Category: Research

3-D Printing and Solar Energy Updates

3-D Printed Chemistry Ring
3-D Printed Chemistry Ring

In the News

An article by Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE), “3D Printing the Next Five Years” was reprinted in Microfabricator. The article is a guest blog looking at the future of 3D printing that was originally posted in 3D Printing Industry in March, 2017.

The new applications of low-cost metal 3D printing developed by ECE alumnus Yuenyong (Ake) Nilsiam along with Paul Sanders (MSE) and Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was covered widely by the technical press and popular media including in AmericaRussia and China.

The article “Make Solar Power, Not Tobacco” featuring Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE), was published in the news section of the peer-reviewed Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The story was also covered widely in Europe and Asia including in the WallStreet Online in Germany and Tobacco China.

On the Road

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) chaired a panel in the Fulbright Forum: “Education, Innovation, Science and Art,” March 15–16 at the University of Helsinki and Aalto University, Finland on “Technologies to Keep Coal in the Ground.” He also presented “Power to the People: Solar Photovoltaic Technology.

In Print

MSE PhD student Adam Pringle and Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) coauthored a feature paper “Micromorphology analysis of sputtered indium tin oxide fabricated with variable ambient combinations” published in Materials Letters.

ECE alumnus Yuenyong (Ake) Nilsiam coauthored a paper with Paul Sanders (MSE) and Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE). “Applications of Open Source GMAW-Based Metal 3-D Printing” was published in the Journal of Manufacturing and Materials Processing.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) co-authored “Effects of silver catalyst concentration in metal assisted chemical etching of silicon” published in Materials Express.

Pearce co-authored “Properties of Al-Doped Zinc Oxide and In-Doped Zinc Oxide Bilayer Transparent Conducting Oxides for Solar Cell Applications,” published in Materials Express.

Pearce Co-authors on Net Metering Policy

Renewable Energy FocusExamining Interconnection and Net Metering Policy for Distributed Generation in the United States

Chelsea Schelly, Joshua Pearce, and Edward P. Louie (who completed an MS in Environmental and Energy Policy at Michigan Tech) published a new article, “Examining interconnection and net metering policy for distributed generation in the United States,” which was published in Renewable Energy Focus.

Adam Pringle Named Finalist in Worldwide Competition

Adam Pringle
Adam Pringle

Graduate student Adam Pringle (MSE) has been named one of nine finalists worldwide for a project he submitted to the international “Make A Difference” competition. As a finalist, he will be flown to Hamburg, Germany, to present his project at OpenLab Hamburg in November 2017.

The project, “Composite Filament Fabrication Process,” focuses on ecological sustainability by breaking down waste materials and turning them into composite 3-D printing filament, which then can be used to make useful products.

The “Make A Difference” competition seeks ideas that provide solutions for the needs of refugees, the health of society, education and ecological sustainability.

Finalists will build, test and showcase prototypes of their projects at OpenLab Hamburg, and one overall winner will be selected.

Pringle is a member of Joshua Pearce’s (MSE) research group, Michigan Tech Open Sustainable Technology (MOST) lab.

Original story by Jenn Donovan.

“Make a Difference” is an idea challenge for everyone. It aims toward making a social and ecological impact based on the open source principles. For the 2017 Idea Challenge, 76 ideas were received, the top 20 ideas were considered for the final evaluation, and nine finalists are going to Hamburg. Professor Joshua Pearce is among the jurists.

OpenLab Hamburg takes place October 30 to November 3. Digital, high-end devices will be at the service of the finalists, who will work with the OpenLab team to make their dreams come true. “Make a Difference”  is the inaugural Idea Challenge organized by the Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg, and the Arab German Young Academy.

Jaroslaw Drelich Leads the Acquisition of an Atomic Force Microscope

Jaroslaw W. Drelich
Jaroslaw W. Drelich

Jaroslaw Drelich (MSE) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $135,669 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Shiyue Fang (Chem), Tarun Dam (Chem), Xiaohu Xia (Chem) and Kathryn Perrine (Chem) are the Co-PIs on the project, “MRI: Acquisition of an Atomic Force Microscope for Force Measurement, Single-Molecule Manipulation and other Applications.” This is a three-year project.


This award is supported by the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) and the Chemistry Instrumentation and Facilities (CRIF) programs. Professor Jaroslaw Drelich from Michigan Technological University and colleagues are acquiring an atomic force microscope (AFM). An AFM is a powerful tool to look at single molecules on a surface. It operates through an atomically sharp tip attached to an extremely soft cantilever that can sense forces at tiny atomic levels (pico-newton forces). Utilizing the forces between tip and a molecule, AFM can even be used to manipulate single molecules moving them to desired locations. Using this information, projects measure the mechanical strength of single covalent bonds. This can lead to practical applications, for example, preparing better quick-response and moisture-resistant smart adhesives. Adhesion forces between materials for civil engineering application can be investigated. The research enabled by the AFM will have broad impacts in areas such as health, energy, environment and national security, and even the economy. Faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers in at least 16 research groups at Michigan Tech are trained to use this powerful instrument.

