A Terrible Thing to Waste

A major environmental concern about the use of nuclear reactors is what’s left behind — the nuclear waste from spent fuel rods. Where to dispose of this waste has been the source of much controversy.

But instead of just burying the spent fuel rods, what if you could somehow recycle them to be used again? University of Utah engineering researchers will be working with a team from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to develop an innovative yet simple process of recycling metal fuels for future advanced nuclear reactors. These reactors are designed to be safer than existing reactors, more efficient at producing energy, and cheaper to operate. The team was awarded a three-year, $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program for the project.

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Dr. Zang Named AAAS Fellow

University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Ling Zang was elected to the rank of Fellow to the Council of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his “distinguished contributions to the research of molecular self-assembly and nanostructures, and development of optical and electrical chemical sensors for applications in public safety, health and environment.”

Zang along with other newly named Fellows will be inducted during the organization’s Annual Meeting, to be held Feb. 19 in Philadelphia. The AAAS has members in more than 90 countries and is also the publisher of the Science family of research journals.

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Mental Health Counseling for Students – The College of Engineering

The threat of a deadly virus, virtual classes, isolation. In these trying times, it’s especially difficult to be a college student.

Which is why the University of Utah College of Engineering has employed an in-house mental health counselor to help you navigate through what is sure to be a challenging school year.

Jiabao Gao, LMHC, LPC, CMHC, (pictured, right) is a highly trained counselor and therapist who has worked at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis, Aspire Health Alliance, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has a Master of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Science in Counseling.

Gao now provides services including brief individual and couple counseling, support group/group therapy, drop-in consultation, workshop/outreach, and assistance with referrals. He can meet with students who are suffering from a variety of issues such as anxiety, depression, academic concerns, self-esteem, social anxiety, and loneliness.

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GERALD STRINGFELLOW’S BRIGHT IDEA

The National Academy of Inventors has released a new video about the legacy of Gerald Stringfellow, University of Utah Distinguished Professor of both electrical and computer engineering and materials science and engineering.

The new video, “From Campus to Commerce,” profiles Stringfellow’s contributions to the development of light-emitting diodes, a technology that would benefit everything that uses LEDs from traffic lights to computer monitors.

Stringfellow developed a process called organometallic vapor-phase epitaxy for the growth of new semiconductor alloys in which aluminum, gallium, indium and phosphorous are deposited on a substrate to create red, orange, yellow and green LED crystals. This led to better handheld calculators that used red LEDs for the display. Stringfellow took his research to the University of Utah where he was hired as a professor in 1980. He made major conceptual advances in the field and would later publish a book on the process that has now become the bible for the science of growing LED crystals.

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Sara J. Wilson recognized for contributions to department and university

SALT LAKE CITY — Sara J. Wilson, Administrative Manager for the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, was recognized for her excellence in contributions to the department and university with a 2019 Academic and Student Affairs District Staff Excellence Award. She received this award in a ceremony held on Wednesday, August 21st at the Thomas S. Monson Center.

Sara has served as the Administrative Manager for the Department of Metallurgical Engineering since 2014 and has taken the role of Administrative Manager over the Materials Science & Engineering graduate program effective this July. Sara has been an invaluable member of the departments, working extremely well with students, faculty, and staff.

Prof. Michael Simpson, former metallurgy chair and current MSE chair, praised Sara at the ceremony for her dedication to the department and ability to effectively manage it. Sara will play an instrumental role as we work tirelessly to merge the former metallurgical engineering department in with MSE.

Feng Liu

Liu recognized with Faculty Award

Congratulations to University of Utah electrical and computer engineering professor Cynthia Furse and materials science and engineering chair Feng Liu for receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award, respectively.

Both were recognized with the campus-wide honors during the 150th annual University of Utah Commencement as well as the College of Engineering’s convocation on May 3.

