University of Utah materials science and engineering assistant professor (lecturer) Jeff Bates has created a new ski wax that not only has caught the eye of recreationists but also of Popular Science magazine.

The well-known science and technology magazine just named Bates’ Phantom ski wax for its 31st annual Best of What’s New award in the recreation category. The magazine listed the 100 greatest technological innovations for the year in categories including aerospace, gadgets, cars and security devices.

The Phantom wax, developed by Bates last year for Salt Lake City-based ski company, DPS Skis, involves a special formulation of polymers that can be applied to skis only once, eliminating the need for additional applications like regular ski wax.

To read more click here.


University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Shelley Minteer was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), it was announced Nov. 28. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

She is one of two U professors to receive the honor this year. The association also named chemistry professor Glenn Prestwich. Both are among 416 newly-elected Fellows.

Minteer was elected for “fundamental and applied contributions to electrochemistry, including electrocatalytic cascades and natural and artificial metabolons for biofuel cells.”

Minteer’s career has focused on using nature as an inspiration and solution to chemistry problems. Her work has resulted in 17 issued patents and over 300 peer-reviewed publications in using biology as inspiration for biosensing, energy storage, energy conversion, and electrosynthesis.

To read more click here.

Corning Executive, U Engineering Graduate Passes

David A. Duke, a University of Utah College of Engineering graduate, former chief technology officer with Corning Inc. and an inductee in the National Academy of Engineering, passed away Monday, Oct. 9, of natural causes. He was 81.

Duke graduated with a bachelor’s in geology and geophysics in 1957, and a master’s and doctorate in geological engineering in 1959 and 1962, respectively, and was a fierce supporter of the U’s College of Engineering throughout his career. He was a member of the College’s Engineering National Advisory Council for 13 years and was a generous benefactor, providing financial support for the construction of the Warnock Engineering Building as well as for the David A. and Hanne J. Duke Scholarship in Materials Science and Engineering.

“David Duke was an engineering giant whose inventions and leadership had a huge impact on people’s quality of life in areas ranging from dinnerware to optical communications and air quality,” said Richard B. Brown, dean of the U’s College of Engineering. “He was recognized as a global technology leader, and honored with the highest awards given in the engineering profession. I appreciate his remarkable vision, judgement and support as a member of my National Advisory Council.”

Duke was born and raised in Salt Lake City and attended East High School before enrolling at the University of Utah in 1953. Upon graduation, he started working for Corning as a research scientist, a company he would stay with for 34 years. During that time, he was awarded 10 patents, most for Corelle dinnerware. During his tenure with the company, he attended Harvard Business School’s Professional Management Development program and then was put in charge of several of Corning’s businesses, including those involving science products, Radomes, catalytic converter substrates, and telecommunications/optical waveguides. In 1988, he was elected vice chairman and chief technical officer of Corning and was a member of its board of directors. He retired from the company in 1996 and was living in Park City with his wife, Hanne.

He accepted the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on behalf of Corning, and he later received the Earle B. Barnes Award in Chemical Research Management by the American Chemical Society. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1992.

During his career, he served tirelessly for others, mentoring colleagues at work, counseling families through his work with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and encouraging youth to pursue their professional goals. Away from work, Duke served as an LDS branch president and bishop in Elmira, N.Y., and was president of the South Africa, Durban LDS Mission from 1998 to 2001.

Duke is survived by his wife of 62 years, Hanne; their four children, Katherine (Robert) Shumway, Michael, Deborah (Gregg) Winn and John (Cessily) Duke; 20 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A public viewing will be held Friday, Oct. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LDS Olympus Stake Center, 2675 E. 4430 South, Salt Lake City. A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. at the LDS Park City Stake Center, 2300 Monitor Dr., Park City. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Perpetual Education Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at http://give.lds.org/pef or to the David & Hanne Duke Scholarship Fund at the University of Utah College of Engineering at https://umarket.utah.edu/ugive/level4.php?catid=82.

Joshua Winger named COE Outstanding Teaching Assistant

The 2017 University of Utah College of Engineering staff, teaching and service awards were handed out Aug. 18 during the annual fall faculty meeting. Congratulations to all of the recipients of this year’s awards — including Materials Science and Engineering student Joshua Winger as this year’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant.

Joshua Winger, Materials Science and Engineering

It takes a rare combination of not only intelligence but selflessness to be a great teaching assistant. Josh Winger in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering is one of those TA’s.

Just look and the student comments written about Josh, which read like Yelp reviews for a 5-star restaurant: “He went above and beyond the responsibility of a TA. By far the best one I have ever had,” wrote one student. “Josh was a very intelligent, very kind teacher’s assistant. He is always willing to help any person about any questions and about any subject.”

