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ZEN GRAPHENE SOLUTIONS LTD. COMPLETES NON-BROKERED PRIVATE PLACEMENT OF UNITS

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Zen Graphene Solutions Ltd. (“Zen Graphene” or the “Company”) (TSXV:ZEN) is pleased to announce the closing of the second tranche, comprised of 1,621,175 units, of its previously announced private placement of units (the “Offering”). The Company raised total gross proceeds of $2,049,999.80 under the Offering, which will be used to fund ongoing work on the Albany Graphite Project including graphene research and scale up, COVID-19 initiatives and other graphene applications development and for general corporate purposes. The Board of directors wishes to thank all the long-term shareholders and new shareholders who participated in the Offering.

Francis Dubé, CEO commented: “With this private placement now completed, the company is in a strong financial position to accelerate the many research and development projects it has underway and explore new opportunities that are being considered.”

The total Offering consisted of the issuance of 3,416,666 units (“Units”) at a price of $0.60 per Unit, for aggregate gross proceeds of $2,049,999.80. Each Unit consisted of one common share of the Company (“Common Share”) and one half of one non-transferable share purchase warrant (“Warrant”). Each whole Warrant will entitle the holder thereof to acquire one additional Common Share at an exercise price of $0.80 per Warrant, exercisable for a period of twenty-four months from the closing of the Offering (the “Exercise Period”).

All Warrants issued in connection with the Offering are subject to an acceleration clause. If the Company’s share price trades at or above $1.00 per share for a period of ten (10) consecutive trading days during the Exercise Period, the Company may accelerate the expiry date of the Warrants to 30 calendar days from the date on which written notice is given by the Company to the holders of the Warrants.
The Common Shares and the Warrants issued in connection with the second tranche of the Offering will be subject to a hold period until November 7, 2020 in accordance with applicable securities laws.

Tags:  COVID-19  Francis Dube  Graphene  Graphite  Healthcare  ZEN Graphene Solutions 

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U of G Researcher Developing Unique Coating for PPE to Prevent Spread of COVID-19

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Reusable face masks that help reduce the spread of COVID-19 are the goal of a novel nanotechnology-based research project at the University of Guelph supported by federal funding worth $50,000.

In what U of G  chemistry professor Aicheng Chen called one of a few such projects under way, he aims to develop unique anti-viral nanocomposites for ultra-thin coatings on face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect health-care workers and patients.

These thin coatings – to be made from a nano-scale material called graphene – may bind with the COVID-19-causing virus, disinfecting equipment to allow its reuse, said Chen.

He received a one-year, $50,000 award from the Alliance COVID-19 grant program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). Chen is working with ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. based in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“We are aiming to develop graphene-based nanocomposites to be used as a new type of coating on equipment,” said Chen. “With this coating, we hope to disinfect the virus and reuse PPE or face masks.”

The novel coronavirus can spread through the air and on surfaces. With ongoing concerns about mask shortages and possible disease transmission from various surfaces, reusable face masks that prevent COVID-19 infection may help protect front-line health-care workers, he said.

As the lightest and thinnest material known, graphene is one-millionth of the thickness of a human hair. It’s produced from graphite, the type of carbon found in pencil “lead.”

At nanoscale, the lightweight 2-D material combines high strength, flexibility and conductivity. It holds promise for various applications, from electronics and batteries to sensors for detecting drug compounds in environmental or biological samples.

Chen will also study ways to modify graphene to improve its ability to bind with and disinfect the virus. He said nanomaterials (a nanometre is a billionth of a metre) have long been investigated for their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

He has worked with ZEN Graphene Solutions since 2015 on earlier NSERC-funded projects.

Peter Wood, president of the company, said, “ZEN is excited to be collaborating with Professor Chen and his team in this project to develop an advanced filter with anti-viral properties that will help in the fight against COVID-19. If successful, the company is very interested in advancing the results in Canada, and several commercialization options are being considered.”

Tags:  2D materials  Aicheng Chen  COVID-19  Graphene  Healthcare  Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council   University of Guelph  ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd 

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Research groups in Materials work to develop diagnostics for COVID-19

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, July 7, 2020
The outbreak of COVID-19 has to date infected over nine million people globally.

A number of researchers in the Department have been working hard to develop new diagnostics which will provide fast and accurate detections of coronavirus, even for people who are asymptomatic. 

The group of Professor Molly Stevens

The group of Professor Molly Stevens are working to develop a coronavirus test which aims to deliver a rapid diagnosis, using ultra-low concentration of the virus. The group are also working on polymer nanoparticles with potential antiviral effects and pulsatile release vaccine systems that would eliminate the need of multi-dose vaccines.

This would mean that patients can be diagnosed much earlier in the infection’s life-cycle, as many of the current point of care lateral flow tests do not allow early detection of the infection. If patients can be diagnosed earlier in the infection’s life-cycle, they can be isolated and receive treatment, reducing the spread of the outbreak. 