Feng Liu — Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award

Since joining University of Utah in 2000, Prof. Feng Liu has developed into one of the world’s leading experts in the fields of surface science and epitaxial growth of thin films, and the theory of nanostructures, graphene and topological materials. He won the prestigious Senior Humboldt Award in 2008 citing: “His work pioneered our understanding of the atomistic mechanisms underlying epitaxial growth of thin films and semiconductor nanostructures.” In 2011, Prof. Liu was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, based on: “His contribution to theory of nanostructures and strain-induced nanoscale Self-assembly.” “In recent years, he pioneered the fields of organic and surface-based topological materials,” said one nominator. “Prof. Liu has been running an active and well-funded research program which has become one of the largest in the College of Engineering (the group reached 20 people at one point). His research has been steadily supported by federal agencies (DOE, NSF and DOD), the State of Utah and industry. He is among the few people who has been simultaneously funded for two separate DOE-BES core programs, ‘Materials Synthesis and Processing’ and ‘Physical behavior of Materials’ (funded continuously so far for 20 years with an annual budget of $300K).”

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Three Students from Simpson Research Group Win Competitive DOE Scholarships

Earlier this month, Allison Harward, Junior in Chemical Engineering (CE), Claire Decker, Junior in Materials Science & Engineering (MSE), and Collin Anderson, a Ph.D. candidate in Materials Science & Engineering, from Professor Michael Simpson’s Research Group were notified that they had been selected for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s University Nuclear Leadership Program (UNLP). These are prestigious awards that are highly competitive for students seeking to pursue careers in support of nuclear energy.

The UNLP awarded only 61 undergraduate scholarships and 28 graduate fellowships this year and Harward, Decker, and Andersen were the only recipients to receive scholarship at the University of Utah. Harward and Decker were awarded one year, $10,000 scholarships to complete their undergraduate studies while Andersen was awarded a three year, $162,000 fellowship to complete his Ph.D. program in Materials Science and Engineering.

The three are actively putting their funding to use. Harward is currently playing a key role in supporting a project funded by Idaho National Laboratory to develop a new pathway to treating radioactive electrorefiner waste salt for storage. Decker previously supported this same project in addition to assisting with a project funded by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to improve the efficiency of purifying actinide metals. And, Andersen, who earned his B.S. in metallurgical engineering from the University of Utah last year, is currently supporting a project funded by Idaho National Laboratory to develop a hydriding process for recovering uranium from used Advanced Test Reactor U-Al fuel. Under support from UNLP, he plans to expand his research to include treatment of uranium silicide-based fuel.

Andersen and Harward presented their research at the 2021 Winter Meeting of the American Nuclear Society in Washington, D.C. while Harward presented her work at the Annual Meeting of American Institute of Chemical Engineers last November in Boston and Decker presented her research at the 2021 Materials in Nuclear Energy Systems (MiNES) meeting last fall in Pittsburgh.

Liu To Be Named Distinguished Professor

Congratulations to Feng Liu, Ivan B. Cutler Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, who will be named a Distinguished Professor effective July 1. He will be recognized during the university’s commencement next month.

The title of Distinguished Professor is a rare and prestigious honor granted by the University of Utah to faculty who meet the highest standards of scholarship, international stature, and dedication to teaching and service.

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Dr. Stringfellow Named NAI Fellow

Materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering Distinguished Professor Gerald Stringfellow, a former dean of the U’s College of Engineering and a pioneer in LED technology, has been elected as the latest new fellow of the National Academy of Inventors from the University of Utah’s College of Engineering.

Stringfellow is one of two from the U’s College of Engineering to be elected to fellowship this year. Bruce Gale, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is the second to receive the honor. Elected fellows are academic inventors who “have demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society,” according to the academy.

“It is an honor, and I am grateful to have been elected to fellowship this year,” Stringfellow said. “I don’t consider myself an inventor in the traditional sense because I don’t make things. I invent new concepts that help us select materials and processes to improve the production of semiconductor devices, some of which are patented. For example, I provided the concept that led to early red and yellow light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The ideas developed by my group have been used in real-world applications to make improved LEDs, solar cells, and other devices.”

Stringfellow was a group manager with HP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., in the 1970s when he began developing a new process to create LEDs with multiple colors that require much less power.

Stringfellow proposed a process called organometallic vapor-phase epitaxy for the growth of new semiconductor alloys in which aluminum, gallium, indium and phosphorous are deposited on a substrate to create red, orange, yellow and green LED crystals. This work led to better HP handheld calculators that used red LEDs for the display.

In 1980, Stringfellow took his research to the University of Utah, where he worked as a professor. He made considerable conceptual advances in the field and would later publish a book on the process that has now become the bible for the science of growing LED crystals.

Stringfellow’s work, alongside the development of blue LEDs by three Japanese researchers, led to the advancement of flat-screen LCD televisions (LEDs illuminate the LCD panels), cellphones, solar cells, and new LED light bulbs. LED technology is also used in automobile taillights as well as traffic and pedestrian lights.

Stringfellow received the International Organization for Crystal Growth’s Frank Prize, the top award in the field of semiconductor growth, for his career-long work making light-emitting diodes in 2016. He has received other top awards, including the Rosenblatt Prize from the U and the John Bardeen Award from The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society.

The National Academy of Engineering is a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 that recognizes and encourages inventors, enhances the visibility of the university, educates and mentors students, and publicizes the inventions of its members. Fellows are nominated by their peers “for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.”

Dr. Miller named TMS Fellow

Congratulations to metallurgical engineering Distinguished Professor Jan D. Miller, who was chosen to receive The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) Fellow Award for the Class of 2022 for “outstanding contributions to the practice of metallurgy, materials science, and technology.” The award includes a lifetime membership to the society and is its top honor.

According to the society, Miller received the award for his “seminal contributions to the characterization and understanding of interfacial phenomena in mineral processing and extractive metallurgy as well as associated mentoring and teaching.”

Miller received his bachelor’s in mineral preparation engineering from Pennsylvania State University, and a master’s and doctorate in metallurgical engineering, both from the Colorado School of Mines.

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Remembering Raj Rajamani

Remembering Raj Rajamani 

It is with deep sadness we share with you the news of the sudden passing away of our beloved and distinguished colleague and friend, Professor Raj K. Rajamani on the late evening of Thursday, Aug 12. Raj, as he is affectionately called, was an outstanding intellectual mind. He was a highly skilled scientist, an excellent engineer, a dedicated philanthropist, and above all, one of the nicest, compassionate, thoughtful, and humble persons.  Raj was a cornerstone of our Metallurgical Engineering program at the University of Utah for more than 40 years and will be greatly missed by his colleagues in the department and in our professional community.

Raj received his Ph.D. at the University of Utah and joined the Metallurgical Engineering faculty in 1979. As a faculty member for more than four decades, he was an excellent teacher and a creative researcher, and he made several significant contributions in comminution, hydrocyclone classification, and was the inventor of a new eddy current separation technology.

Raj was the pioneer in the application of the “Discrete Element Method” in the modeling of charge motion in tumbling mills and lifter design for Ag/SAG and Ball mills. He made great contributions to the computational fluid dynamics modeling of hydrocyclones and pulp lifters of tumbling mills. Notably, his research on the fundamental understanding of grinding efficiencies of overflow and grate discharge ball mills was successfully applied in the industry. He developed the first DEM code for mills called “Millsoft” in the early 1990s which led a revolution in the use of simulations for mining. In 2013 he took this further by applying the latest GPU technology with the Blaze-DEM software. In July 2021 the DEM team that he was leading received an NVIDIA inception start-up award for work on advancing automation in milling.

Most recently, his successful research included contributions on high pressure grinding and ground-breaking innovations in electrodynamic sorting (EDX) of light metals and alloys that has attracted worldwide attention and several million dollars in funding from ARPA-e/DOE.  EDXTM technology for electrodynamic sorting of metals now being commercialized was his most personally satisfying contribution to society as it addressed the recycling of our key metal resources.  Raj supervised the research of more than 30 graduate students over his career and was recognized for his contributions to our profession with the Antoine M. Gaudin Award presented by the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) in February 2009. The citation for his award was, “For his seminal work in the application of discrete element methods in the modeling of charge motion in semi-autogenous and ball mill grinding, and for his contribution to the basic science of comminution and classification.” Other awards include the SAG High Flyer Award in 2001 for outstanding contributions toward the development of autogenous and semi-autogenous grinding technology, the 1995 Mellow Met Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah, and the 2018 Utah Innovations Award in recognition of Electrodynamic Sorting of Light Metals and Alloys (EDX). Raj made many contributions to our profession and had a great career at the University of Utah. We will dearly miss our special friend and wonderful colleague.

Whether it was metallurgy, tennis, art, or the Buddhist philosophical tradition, Raj was incredibly passionate and disciplined about mastering any endeavors he took on. Above all, his family was the center of his universe, and his contributions there far outweigh all others. As we mourn his loss, we keep Raj’s wife Sudha, and two daughters Preetha and Vidya in our thoughts.

We are in touch with the family to plan a “Celebration of Raj’s Life” event. We will share information as appropriate from the family as it becomes available.

Messages to the family can be sent to RKR.Celebration.of.Life@gmail.com. There is a card in the Dean’s Office (205 FASB) for those who would like to sign it.

Virkar Named Distinguished ACS Lifetime Member

University of Utah materials science and engineering Distinguished Professor, Anil Virkar, who is also the H. Kent Bowen Endowed Chair of Materials Science and Engineering, was elected to the grade of Distinguished Lifetime Member of The American Ceramic Society.

The Distinguished Life Member grade is the Society’s most prestigious level of membership and awarded in recognition of a member’s contribution to the ceramics profession.

Virkar earned a Bachelor of Technology in metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India, a master’s in engineering mechanics from Louisiana State University, and a Ph.D. in materials science from Northwestern University in Illinois.

He joined the University of Utah in 1973 as a postdoctoral fellow and was appointed a research assistant professor in 1974. Two years later, he was named assistant professor, an associate professor in 1979, a professor in 1984, and a Distinguished Professor in 2007. He was named the H. Kent Bowen Endowed Chair in 2015.

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Dr. Sparks’ Research Group works to better illuminate road lines

Increasing the visibility of roadway markings is an important task for engineers. The most popular approach for making roadway striping more visible has been to add glass beads to the surface of the roadway paint in order to cause some of the light from headlights to retro-reflect back to the car. However, when paint with retroreflective beads is submerged with water the index of refraction of water prevents the light from retro-reflecting and the roadway markings become nearly impossible to observe. The easiest workaround for this problem is to add retroreflective tabs to roads, but in our snowy climate the snowplows would rip tabs off the road leaving Utah with no great solutions.

Phosphorescent roadway paint featuring high-performance Eu:SrAl2O4 phosphors with the patent-pending protective polymer coating innovation from the Sparks Research Group.

The Taylor Sparks Research Group has set out to develop a potential alternative solution based on “glow in the dark” luminescent phosphors. Glow in the dark roadways have been piloted before in the Netherlands and failed spectacularly after only a few weeks due to rainwater causing the rare-earth elements to leach out of the ceramic phosphor in the paint. The innovation was led by group member Jason Nance (M.S., ’19) who performed his Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) while working as the state chemist for the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).

Nance and Dr. Taylor Sparks developed a custom polymer coating for the ceramic phosphors that prevents the rare-earth ion from leaching out when submerged in water for prolonged periods. A provisional patent has been filed and a full patent application is under review. Sparks and Nance hope to commercialize this paint through their startup, JCS Labs, and will be conducting feasibility tests on public roads with UDOT this summer.

Dr. Sparks and Nance were recently interviewed by Fox13 News in Salt Lake City about their research and development, watch the interview here.

Dr. Xiaojuan Ni, Recent MSE Ph.D. Graduate, Wins Outstanding Dissertation Award

Recent Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) Ph.D. graduate, Dr. Xiaojuan Ni, received the 2020 Outstanding Dissertation Award for The University of Utah’s College of Engineering for her dissertation titled “Growth, Electronic and Transport Properties of Two-Dimensional Materials Beyond Graphene.” Dr. Ni’s dissertation focuses on theoretical and computational studies of novel 2D quantum materials for potential electronic and spintronic applications. A highlight is her original work on demonstrating the robustness of topological insulator (TI) phase against bulk defects. While the topological edge state of TI is well-known to be robustness against non-magnetic “edge” defects, Dr. Ni has systematically showed, for the first time, how “bulk” defects, such as vacancies and grain boundaries, will affect the topological order of electronic states in materials.

Dr. Ni studied under Dr. Feng Liu, Professor of MSE, and was previously recognized by the International Organization of Chinese Physicists and Astronomers with an outstanding dissertation award. She is currently serving a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Arizona. The MSE Department congratulates Dr. Ni in this award and look forward to following her promising academic career.