Lastly, the professor he worked for, Taylor Sparks, has only the highest praise for Josh: “He goes way above the duties of his job to try and help students out. He is a credit to our institution . . . and I can’t imagine a more deserving recipient.”

To read the complete list of this year’s winners click here.

College Launches New Entrepreneurship Certificate

If an engineer is going to successfully commercialize his or her technology so it can be used by millions of people, it takes a certain amount of business acumen to make it work. The problem is a lot of engineers just delegate that half of the work to executives with MBAs.

But there is a lot engineers can learn about the world of business to help them navigate the muddy waters of patents and partnerships. That’s why the University of Utah College of Engineering along with the U’s Eccles School of Business have developed a new Engineering Entrepreneurship Certificate designed to give engineering students the fundamentals necessary to start a business and function in the corporate world. The certificate is college-wide and can be taken by any engineering major.

For more information about the certificate, go to entrepreneurship.coe.utah.edu.

“By not knowing what it takes or the costs and the obstacles involved in business, that can be a significant impediment to something that’s a really good idea,” said University of Utah electrical and computer engineering department chair, Gianluca Lazzi, who also is the program director for the certificate. “By providing the students with the skills and knowledge necessary — from finance, to marketing, to operations and strategy — they can be prepared and avoid several of the pitfalls that come up when people try to start an enterprise.”

The undergraduate certificate requires 20 credit hours, and some courses counted toward an engineering degree can be counted for the certificate. It can be taken as an undergraduate or graduate (a graduate student needs only 15 credit hours to complete the certificate).

Some of the courses include Engineering Entrepreneurship, Launching Technology Ventures, Technical Communications, and Intellectual Property and Business Law. While formal applications are not necessary, prospective students are encouraged to contact the program advisor, Alec Down (alec.down@utah.edu), for guidance.

Lazzi and U College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown came up with the idea of the certificate so future engineers can more easily understand what it takes to successfully commercialize their research.

“These courses can help them so they can understand the language, read financial statements and not just rely on someone else for those things,” Lazzi said.

Another advantage with the certificate is that these courses are geared specifically for engineers, he added.

“There is an advantage when your colleagues in the courses are like-minded,” he said. “You form in teams and work directly on engineering projects that can enrich them with business knowledge. It’s an extension of what our students are already doing here but we really beef it up with elements important for translating it all into commercialization.”

Making a Better Biodegradable Pad

Each year, nearly 20 billion sanitary pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year, and it takes centuries for them to biodegrade inside plastic bags, according to a 2016 Harvard Business School report. Additionally, it requires high amounts of fossil fuel energy to produce the plastic for these products, resulting in a large carbon footprint.

But a team of students led by University of Utah materials science and engineering assistant professor (lecturer) Jeff Bates has developed a new, 100-percent biodegradable feminine maxi pad that is made of all natural materials and is much thinner and more comfortable than other similar products.

The SHERO Pad uses a processed form of algae as its super-absorbent ingredient, which is then covered with cotton and the same material that makes up tea bags. The result is a maxi pad that is effective, comfortable to wear and can break down anywhere from 45 days to six months.

“This is novel in comparison to other biodegradable options out there for pads,” said Amber Barron, a University of Utah junior in materials science and engineering who is on the team of four students. “Most are really bulky because they don’t have a superabsorbent layer.”

The need for something like the SHERO Pad originally came from SHEVA, a nonprofit advocacy group for women and girls in Guatemala, which turned to Bates because it was looking for a sustainable solution for feminine hygiene waste. One of Bates’ area of research is in hydrogels, which are water-absorbing polymers.

“In Guatemala, there’s no public sanitation system. All the rivers are black because they are so polluted,” Bates says. “So there really is a genuine need for people in Guatemala to have biodegradable options.”

Part of Bates’ solution came one night while feeding his 5-year-old daughter.

“One day we were eating dinner with white rice, and my daughter spilled it all over the floor,” he says about that night two years ago. “The next morning, when I was cleaning it up, it was all dry and crusted. I drove to work and thought, ‘What was it about rice that does that?’”

That question of how rice hydrates and dehydrates began a two-year process of searching for the right natural materials for the feminine pad, which included testing with different leaves, such as banana leaves, and forms of cotton.

Bates, Barron and the rest of the team — which includes sophomore students, Sarai Patterson, Ashlea Patterson and Ali Dibble — ultimately developed the SHERO Pad, which is made up of four layers: An outer layer of raw cotton similar to a tea bag to repel liquid, a transfer layer of organic cotton to absorb the liquid and pull it from the outer layer, the super-absorbent layer made of agarose gel (a polymer from brown algae), and a final layer made of a corn-based material that keeps the moisture inside and prevents leakage.

