MSE included in $28M for Cutting-Edge Tech to Clean Up Iron and Steel

A new infusion of federal funding through the Department of Energy (DOE) totaling $28 million will support some of the most cutting-edge efforts to decarbonize the dirty steel industry, and the University of Utah has received the largest award (~ $3.5 million) of the 13 projects in nine states.

The initiative, through the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) aims to spur solutions that can eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the ironmaking process and sharply reduce emissions across the entire steel supply chain, according to an announcement shared with Canary Media, dedicated to news about cleaning up heavy industry.


Trio from Prof. Simpson’s group wins prestigious awards from Nuclear Energy Office

Three student researchers from Professor Michael Simpson’s group were awarded prestigious awards from the Nuclear Energy Office of the U.S. Department of Energy this week. Olivia Dale (Ph.D. candidate, MET-E) and Matthew Newton (Ph.D. candidate, MET-E) were selected for awards in the Innovations in Nuclear Energy Research and Development Student Competition, and Jon Dromey (B.S. candidate, Mech E) was selected to receive a $10,000 scholarship for 2024/2025. There were only 11 paper awards and 59 scholarships given nationwide.

Fang Lab Enters Agreement with IPERIONX

Fang and his research team will provide IPX with research and development services related to metallurgical technologies to produce primary metals, advanced manufacturing technologies, including additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing) of titanium alloys, and recycling of rare earth metals from magnets used in wind turbines and electric vehicles.


MSE Students To Present “Lunar Forge” Project at NASA’s Big Idea Forum

College students are often told to “shoot for the moon,” exploring their interests with ambitious plans and projects. This week, a team University of Utah engineering students are taking that advice to heart in a more literal way.

NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge is an annual, nation-wide competition that gives college students the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the future of space exploration. In response to a yearly prompt that tasks participants to solve a specific space-based problem, teams of undergraduate and graduate engineering get to work developing creative and innovative concepts. After all project proposals are submitted, five to eight teams are selected to receive a combined total of $1.1 million to further build and develop their system, which they then present to at the BIG Idea Forum in the fall of that year.


Prof. Fang Receives Humboldt Research Award

Titanium (Ti) metal, prized for its high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility is a critical material in aerospace, defense, and medical applications, but its wider use is obstructed by excessively high costs.

That’s where Materials Sciences and Metallurgical Engineering Professor Zhigang Zak Fang comes into play. A recent recipient of the prestigious Humboldt Research Award, Fang has developed a breakthrough technology that can produce high-quality, low-carbon emitting titanium powder at a significantly reduced cost. Known as the Hydrogen Assisted Metallothermic Reduction (HAMR) process, the technology developed by Fang is based on the discovery of new science about the effects of hydrogen on the stability of Ti solid solutions with high oxygen content (up to 14wt%.)


Prof. Zang Elected Fellow of The Royal Society of Chemistry

Ling Zang, Professor in the John and Marcia Price College of Engineering’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Founded in London in 1841, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is the oldest scholarly society in its field and now boasts more than 54,000 members across the globe.

While any chemist can apply for membership in the Society, the RSC describes Fellows as its “most senior category of membership,” reserved for those who “hold positions of influence in our community and have invaluable experience, expertise and commitment to promoting the value of Chemical science.”


Prof. Bates speaks at TEDx Bountiful

Professor Jeff Bates of the Materials Science & Engineering Department at the University of Utah spoke at TEDx Bountiful 2023 on Saturday, February 4, 2023 at the Bountiful Davis Arts Center in Bountiful, Utah. Prof. Bates who works with polymer materials and biodegradable polymer materials gave a lecture titled "The Problem with Plastics."

Watch Prof. Bates' presentation below --

Two Simpson Group Students Receive $10K DOE scholarship

Two students, Allison Harward (B.S., Chemical Engineering candidate) and Jon Dromey (B.S., Mechanical Engineering candidate), from Prof. Michael Simpson’s research group each received scholarships worth $10,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Leadership program. Harward and Dromey are two of only 92 such scholarships awarded nationwide this year and the only recipients from The University of Utah to receive such honors.

Harward has led experimental work on a project funded by the Idaho National Laboratory to develop means to process radioactive waste salt to support safe interim storage. She has determined a means to great reduce the volume of this waste and the process time compared to the state of the art. Additionally, she had authored or co-authored two journal papers, with a third currently under review. This summer she will be working at Bill Gates’ TerraPower nuclear reactor development company on molten salt reactor-supporting research.

Dromey has been working on an ARPA-E funded project to develop a zone refining process to recover actinides from spent metal fuel. He performs mechanical design and fabrication in addition to system testing to support the ARPA-E project. His work has been instrumental in successful completion of milestones related to building a system that can melt narrow regions of uranium-rich metal rods.

Congratulations to both.

Rethinking Photovoltaic Research

In a world where renewables are the future of energy generation, researchers around the world are constantly chasing the best, most efficient technologies for each kind of clean energy source.

For solar photovoltaic energy generation, solar panels use semiconductor materials to convert light into electrical power. Each material technology has a different world record efficiency (which is always higher than what is achievable in full-sized commercial modules). Is the best material to use for solar panels silicon? Cadmium telluride? Or is it halide perovskite-based cells, which have caught the attention of many researchers of late? Academic and corporate scientists and engineers are spending billions of dollars researching and commercializing what they hope to be the best technologies.


Simpson Receives $1.5m to Develop Process for Recycling Spent Nuclear Fuel

University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Michael Simpson has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a method of recycling spent fuel from existing commercial nuclear power plants using molten salt.

The U is one of only 12 recipients from the DOE’s ARPA-E CURIE program aimed at developing technology for commercializing recycling of spent oxide fuel. The technical goals of his project are to demonstrate nearly complete dissolution of spent oxide fuel in a molten salt followed by near complete electrochemical recovery of U/TRU that can be used to make new fuel for advanced nuclear reactors. Achieving complete dissolution of the fuel is key to enabling the process to be safeguarded against proliferation of U/TRU. The grant is over three years.