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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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. Liu named a 2021 Outstanding Referee by Physical Review

SALT LAKE CITY — Materials Science & Engineering Professor, Dr. Feng Liu, was named an Outstanding Referee for 2021 by the Physical Review journals. Dr. Liu is one of only 151 faculty members worldwide to be bestowed with this honor this year. This Outstanding Referee honor is a lifetime award and recognition.

Instituted in 2008, the Outstanding Referee program expresses appreciation for the essential work that anonymous peer reviewers do for our journals. Each year a small percentage of our 78,400 active referees are selected and honored with the Outstanding Referee designation. Selections are made based on the number, quality, and timeliness of referee reports as collected in a database over the last 40 years.

For a list of the 2021 honorees please click here.

Tiwari Named NAI Senior Member

Congratulations to University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Ashutosh Tiwari, who was elected a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Senior Member for 2021. He is one of 63 luminaries from 36 institutions named to this year’s class and the only one from Utah.

“It is a great honor to be elected to the National Academy of Inventors as a Senior Member. Though this recognition has been granted to me, it was not possible without the creativity and high-quality research performed by my numerous students and postdocs over the last one and half decades,” said Tiwari. “I am also thankful to the College of Engineering and the University of Utah’s PIVOT Center for providing a conducive environment for high-quality research and innovation.”


U Engineering to Work with Versatile Test Reactor

Engineers from the University of Utah’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering are working with a large team of researchers to prepare experiments for the U.S. Department of Energy’s upcoming Versatile Test Reactor to test various molten salt reactor technologies.

These experiments are part of just one research project that will take advantage of the VTR, which is designed to test fuels, materials and sensors for power reactors. While the VTR is going through a federal approval process and has not yet been built, projects such as the one the U’s MSE department is working on are already underway.

The Idaho National Laboratory has published a new story about what the U’s experiment will be about, which involves the MSE chair, Michael Simpson, and involves irradiating molten salt to see how it would change.

Click here to read the INL story.

Discover the materials of the future … in 30 seconds or less

Since the dawn of history, the materials available to man have defined the very substance of society. The Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age and eventually to the Iron and Steel Ages. We now enter the Information Age where technologists must balance a dynamic harmony between traditional approaches and transformational new tools. In this fascinating talk, Dr. Taylor Sparks will explain how he is working to reduce the trial and error of new materials discovery.

Dr. Taylor Sparks is an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah. He is originally from Utah and an alumni of the department he now teaches in. He did his MS in Materials at UCSB and his PhD in Applied Physics at Harvard University and then did a postdoc in the Materials Research Laboratory at UCSB. He is currently the Director of the Materials Characterization Lab at the University of Utah and teaches classes on ceramics, materials science, characterization, and technology commercialization.

His current research centers on the discovery, synthesis, characterization, and properties of new materials for energy applications. He is a pioneer in the emerging field of materials informatics whereby big data, data mining, and machine learning are leveraged to solve challenges in materials science. When he’s not in the lab you can find him running his podcast “Materialism” or canyoneering with his 3 kids in southern Utah. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Metallurgy Ph.D. Now Makes Medical Radioisotopes

During his Ph.D. studies in the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah, Dr. Milan Stika studied molten salt electrochemistry under Prof. Michael Simpson. They worked on methods for measuring concentrations of actinides in molten salts used for applications such as nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel reprocessing. After a brief stint working for Flibe Energy on development of molten salt fueled nuclear reactors, Milan now works at Niowave, Inc., a company that produces radioisotopes used for medical diagnostics and cancer treatment. The company has a great team of accelerator physicists, nuclear engineers, and radiochemists supporting its mission. As a radiochemist, Milan works on projects that deal with separation of individual radioactive elements.

Niowave irradiates uranium targets to induce fission which creates a variety of useful fission products. The target is then dissolved so that fission products like molybdenum-99 can be harvested. Uranium is first pulled away from the rest of the elements using solvent extraction. It is then recycled into a new target. The elements useful for medical applications are then separated from each other using ion exchange resins and other methods.

Niowave also irradiates radium targets to produce actinium-225, a useful medical isotope along with other alpha emitters for targeted alpha therapy. Actinium is separated from radium and other products of the radium decay chain. Niowave is currently the only US private company producing actinium-225.

According to Milan, “the Department of Metallurgical Engineering was instrumental in helping me prepare for this exciting job in the nuclear sector by offering relevant coursework, networking opportunities, and advisor guidance.”