Category: Research

Paul Sanders Leads New Research on Sustainable Landfill Mining for Critical Materials Such As Aluminum

Dr. Paul Sanders ’91 is the Patrick Horvath Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Technological University

Landfill mining can recover valuable recyclable materials, including aluminum. In fact, the concentration of aluminum in many landfills is higher than the concentration of aluminum in bauxite from which the metal is derived. Now, a multidisciplinary Michigan Tech research team will determine ways to select viable and sustainable landfill sites.

Paul Sanders is the principal investigator (PI) on a project that has received a $750K research and development grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Sanders is the Patrick Horvath Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. He is also a Michigan Tech alumnus. He earned his bachelor’s in metallurgy and materials engineering at Tech in 1991 before going on to earn his PhD in MSE at Northwestern. After working at Ford Motor Company, he returned to the Michigan Tech as a faculty member.

The project is titled “Aluminum Critical Mineral Production via Landfill Mining: Environmental, Community, and Technical Feasibility for Integrated Multi-Material Resource Recovery.”

Jonathan Robins (Social Sciences/Institute of Materials Processing), Timothy Eisele and Robert Handler (Chemical Engineering/Institute of Materials Processing) are co-PIs on this project. Eisele is also a Michigan Tech alumnus.

Together they will utilize a multidisciplinary team of engineers (mineral processing, metallurgy, and environmental) and social scientists to investigate if site selection is key to assessing the technical and economic feasibility of landfill mining for materials. Social science analysis of the landfill history/contents and community will be key to selecting a landfill pilot with a high probability of being viable economically, environmentally, and within the community.

DOE Funding: $750K

Read more at the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

MTU and LIFT Partner to Design Future Additive Manufacturing Materials, Manufacturing Processes

LIFT, the Detroit-based manufacturing innovation institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, has partnered with Michigan Technological University on a number of recent projects. Last year, four teams of undergraduate students designed a powder metal atomization chamber to enable the creation of new alloy metal powders for use in additive manufacturing.

While atomization is a standard technique for producing powders for metallic additive processes, there is limited production capability for custom alloys. The students’ design, a modular 10-foot-tall chamber, has the ability to atomize about 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of metal, including ferrous metals, nickel-based alloys and aluminum-based alloys.

“This atomization capability is needed because current powders for metal additive development projects are expensive and have long lead times,” said Paul Sanders, Patrick Horvath Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and advisor to the undergraduate design teams. “This chamber, if built and deployed, will provide for improved powder additive alloy design faster and at less cost across industry.”

For more information, read the full press release on LIFT’s website.

By Materials Science and Engineering.


New Technology for Custom 3DP Alloys

DBusiness Daily Update: OU Credit Union Agrees to 10-year, $5M O’rena Naming Rights Deal, and More

New Funding for Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope

An array of 6 micrographs for two materials in different time frames.
Scanning electron microscope (SEM) images of fresh plastic waste (A and D) and excavated plastic (B, C, E, F) under 500× magnification. Image available on Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

Bruce Lee (BioMed/IMP) is the principal investigator (PI) on a project that has received an $804,990 research and development grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The project is titled “Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope for Research in Additive Manufacturing, Materials Development, and Plastic Waste Recycling.”

Stephen Techtmann (BioSci/IMP), Paul Sanders (MSE/IMP) and Trisha Sain (ME-EM/IMP) are co-PIs on this potential one-year project.


New Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope Proposal

NSF Funding for Yongmei Jin on Silicide Nanostructure Project

Yongmei Jin
Yongmei Jin

Yongmei Jin (MSE/IMP) is the principal investigator (PI) on a project that has received a $592,502 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

The project is titled “NSF-BSF: Computation-Guided Advanced Fabrication of Silicide Nanostructures with Novel Magnetic Properties.”

Ranjit Pati (Physics/IMP) is a co-PI on this potential three-year project.


Silicon technology compatible nanomagnets are needed for spintronics, which enable low-power, high-density data storage and processing critical for next-generation nano- and micro-electronic devices. This impacts a wide variety of technological applications in commercial and defense industries. A bottom-up approach based on controlled self-assembly of nanoislands on a silicon substrate is used to fabricate transition metal silicide nanostructures.

The project seamlessly integrates computation with experiment. Computation research involves first-principles density functional theory calculations and micromagnetic simulations bridged by atomistic spin model simulations. Experimental research involves controlled material synthesis, growth of self-assembled epitaxial silicide nanoislands on a silicon substrate, in-situ/ex-situ structural and compositional characterization and magnetic property measurement.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.

Abadi and Kasraie on 3D Nano-ink

Masoud Kasraie
Masoud Kasraie ’22 materials science and engineering

Parisa Pour Shahid Saeed Abadi (ME-EM/BioMed/MSE) and Masoud Kasraie ’22 (PhD, materials science and engineering) were quoted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in a story about the 3D nano-ink they developed in 2021 that could reduce the weight of many 3D-printed parts by 80%, keep cracks too tiny to see from growing in aeronautical equipment and medical devices, and double as electrical wiring.

The research was highlighted by Michigan Tech News in September 2021.

Abadi is an assistant professor in mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, an affiliated assistant professor in biomedical engineering, and an affiliated assistant professor in materials science and engineering.

Read “A 3D Nano-ink for Stronger, Lighter Builds” by Jean Thilmany in ASME news.

Erik Herbert Receives Funding for Mechanically Stable Interface Project

Erik G. Herbert
Erik G. Herbert

Erik Herbert (MSE/IMP) is the principal investigator (PI) on a project that has received a $535,317 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

The project is titled “GOALI: Engineering Mechanically Stable Interfaces Through Short-Range Molecular Rearrangement Driven by Inhomogeneous li Ion Transfer Kinetics.”