While there are other similar sustainable feminine pads on the market today, they either use a hydrogel that is not 100 percent biodegradable or they use thicker layers of natural cotton that are uncomfortable to wear, Barron says. Another advantage to the SHERO Pad is that it can easily be manufactured in smaller villages using locally sourced materials and without sophisticated tools, just common presses and grinding stones, Bates says.

While the team originally developed the SHERO Pad for users in developing countries such as Guatemala, Bates and the students also will start selling the product in the U.S. for environmentally conscious women. A working prototype has been produced, and they have launched a startup company based in Bountiful, Utah. They hope to have products in Guatemala and on U.S. store shelves within a year.

More Power to the People

Thanks to the discovery of a new material by University of Utah engineers, jewelry such as a ring and your body heat could generate enough electricity to power a body sensor, or a cooking pan could charge a cellphone in just a few hours.

The team, led by University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Ashutosh Tiwari, has found that a combination of the chemical elements calcium, cobalt and terbium can create an efficient, inexpensive and bio-friendly material that can generate electricity through a thermoelectric process involving heat and cold air.

Their findings were published in a new paper March 20 in the latest issue of Scientific Reports. The first author on the paper is University of Utah materials science and engineering postdoctoral researcher, Shrikant Saini.

Thermoelectric effect is a process where the temperature difference in a material generates an electrical voltage. When one end of the material is hot and the other end is cold, charge carriers from the hot end move through the material to the cold end, generating an electrical voltage. The material needs less than a one-degree difference in temperature to produce a detectable voltage.

For years, researchers have been looking for the right kind of material that makes the process more efficient and produces more electricity yet is not toxic. There are other materials that can generate power this way, such as cadmium-, telluride- or mercury-based materials, but those are toxic to humans. The unique advantage to this new material by Tiwari’s team is that it is inexpensive to produce and, mostly importantly, bio-friendly and eco-friendly while still being efficient at generating electricity, Tiwari says. Therefore, it could be safe to use with humans.

“There are no toxic chemicals involved,” he says. “It’s very efficient and can be used for a lot of day-to-day applications.”

The applications for this new material are endless, Tiwari says. It could be built into jewelry that uses body heat to power implantable medical devices such as blood-glucose monitors or heart monitors. It could be used to charge mobile devices through cooking pans, or in cars where it draws from the heat of the engine. Airplanes could generate extra power by using heat from within the cabin versus the cold air outside. Power plants also could use the material to produce more electricity from the escaped heat the plant generates.

“In power plants, about 60 percent of energy is wasted,” postdoctoral researcher, Saini, says. “With this, you could reuse some of that 60 percent.”

Finally, Tiwari says it could be used in developing countries where electricity is scarce and the only source of energy is the fire in stoves.

The Technology & Venture Commercialization Office of the University of Utah has filed a U.S. patent for the material, and the team will initially develop it for use in cars and for biosensors, Tiwari says.

In addition to Tiwari and Saini, co-authors on the paper include graduate students Haritha Sree Yaddanapudi, Kun Tian, Yinong Yin and David Magginetti.


This news release and photos may be downloaded from:


All Brawn AND Brains

You may know Taylor Sparks as a University of Utah materials science and engineering assistant professor. But earlier this month, he was Taylor Sparks, reality TV guest star.

Sparks appeared in an episode of the Discovery Channel television show, “Diesel Brothers,” a popular reality program based on his brother’s successful truck modification shop, DieselSellerz, in Woods Cross.

In the latest episode, which aired March 13, his burly, bearded brother, Dave “Heavy D” Sparks, wants to modify a Ford truck so it can perform a somersault, a feat that has eluded him before. So Dave enlists his brother Taylor to come up with the necessary physics to make it happen.

Based on some equations, Taylor, who earned a doctorate in applied physics from Harvard University, deduces that his brother’s crew has to find the center of gravity, build a round roll cage, and use hydraulics and extra weight to force the truck to roll forward.

“We’re fighting physics,” Dave Sparks says in the episode. “Luckily, we’ve got a scientist on our side.”

Click on the video below to see if they make it (they try the stunt in front of Taylor’s engineering class).

Click here to watch the full episode (cable subscription required).

Utah’s Need for Engineers

Utah’s growth in the technology sector continues to skyrocket, and engineering colleges around the state are doing everything they can to meet the high demand for engineers.

In the first six months of 2016, Utah had the greatest percentage increase of technology-related jobs in the U.S. with a growth of 7.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of tech-sector jobs in Utah grew from about 46,000 to 70,000 from 2005 to 2015, according to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (see graphic above).

Meanwhile on the front end, the number of students seeking engineering degrees has grown even more rapidly. At the University of Utah, for example, the number of first-year students enrolled in the College of Engineering has grown 178 percent in the last 10 years, according to the College.