This atomic force microscope enhances research and education in areas by measuring van der Waals and magnetic forces between the tip and surface; the rupture force of non-covalent interactions between molecules and tip, and the scission force of covalent bonds in a molecule anchored between the tip and surface. Applications to projects include monitoring enzyme catalysis in real-time, and performing surface charge microscopy of biological cells. The microscope is used in the study of quick-response and moisture-resistant smart adhesives, and adhesion forces between materials for civil engineering applications. In other projects the shape and surface characteristics of atmospheric particles and atmospheric processing of black carbon are studied. The lattice structures of proteoglycan-galectin-3 cross-linked complexes are imaged and the ligand binding force of galectin-3 is measured.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.

Pearce on Training Coal Workers for the Solar Industry

Solar PanelsJoshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) is quoted in Newsweek, “Why Donald Trump Can’t Save the Coal Industry,” and his research was covered in A Proposal To Retrain Coal Miners on North East Public Radio.


A study published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Economics says coal miners could cheaply and easily be retrained for jobs in the solar energy industry. The solar industry is experiencing employment growth 12 times that of the entire economy. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating jobs in solar energy will increase by as much as 24 percent by 2022 from a decade before, the employment opportunities for solar panel installers and other jobs in that industry are enormous. And unlike wind and hydroelectric, solar is not geographically limited and so could absorb the vast supply of coal miners with modest relocation costs—if any—for miners and their families.

A relatively minor investment in retraining would allow the vast majority of coal workers to switch to [solar]-related positions even in the event of the elimination of the coal industry,

according to the study, which was written by Joshua Pearce, associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University, and Edward Louie, a doctoral student at the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University.

Read more at Newsweek, by Kurt Eichenwald.

Michael Meeropol: A Proposal To Retrain Coal Miners

In fact, there is a way to have both an increase in well-paying jobs in the energy sector and a switch to a carbon neutral future with emphasis on renewable sources of energy.  The Harvard Business Review just published a summary of a study showing that with the rapid growth in employment in solar industries all coal miners as well as workers in coal fired electrical generating plants (93% of the coal consumed in the US is used to generate electricity) no matter what the level of expertise, could be retrained for jobs in the solar-generated electrical industry.

[See Joshua Pearce, “What if All US Coal Workers Were Retrained to Work in Solar,” Harvard Business Review (August 8, 2016) available at]

The detailed research was published by Dr. Pearce and a collaborator Edward Louie in the journal Energy Economics (“Retraining Investment for U.S. Transition from Coal to Solar Photovoltaic Employment”  Vol 57, pages 295–302 (2016). doi:10.1016/j.eneco.2016.05.016 free open access pre-print.)   In the Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Pearce writes that “…. because of the tremendous drop in costs for solar technology, solar adoption is now rising rapidly.   ….  the American solar industry had a record first quarter in 2016, and for the first time, it drove the majority of new power generation. The U.S. solar industry is creating a lot of jobs, bringing on new workers 12 times faster than the overall economy. As of November 2015, the solar industry employed 208,859 solar workers,…”

Read more and listen to the audio at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, by Michael Meeropol.

3D Printing Economics

3D PrintingIn the News

Research by Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) and undergraduate student Emily Peterson was covered widely in the 3-D printing industry press, 3-D printing undustry and 3-Ders and Could You Save Money by 3D Printing Household Items? – All3DP, as well as the larger technical press including: 3D printing ordinary household goods can save you a lot of money, study finds – TechSpot, License to Print Money at Home?– Engineering360, and 3D-printing household objects could be top money-saving tip – E&T.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was quoted in the article Can Plug-and-Play Solar Systems Lead the Way? in Green Buildings.

Pearce’s lab was covered by BBC Arabic on 3-D printing and CBS Detroitused MTU 3-D printers as examples in The Future Of Manufacturing: What’s Next?

3-D printing research by Pearce and undergradate Emily Peterson was covered by technology sites across Asia including Nanjixiong (China), Weiot (China), 24 Maker (China) and Naver (Korea).

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) wrote an opinion piece for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The piece was titled “America Should Recruit Smart Immigrants from Every Country.”

Pearce’s research is covered in These Researchers Want To Prepare Us For The Post-Apocalypse-Futurism, and 3D Printers In The Average American Household – Computer Power User.

In Print

Materials Science and Engineering undergraduate student Emmily Peterson co-authored a paper with Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) titled “Emergence of Home Manufacturing in the Developed World: Return on Investment for Open-source 3-D Printers,” in the journal Technologies.

PhD student Nagendra Tanikella (MSE) coauthored an article with alumnus Ben Wittbrodt (MSE) and Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) titled “Tensile Strength of Commercial Polymer Materials for Fused Filament Fabrication 3-D Printing” that was published in Additive Manufacturing.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) published Emerging Business Models for Open Source Hardware in the Journal of Open Hardware.

Just Press Print: 3-D Printing At Home Saves Cash

By Stefanie Sidortsova.

Interested in making an investment that promises a 100 percent return on your money, and then some? Buy a low-cost, open-source 3-D printer, plug it in and print household items.

In a recent study published in Technologies, Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) set out to determine how practical and cost effective at-home 3-D printing is for the average consumer.

He found that consumers—even those who are technologically illiterate—can not only make their money back within six months, but can also earn an almost 1,000 percent return on their investment over a five-year period. Pearce estimates that using only the random 26 objects analyzed in the study may have already saved consumers who use 3-D printers at home more than $4 million. There are several million free 3-D printable designs available on the web.

Read the full story.