory Chemistry and Physics Labs is preferred but not required.

Project Description: Although silicon-based electronics are used to power light-emitting diodes and electric vehicles, their utility in high-power applications is limited by a low breakdown voltage. Wide bandgap semiconductors, such as gallium nitride and related alloys, have been proposed as alternatives, but effective p-type doping at high concentrations remains elusive. For example, Mg dopant activation following ion implantation, selective diffusion, and metalorganic vapor deposition requires high-temperature annealing which may disrupt the active device structure. In the case of molecular beam epitaxy, surfactants and co-dopants such as O and Si have been explored, but the concentration of substitutional Mg is often limited, leading to limited p-type doping efficiency. Here, we are developing a novel approach to enhance the p-type doping of GaN and related alloys.

Methodology: The project involves a combined computational-experimental approach consisting of focused-ion-beam (FIB) nano-implantation of Mg in GaN during molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE), followed by computational and experimental ion channeling studies of the Mg incorporation mechanisms. Possible projects include the following:

  1. Development of a modified Mg-Ga alloy source for focused-ion-beam nano-implantation
  2. Ion channeling measurements of doping and point defects in GaN and related alloys
  3. Monte Carlo-Molecular Dynamics simulations of doping and point defects in GaN and related
    alloys

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project # 13: Development and Application of Open-Source Microstructure Evolution Simulation Code

Faculty Mentor: Katsuyo Thornton, kthorn@umich.edu

Prerequisites: Some programming experience and willingness to learn the Unix environment and C++. The student will be trained further during the project.

Project Description: Microstructures of materials frequently determine material properties, and therefore it is critical to develop methodologies to understand how they form. At the University of Michigan, we develop an open-source code, PRISMS-PF, to enable researchers worldwide to simulate microstructure formation and evolution. New capabilities are incorporated each year to examine various phenomena, including precipitate formation, grain growth, spinodal decomposition, and corrosion. Work description: The summer student will work closely with researchers in PRISMS Center to assist in developing new capabilities for the PRISMS-PF code, which is written in C++ and based on the deal.II finite element library. The exact work will be tailored to the student’s interests and background. Example projects involve (1) the porting of the solvers to GPU (which will be appropriate for computer science majors even if they are not familiar with the background materials science), (2) changing the time stepping scheme in an existing solver, (3) modifying a model to simulate a specific material system and running the simulations to gain physical insights.

Research Mode: Flexible

MSE Project #14: Uncovering the oxidation mechanisms of complex alloys

Faculty Mentor: Emmanuelle, Marquis, emarq@umich.edu

Prerequisites: MSE360/365 or equivalent experience

Project Description: Multi-principal element alloys (or MPEAs) constitute a broad class of metallic alloys that includes high entropy alloys and describes alloys with more than one main concentrated element. This SURE project will be focusing on analyzing the oxidation behavior of selected MPEAs. The research work will include literature synthesis, experimental work to make, oxidize, and characterize alloys including learning the operation of scanning electron microscopes at (MC)2, analysis of the data, and communicating results and progress.

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #15: Characterization of biological complex fluids

Faculty Mentor: Abdon, Pena-Francesch, abdon@umich.edu

Prerequisites: familiarity with rheology, polymers, soft matter physics

Project Description: This project in the BioInspired Materials Lab will focus on the complex viscosity properties of biological fluids (with a particular focus on snake venom). The goals of the project include rheological characterization and analysis of the non-Newtonian properties of venoms from different families of snakes (and other fluids). The results will be used to draw relationships between venom composition, shear-dependent properties, fang geometry, and injection mechanisms and to synthesize biomimetic shear-dependent soft biomaterials. This is a project in collaboration with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (LSA) and the Department of Robotics (COE). Students in this project will learn fundamental concepts of soft matter physics, fluid mechanics, and polymer rheology, and apply them to the characterization and analysis of snake biofluids. More info on our group and our work is here:
https://www.apenafrancesch.com/

Research Mode: In Lab

MSE Project #16: Atomic Imaging of Cold Atoms

Faculty Mentor: Robert Hovden, Ph.D., hovden@umich.edu

Project Description: Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is the gold standard for measuring atomic-level information in materials and devices; however, many key materials do not benefit from such capabilities because of a lack of low-temperature conditions inside the TEM. These materials underlying next-generation technologies are fragile under harsh TEM vacuum and irradiation conditions or have functionalities that materialize only at low temperatures. Therefore, these systems, from quantum devices to soft matter to battery components, are interesting or stable enough to be measured exclusively at extremely low temperatures. We aim to extend imaging to ultra-low temperatures (ULT) will enable scientists and engineers to understand next-generation materials for renewable energy and quantum information processing, as well as biologic and soft polymer applications.

Research Mode: In Lab