“In some areas of the state it’s just massive growth,” Val Hale, executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said about the growing number of technology companies in Utah. “There’s no doubt that technology is playing a key role in our economy moving forward.”

As a result, 81 Utah companies led by the Utah Technology Council have endorsed Utah Rep. Val Peterson’s, R-Orem, $5-million Request for Appropriation to aid the state’s engineering and computer science programs in dealing with escalating student demand. These additional ongoing funds would add capacity to the statewide system and expand the workforce needed by high-tech companies. Since 2014, the number of engineering and computer science degrees awarded by the statewide system have increased by 29 percent thanks to prior state investments.

“Fortunately, the number of qualified Utah students who want to study engineering and computer science is growing as fast as the demand for graduates. In 2005, 7 percent of the U’s freshman class wanted to go into the College of Engineering — this year, it was 19 percent,” said Richard B. Brown, dean of the U’s College of Engineering. “We need to grow the capacity so that we can educate them for these exciting, creative jobs of the 21st century.”

Being able to tap into a bigger pool of qualified graduating engineers from the state would certainly help Starr Fowler. The senior vice president for human resources at Provo-based smart-home services company, Vivint, said they are desperately looking for new engineers to accommodate their massive growth.

“We are growing a lot,” she said. “We have double-digit revenue growth year over year.”

Currently, Vivint has some 35 job openings for software and hardware engineers — not to replace employees who are leaving, but to fill new slots for the company’s expansion. Fowler said they are looking for qualified people ranging from software developers to mechanical engineers who help design their home security and smart-home devices. She also said Vivint is not the only company along the Salt Lake Valley with an appetite for more engineers.

“It’s huge,” she said of the expanding technology sector from Ogden to Provo, known as “Silicon Slopes.” “All you have to do is drive down I-15 to the Point of the Mountain and the other side and just see. Every other week there’s a new building up or a new sign with a new company. The growth is substantial.”

And Utah is not starving for just software developers, GOED’s Hale said. An expanding manufacturing sector, including in areas such as composite materials, has created a need for mechanical, electrical and chemical engineers among others.

“Manufacturing continues to grow in our state, and it’s very engineering-dependent,” he said. “We’ve experienced significant growth, and manufacturing is involved in almost all of our clusters from life sciences to aerospace. They all rely heavily on manufacturing, which relies heavily on engineering.”

Hale added that Utah continues to be an attractive target for business startups thanks to the valley’s proximity to outdoor recreation, the state’s quality of life and low cost of living. Consequently, that has made these companies more competitive when it comes to filling their workforce, and median salaries for technology jobs have risen. The average salary for a software engineer in Utah, for example, is more than $95,000, according to Glassdoor.com.

“When a lot of the companies reach maturity and are purchased, they stay here, like Omniture. Those jobs stay here instead of migrating elsewhere, and that creates an ecosystem that thrives,” Hale said. “It’s a good place for businesses to come and take root and grow.”

Anil Virkar Named NAI Fellow

University of Utah materials science and engineering Distinguished Professor Anil Virkar, who has been with the U for more than 43 years, can add yet another honor to his list — he has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

“I’m extremely honored to be named to NAI. Having worked at Utah for 43 years with people like Prof. Ron Gordon and Prof. Ivan Cutler helped me get off the ground,” he said. “I’m also proud of the opportunities I have had here in Utah and the innovative research that is done here. Utah has been ahead of other states in the commercialization of research, which has helped me a lot as well.”

Virkar is one of 175 Fellows named to the academy from more than 135 institutions, according to an NAI announcement Tuesday, Dec. 13. He is the only one from the University of Utah to be named in this year’s group.

Selection to the academy is accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated “a 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 NAI. The 2016 Fellows will be inducted April 6 as part of the Sixth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston.

Virkar received his undergraduate degree at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai and his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in 1973. Shortly after, he arrived at the University of Utah first as a post-doctoral fellow and then became professor where he has remained his entire career.

During his time here, Virkar has co-founded several companies, including Colorado-based Versa Power Systems and Materials and Systems Research, Inc., in Salt Lake City. Most recently, he co-founded Nano-Oxides, Inc., for the synthesis of nanosize oxide powders. His main research is focused on fuel cells, batteries, multi-species transport and the fabrication of ceramics.

Virkar also was elected to be Fellow of ASM International, the world’s largest association of materials-centric engineers and scientists, and he was recently named for the H. Kent Bowen Endowed Professorship in Materials Science and Engineering.

He joins University of Utah College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown and electrical and computer engineering professor Cynthia Furse, who also is the U’s associate vice president for research, as faculty from the College who have been named NAI Fellows.

With the election of the 2016 class there are now 757 NAI Fellows, representing 229 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes.