Tag: Chemical Engineering

Attracting Underrepresented Graduate Students: GEM GRAD Lab This Saturday

Rod Carter credits his graduate education at Michigan Tech for the strong problem-solving skills it takes to succeed at his job: high-level materials research for Boeing. A research and technology engineer, Carter was the first African American to earn a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Michigan Tech, in 2008.

During an all-day seminar at Michigan Tech on Saturday, Sept. 15, Carter will talk about the doors that graduate education opened for him. Called the GEM GRAD Lab, the meeting addresses a critical shortfall in US engineering and scientific talent, focusing specifically on recruiting more underrepresented students into graduate programs. GRAD stands for Getting Ready for Advanced Degrees.

“Students will leave the GRAD event with a definite plan on how to apply and gain funding, and hear about real-life research and internship experiences,” says Marcus Huggans, senior director of external relations for the National Consortium for Graduate degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc., sponsor of the program. “GEM appreciates Michigan Tech’s Graduate School leadership to bring this workshop to students in the Upper Peninsula.”

Jacque Smith, Michigan Tech Graduate School director of marketing, explains: “It’s all part of an even larger goal of creating a pipeline for this talent to move on to corporations and organizations after receiving their graduate degrees.”

A major component of GEM is fellowships for Master of Science in engineering students or PhD students in engineering or science. The GEM fellowships include full tuition, summer internships and stipends.

His GEM fellowship has made all the difference to Sterling Prince, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering. “The GEM Fellowship has been a blessing to my life,” says Prince. “It has strengthened my decision and given me confidence to achieve a doctorate in electrical engineering. It has provided the financial support I needed for my graduate program, allowing me to dedicate my time to my studies rather than working. The program has also provided me with the opportunity to work at a national laboratory, an experience that allowed me to see that I enjoy the area of scientific research and want to pursue it in my future.”

In addition to Carter, Prince and two other current Michigan Tech GEM fellows and PhD candidates–James Alexander and Tayloria Adams–will speak at Saturday’s seminar. Other speakers include Huggans; Patty Lopez, a component design engineer at Intel; and Howard G. Adams, founder and president of H. G. Adams and Associates, a consulting and training firm. Michigan Tech’s Associate Provost for Graduate Education Jackie Huntoon and Jodi Lehman, coordinator of proposal and fellowship development for sponsored program enhancement, will also speak.

More than 100 of the nation’s top universities, many Fortune 500 companies, and numerous national laboratories support GEM, which began in 1976. Since then, more than 3,000 GEM Fellows have gone on to successful careers. Michigan Tech has participated in GEM since the 1990s.

Registration for the free event starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Great Lakes Research Center.


Students Excel in International Poster Competition

Chemical engineering PhD student Brett Spigarelli with his team's carbon dioxide scrubber. His prize-winning poster focussed on improving the scrubber's efficiency. Sarah Bird photo
Two graduate students, Brett Spigarelli and Howard Haselhuhn, took first and third place in the Minerals and Metallurgical Processing Journal Student Poster Contest, held Feb. 22 in Seattle. Both are PhD candidates in chemical engineering.

The contest was part of the SME (Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration) Annual Meeting. Thirteen graduate students from all over the world entered posters in the event.

The Tech students’ advisor, Chair Komar Kawatra (ChE), is on sabbatical as a Fulbright scholar in India and flew to Seattle for the competition.

“I am very fortunate to be working with graduate students like Howard and Brett,” said Kawatra. “They are highly motivated and just outstanding. One day I expect them to be CEOs of major corporations.”

Spigarelli earned the top spot for his poster on optimizing a carbon-dioxide scrubber that removes 50 percent of the CO2 passing through.

The scrubber, an 11-foot bench-model plastic pipe packed with glass beads, has a water-based solution flowing through it. From below, carbon dioxide bubbles up, reacting with chemicals in the liquid. The process not only captures carbon, it binds it in a solid form, making an undisclosed product that can be used as a construction material. The liquid itself can be recovered and used again.

The group has received a patent and hopes to build a pilot plant in cooperation with industry partner Carbontec Energy Corp.

Spigarelli’s prize-winning poster focused on making the scrubber as efficient as possible. In particular, he developed a model for determining the ideal concentration of chemical in solution to strip out CO2. “You want to remove as much carbon as possible, but you don’t want to use excess chemicals, because you want to save the company money,” Spigarelli said. “This process will give you the best results.”

Haselhuhn’s third-place poster also focused on water chemistry. At an iron-processing facility, he studied the technology used to remove impurities from iron ore. He found ways to improve the process and significantly boost productivity.

“The iron ore is ground down into very small particles, which are mixed in water,” he said. “The larger particles, which contain more iron ore, settle quickly, and the smallest ones, containing silica, stay suspended.” However, Haselhuhn discovered, sometimes the raw ore contains high levels of magnesium, which translates into higher concentrations of magnesium in the water. In turn, that causes silica particles to cluster together and settle out with the iron, rendering the separation process ineffective.

“By compensating for the excess magnesium, companies could reduce the loss of iron in their concentration process,” Haselhuhn said. “The results of this research will save millions of dollars per year and reduce the loss of an important natural resource.”

by Marcia Goodrich, magazine editor
Published in Tech Today


Accelerated Master’s Degree Programs

The Graduate School announces the development of three new accelerated master’s degree programs. These fast-track graduate programs are now offered to undergraduate students in the fields of mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering and chemical engineering.

The new initiative allows Michigan Tech undergraduate students to accelerate their education and jumpstart their future research or career paths.

Tech undergraduate students can apply as early as their junior year and start taking graduate-level courses during their senior year.

Michigan Tech’s accelerated master’s allows for students to count up to six credit hours towards both their bachelor’s and master’s degree. Once students are admitted into the accelerated programs and complete their bachelor’s degree, they can finish their master’s degree within two semesters (one academic year).

Acceptance into these programs requires that students apply through the standard Graduate School application process and maintain undergraduate GPA requirements set by the individual programs. Students who are already enrolled in graduate programs may not retroactively enroll in accelerated master’s programs.

Other academic programs are encouraged to consider offering accelerated master’s options to Tech students.

For more information on developing an accelerated master’s program, contact Jacque Smith, director of marketing and advancement, Graduate School, at 487-1434 or at jacque@mtu.edu .

submitted by Jacque Smith, Graduate School
Published in Tech Today


New theses and dissertations available in the Library

The Graduate School is pleased to announce new theses and dissertations are now available in the J.R. van Pelt and Opie Library from the following programs:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Forest Ecology and Management
  • Geophysics
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Rhetoric and Technical Communication


New theses and dissertations available

The Graduate School is pleased to announce new theses and dissertations are now available in the J.R. van Pelt and Opie Library from the following programs:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Forestry
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physics


New theses available in the Library

The Graduate School is pleased to announce new theses are now available in the J.R. van Pelt and Opie Library from the following programs:

  • Applied Ecology
  • Applied Natural Resource Economics
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Policy
  • Forest Ecology and Management
  • Geology
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


Sea Grant Fellowship Opportunities

Sea Grant offers several fellowships for graduate and undergraduate students who are looking for:

  • An opportunity to learn more about coastal, Great Lakes and marine issues
  • A fantastic career building and networking opportunity
  • A chance to apply academic training in ecology, natural resources, policy, or law to real world issues
  • An insider view into how environmental policies are developed
  • A paid fellowship that can ease the transition from school to working life

For Graduate Students

These are paid 1-2 year fellowships that are typically pursued the year following graduation. The fellowships recruit students with a strong interest in marine and Great Lakes issues from a wide range of backgrounds, including, science, policy and law. Applications are due in late January or February.


New theses and dissertations available in the Library

The Graduate School is pleased to announce new theses and dissertations are now available in the J.R. van Pelt and Opie Library from the following programs:

  • Applied Ecology
  • Applied Natural Resource Economics
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Forest Ecology and Management
  • Forest Science
  • Geophysics
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  • Physics
  • Rhetoric and Technical Communication


Carbon Foam: The Key Ingredient of a Better Battery?

A lighter, greener, cheaper, longer-lasting battery. Who wouldn’t want that?

Tech researchers are working on it. Actually, their design is a twist on what’s called an asymmetric capacitor, a new type of electrical storage device that’s half capacitor, half battery. It may be a marriage made in heaven.

Capacitors store an electrical charge physically and have important advantages: they are lightweight and can be recharged (and discharged) rapidly and almost indefinitely. Plus, they generate very little heat, an important issue for electronic devices. However, they can only make use of about half of their stored charge.

Batteries, on the other hand, store electrical energy chemically and can release it over longer periods at a steady voltage. And they can usually store more energy than a capacitor. But batteries are heavy and take time to charge, and even the best can’t be recharged forever.

Enter asymmetric capacitors, which bring together the best of both worlds. On the capacitor side, energy is stored by electrolyte ions that are physically attracted to the charged surface of a carbon anode. Combined with a battery-style cathode, this design delivers nearly double the energy of a standard capacitor.

Now, Tech researchers have incorporated a novel material on the battery side to make an even better asymmetric capacitor.

Their cathode relies on nickel oxyhydroxide, the same material used in rechargeable nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal hydride batteries. “In most batteries that contain nickel oxyhydroxide, metallic nickel serves as a mechanical support and a current collector,” said chemistry professor Bahne Cornilsen, who has studied nickel electrodes for a number of years, initially with NASA support. A few years ago, the team had a chance to experiment with something different: Cornilsen suggested replacing the nickel with carbon foam.

Carbon foam has advantages over nickel. “It’s lighter and cheaper, so we thought maybe we could use it as a scaffold, filling its holes with nickel oxyhydroxide,” said Tony Rogers, associate professor of chemical engineering.

Carbon foam has a lot of holes to fill. “The carbon foam we are using has 72 percent porosity,” Rogers said. “That means 72 percent of its volume is empty space, so there’s plenty of room for the nickel oxyhydroxide. The carbon foam could also be made of renewable biomass, and that’s attractive.”

But how many times can you recharge their novel asymmetric capacitor? Nobody knows; so far, they haven’t been able to wear it out. “We’ve achieved over 127,000 cycles,” Rogers said.

Other asymmetric capacitors have similar numbers, but none have the carbon-foam edge that could make them even more desirable to consumers.

“Being lighter would give it a real advantage in handheld power tools and consumer electronics,” said Rogers. Hybrid electric vehicles are another potential market, since an asymmetric capacitor can charge and discharge more rapidly than a normal battery, making it useful for regenerative braking.

The group has applied for a patent on its new technology. Chemical engineering professor Michael Mullins is also a member of the research team. Graduate students contributing to the project are PhD graduate Matthew Chye and PhD student Wen Nee Yeo of the chemical engineering department and MS student Padmanaban Sasthan Kuttipillai and PhD student Jinjin Wang of the chemistry department.

The research is funded by the US Department of Energy, the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative, the Michigan Tech Research Excellence Fund and the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer
Published in Tech Today


US Department of Energy Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowships

U.S. Department of Energy Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowships

The U.S. Department of Energy provides funding for students in their first or second year of graduate study in the fields of physical, engineering, computers, mathematics and life sciences. The fellowships are renewable up to four years. Students receive about $31,000 a year, as well as a $1,000 annual academic allowance for travel, research activities and attending conferences. Some students may also get matched funds for computer support up to $2,475.