Stephen Hackney (MSE/IMP) is a co-PI on this potential three-year project.


This fundamental research project aims to fill critical knowledge gaps required to enable the engineering of next generation high energy density solid state batteries. Specifically, the project will address how the chemistry, composition and physical arrangement of atoms, ions, molecules, and defects in both the atomic structure and interface morphologies collectively control the development of localized pressure known to causes catastrophic failure such as cracking or short circuiting in a battery.

This new knowledge will directly inform robust strategies to engineer the safest and highest performance batteries for consumer electronics and electric vehicles.

Statistical analysis of experimentally observed transitions in stress relaxation mechanisms will enable the construction of novel small-scale deformation mechanism maps expressed as a function of key operational variables, electrochemical cycling, and temperature. These unique maps will provide much needed insight into the physical dimensions of interface defects capable of producing catastrophic device failure by fracture of the solid-state electrolyte.

In this way, the maps will directly inform strategies and guidelines for engineering stable interfaces capable of supporting stress-free, planar deposition of a pure, metallic lithium anode.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.

MSE Grad Ninad Mohale Awarded Second Place Presentation in the 2021 Graduate Research Colloquium

Ninad Mohale
Ninad Mohale

Oral Presentations

Ninad Mohale from the Materials Science and Engineering department took second place for his presentation titled “Effects of Eta Phase on the High Temperature Creep Behavior of Nimonic 263.” The research is sponsored by the United States Department of Energy (DOE). Mohale is advised by Professor Walter Milligan.

This year’s Graduate Research Colloquium organized by the Graduate Student Government was hosted virtually due to COVID restrictions. There were in total 48 presentations — 17 poster presenters and 31 oral presenters.

Poster presentations took place in a pre-recorded video style and the oral sessions were hosted live via Zoom. You can watch all the poster videos and recordings for the oral sessions here. Each presentation was scored by two judges from the same field of research.

Participants were able to gain valuable feedback from these judges before presenting their research at an actual conference. It was stiff competition amongst all presenters.

A hearty congratulations to all the winners at this year’s Colloquium. The Graduate Student Government would like to thank everyone: presenters, judges, volunteers, and GSG supporters, for making this a great event despite COVID-19 restrictions. GSG would also like to hear ways in which this event could be improved next year using this feedback form.

By Graduate Student Government.

MSE Retirement Announcement: Owen Mills

Owen Mills
Owen Mills

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering congratulates Owen Mills on his upcoming retirement. We have enjoyed working with him during his years here at Michigan Tech and not only is he a valuable asset to MSE but we consider him part of the MSE family.

Owen you will be missed by all of us more than words can say! Your time, experience, expertise, has been so beneficial to MSE and Michigan Tech. We hope your successor will strive to follow your stellar example. We are saddened to see you go but wish you nothing but success and happiness in retirement. While June 30, 2020, was his last day, we will celebrate his retirement at a later date in August.

New Approach to Simultaneous In Situ Measurements

Timothy Leftwich
Timothy Leftwich

Graduate student Chathura de Alwis (Chem), research assistant professor Timothy R. Leftwich (MSE), and assistant professor Kathryn A. Perrine (Chem) published their seminal paper on their new surface technique, “New Approach to Simultaneous In Situ Measurements of the Air/Liquid/Solid Interface Using PM-IRRAS” in Langmuir on March 16, 2020.

Leftwich is an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and manager of the Surface Analysis Facility in the shared facility ACMAL, the Applied Chemical and Morphological Analysis Laboratory.

Cite This

New Approach to Simultaneous In Situ Measurements of the Air/Liquid/Solid Interface Using PM-IRRAS
Chathura de Alwis, Timothy R. Leftwich, Kathryn A. Perrine
Langmuir 2020, XXXX, XXX, XXX-XXX
Publication Date: March 16, 2020


Vibrational spectroscopy techniques have evolved to measure gases, liquids, and solids at surfaces and interfaces. In the field of surface-sensitive vibrational spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy measures the adsorption on surfaces and changes from reactions. Previous polarized modulated-infrared reflection–absorption spectroscopy (PM-IRRAS) measurements at the gas/solid interface were developed to observe catalytic reactions near reaction conditions.

This article presents a new method that is used to observe in situ adsorption of molecules using PM-IRRAS at the gas/liquid/solid interface. We demonstrate the meniscus method by measuring the adsorption of octadecanethiol on gold surfaces.

Joshua Pearce on Survival Topics

In Print

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) coauthored “Scaling of Greenhouse Crop Production in Low Sunlight Environments” published in Science of the Total Environment.

In the News

Research developed by Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was highlighted in an article “A full-scale nuclear winter would trigger a global famine. A disaster expert put together a doomsday diet to save humanity” published in Business Insider.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was quoted in the UK’s Daily Mail story: Mortality rates declined significantly in counties where coal plants closed according to new study, saving an estimated 26,610 American lives between 2005 and 2018.”

Pearce’s research was also covered in “A Full-Scale Nuclear Winter Would Trigger a Global Famine. Here’s What We Would Eat” published in Science Alert and Finland’s Verkkouutiset news.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was mentioned in the article “3D Printing Against Coronavirus: Who And How To Help,” in Fabbalo, 3D Printing News.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was quoted in an article “3D Printing Against Coronavirus: Who And How To Help” in Fabbaloo. Pearce was also quoted in the article “MTU engineering experts join open-source ventilator movement to overcome COVID-19” in News-Medical.Net

Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) was referenced in the article “Climate Disrupted: A Circular Technology,” in