Professor Molly Stevens, from the Departments of Materials and Bioengineering, is leading the project, which has received more than €600,000 in funding and is being supported by the EU’s European Institute of Innovation and Technology, Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Fund and the Rosetrees Trust.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, my research group has continued to work with determination to support the development of game-changing technology to address the urgent need for reliable, cost-effective and fast COVID-19 diagnostic tests - Professor Molly Stevens

The researchers aim to complete the development phase of the point-of-care diagnostic device, called QwikZyme, within the next six months. They are working closely with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to carry out clinical testing.

Professor Stevens said: “An ultra-sensitive rapid point of care diagnostic test for COVID-19 is urgently needed, as the virus continues to spread.

"Our rapid test design is for point of care use to help us overcome the challenge of detecting asymptomatic carriers, as well as diagnosing patients much earlier and more quickly.

"This would enable patients to be isolated and treated earlier, and help control the spread of outbreaks.

Professor Stevens has discussed the research in more detail on the Imperial People blog. 

Materials PhD student Tabasom Haghighi, who is a member of the Stevens group, has also filmed a 'Day in the Lab' to provide a glimpse of their current research.

The group of Dr. Fang Xie

Dr. Fang Xie’s group was recently awarded Imperial College COVID-19 Research Fund to work on a project titled "Developing a high sensitivity and high specificity COVID-19 Immunoassay using Nanotechnology”.

Dr. Xie explained that "in contrast to the current standard diagnosis based on real time PCR technology, which detect those patients who are concurrently infected, there is an urgent national priority to increase the number of serologic test, which could help identify those who have had the disease - as it has been reported that there are populations who are asymptomatic". 

More importantly, an antibody test could answer ‘big picture’ questions regarding public health. Monitoring the concentration of antibodies using such a test could help researchers to understand how long the immunity lasts, a key issue for vaccine development.

The ultra sensitive detection of antibodies of COVID -19 enabled by the powerful metal induced fluorescence platform will provide an important landscape of the infection - Dr. Fang Xie

In this project, PhD students Sarah Fothergill and William Morton from Dr. Xie’s group have been working closely with collaborators — Prof Peter O’Hare from the Dept of Infectious Diseases and a biotech company, to deliver a robust, highly sensitive and locally deployable assays for coronavirus antibody test, exploiting a powerful nanotechnology, Plasmonic enhanced bioassay.  

By the end of the project, the group aim to have assembled such an easy-to-fabricate and low cost system enabling rapid and sensitive antibody test with the capability of qualification, ready for translation and deployment.

Dr. Xie said "We are really excited that our project was funded. The ultra-sensitive detection of antibodies of COVID -19 enabled by the powerful metal induced fluorescence platform will provide an important landscape of the infection."

We look forward a fruitful collaboration with virologists and biotechnology industry.” 

The group of Professor Norbert Klein

Over the last 3 years Prof Norbert Klein’s group has made continuous progress with the development of graphene technology for sensor applications, aiming towards a wafer-scalable platform for disposable chip-based label-free biosensors with purely electrical readout.

Based on recent progress with detection of exosomes - virus-sized cell vesicles with strong potential for early stage cancer diagnosis [1] - the group has included COVID-19 detection in their portfolio.

This is accomplished by a simple replacement of the capturing antibodies utilising protocols developed over the last years. Similar to exosomes, the detection mechanism is based on electrical charges localised at the spike proteins of COVID-19 – utilising the unique ambipolar field effect in graphene.

Based on the dramatic sensitivity improvement the group has recently achieved through carbon nanodot decoration of graphene [2] – in collaboration with Professor Magda Titirici’s group in Chemical Engineering –  it is expected that this technology is capable to deliver checkpoint-suitable virus test kits, which could allow test results from swab or saliva samples within a few minutes.

As a result, this technology has a strong potential to become a game changer with regards to the ability for controlling the current and future pandemics." - Professor Norbert Klein

Due to the relevance for checkpoints, Imperial’s Institute of Security Science and Technology will fund a PhD project from October this year. Two Post Doctoral Research Assistants (Dr Sami Ramadan and Dr Lizhou Xu) have also resumed their work on COVID-19 detection within labs to support the research.

Professor Klein also explained the importance of new facilities in supporting the research efforts, as the departmental capabilities for wafer scalable fabrication of graphene COVID-19 sensors will be strengthened through the opening of the Royce Facility 'Atoms to Devices' at Imperial’s White City Campus later this year.

The COVID-19 activities are also a vital part of Imperial’s new multi-faculty Network for Electromagnetic and Biochemical sensors.

Tags:  Covid-19  Dr. Fang Xie  European Institute of Innovation and Technology  Graphene  Healthcare  Molly Stevens  Norbert Klein  Sensors 

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Functionalised Graphene Enhanced Fabric for Antibacterial Masks

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, July 3, 2020
Haydale is pleased to announce a new collaboration agreement (“the Agreement”) has now been signed between Haydale Technologies (Thailand) Co., Ltd. (“HTT”) and IRPC Public Company Limited (“IRPC”). The Agreement is to develop the Organic conducting-based printing smart fabric (Contract No. AL.0748/2563), by using Haydale’s functionalised technology, potentially for medical use and related applications.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haydale has been developing a functionalised graphene coated fabric. The Thailand Textile Institute (THTI) has carried out tests on the coated fabric that show antibacterial finishes in excess of 99.3% on the textile material after 10 washes (AATCC TM100:2012, Staphylococcus aureus ATCC6538 and Escherichia Coli DMST 4212 ATCC 25922).

Following tests, an agreement has now been signed with IRPC to develop the functionalised graphene coated fabric for medical use and related applications. These include the development of a new washable functionalised graphene-enhanced fabric mask. The scope of the project will be to focus on the commercial production of fabric and further development will take place to assess additional fabric properties such as Virus Filtration Efficiency (VFE), UV Protection and EMC protection.

The global healthcare PPE industry has an approximate value of 17 – 19 billion USD (Source: Frost & Sullivan), with huge growth seen in the personal healthcare industry. The graphene coated fabric will provide an additional solution to this industry.

This bespoke ink, developed by Haydale, will be delivered on an exclusive basis for commercial applications. IRPC and HTT have strong confidence that the new graphene coated fabric will be commercially available this year.

Dr. Roman Strauss, Vice President at IRPC, said: “Working together with Haydale, we see a substantial opportunity for a swift development of this product in the short time scales we have set ourselves.”

Keith Broadbent, Haydale CEO, added: “Working with IRPC we are able to quickly react to a current industry requirement. It is great to see that these products are benefiting from our core functionalisation process; particularly the antibacterial nature of the inks and the part they can play in the production of healthcare PPE. With the global PPE requirements continuing to grow, we anticipate this project to be very well received and look forward to seeing this progress to commercialisation.”

Tags:  COVID-19  Graphene  Haydale  Healthcare  IRPC Public Company Limited  Keith Broadbent  Roman Strauss 

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Clemson research could lead to therapeutic strategies to combat Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes and other diseases

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, July 2, 2020
Understanding how a process works – not just that it does – is a critical step that can provide the framework for practical applications far beyond the lab.

Scientists from the Clemson Nanomaterials Institute (CNI) have discovered the mechanism behind how graphene inhibits the formation of abnormal fibrous protein-rich deposits found in organs and tissues called amyloids that play a deleterious role in several diseases. This discovery could have a profound impact on the future treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes and abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Collaborative research conducted by assistant professor Ramakrishna Podila and Ph.D. candidates Wren Gregory and Bipin Sharma of the College of Science’s department of physics and astronomy was recently published in the journal Biointerphases. The article titled “Interfacial charge transfer with exfoliated graphene inhibits fibril formation in lysozyme amyloid” also included a pair of authors, Longyu Hu and Achyut Raghavendra, who are former Clemson graduate students.

This new study revealed that the interfacial charge transfer interactions between proteins and graphene might be the key. Podila explained that proteins have different conformations.

“Proteins have different structures. They have coils, like the old telephone wire,” he said. “What happens in diseases like Alzheimer’s is these proteins unfold and begin combining with each other and then form plaque. It’s been known for a while that stopping this formation can be helpful in controlling the disease itself.”

Gregory, senior doctoral candidate at CNI, was first author on the paper, which describes how proteins unfold and misform.

“Sometimes internal portions of these proteins that would typically be rolled up inside and not in contact with the surrounding chemical environment can become exposed, which can lead to a host of chemical and physical interactions between neighboring proteins as they bind together, or aggregate,” Gregory explained. “This is how many of these diseases progress – or at least this is what we think is a main contributing factor.”

The team used the protein lysozyme from egg whites as a model protein and used graphene, a one-atom thick layer of carbon with a honeycomb structure, to stop the formation of plaque. Gregory said that graphene is a model material for this kind of research because its structure is simple and purely aromatic. The honeycomb structure and its physiochemical consequences are known as aromaticity in physics and chemistry, which is a key factor in these interactions.

“We can study these interactions in as close to a ‘pure’ environment as possible, versus a more complex material where many different chemical interactions are taking place that can make it difficult to study and discern,” Gregory said. “We looked at how graphene interacted with lysozyme when it was in an amyloidal and fibril forming environment and found out that graphene actually dramatically reduced those fibrils, which we confirmed using spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy.”

“We are not the first ones to show that graphene stops the plaque formation, but the mechanism by which this is happening was unclear,” Podila said. “What we tried to do was not cure the disease, but rather figure out the mechanism for stopping the plaque formation.”

And they succeeded, showing that charge transfer is the key.

“Some of the electrons from graphene are transferred to the proteins and when that happens, we found that the plaque formation stops,” Podila said.

Confirmation that the graphene and proteins were sharing electrons came through different means. The team employed micro Raman spectroscopy, which does not provide a visual picture but does denote a spectroscopic signature for the material. This spectroscopic signature is a special signature of vibrational energy states within a material that denote the available states of its electrons – hence, charge transfer.

“When you hit a material with light, the material vibrates at different frequencies, like a bell ringing with different frequencies,” Podila said, “Raman spectroscopy gives us a glimpse into those different frequencies.”

Fluorescence spectroscopy was used to detect protein unfolding. Atomic Kelvin probe force microscopy, which is a form of atomic force microscopy that also monitors the electrical environment of a surface through a voltage plot, was used to visually map where the charges were moving and further confirm the charge transfer.

“Previously, charge transfer was not considered,” Podila said. “We were able to pinpoint the mechanism. We were able to get down to the details of it using Raman spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy. We combined three different techniques. For the first time, we were able to observe charge transfer between graphene and amyloids.”

Podila said the research is in its early stages but potentially has far-reaching implications. Other studies have shown graphene to be safe, so future research will build upon this understanding of the mechanism, eventually looking at dosage and which conditions could be treated or prevented.

For now, the work continues. Gregory, who is finishing her studies at Clemson, said one of the most challenging parts of researching at the Nanomaterials Institute is deciding what path to take, since so many are available.

“You can get a lot of different experiences with state-of-the-art equipment and some of the best scientific minds in those fields,” she said.

Tags:  Clemson Nanomaterials Institute  Graphene  Healthcare  Ramakrishna Podila  Wren Gregory 

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Tour scores prestigious Centenary Prize

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, June 26, 2020
Rice University chemist James Tour has won a Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize. The award, given annually to up to three scientists from outside Great Britain, recognizes researchers for their contributions to the chemical sciences industry or education and for successful collaborations. Tour was named for innovations in materials chemistry with applications in medicine and nanotechnology.

The prestigious award, established in 1947, comes with a 5,000-pound (about $6,260) cash prize and a medal. Winners are invited to undertake a lecture tour of the United Kingdom, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed that until 2021.

Additional winners this year are Teri Odom, the chair and Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University, and Eric Anslyn, the Welch Regents Chair and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice.

“Receiving the Royal Society of Chemistry 2020 Centenary Prize is an enormous honor,” Tour said. “The award recognizes the accomplishments of my research group over a period of 32 years. I am greatly indebted to a host of students, postdocs and collaborators that have carried the weight of this research endeavor.

“We have sought to use chemistry to extend the boundaries of new materials development for use in medicine, electronic devices, nano-enhanced structures and renewable energy platforms,” he said. “It is a joy to realize the work done by this array of people in and with my laboratory has afforded such advances that are being recognized by this Centenary Prize.”

Work by Tour and his group in recent years includes the development of versatile laser-induced graphene, flash graphene from waste material, light-activated nanodrills that destroy cancer cells and “superbug” bacteria, silicon-oxide memory circuits that have flown on the International Space Station, the development of graphene quantum dots from coal, asphalt-based materials to capture carbon dioxide from gas wells, and the use of nanoparticles to quench damaging superoxides after an injury or stroke.

“We live in an era of tremendous global challenges, with the need for science recognized now more so than ever — so it is important to recognize those behind the scenes who are making significant contributions towards improving the world we live in,” said acting Royal Society of Chemistry chief executive Helen Pain. “In recognizing the work of Professor Tour, we are also recognizing the important contribution this incredible network of scientists makes to improve our lives every day.”

Tags:  Graphene  Healthcare  Helen Pain  James Tour  Medicine  nanotechnology  Rice University  Royal Society of Chemistry 

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'Unboil an egg' machine creates improved bacteria detector

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, June 24, 2020
The versatility of the Vortex Fluidic Device (VFD), a device that famously unboiled an egg, continues to impress, with the innovative green chemistry device created at Flinders University having more than 100 applications – including the creation of a new non-toxic fluorescent dye that detects bacteria harmful to humans.

Traditional fluorescent dyes to examine bacteria viability are toxic and suffer poor photostability – but using the VFD has enabled the preparation of a new generation of aggregation-induced emission dye (AIE) luminogens using graphene oxide (GO), thanks to collaborative research between Flinders University’s Institute for NanoScale Science and Technology and the Centre for Health Technologies, University of Technology Sydney.

Using the VFD to produce GO/AIE probes with the property of high fluorescence is without precedent – with the new GO/AIE nanoprobe having 1400% brighter high fluorescent performance than AIE luminogen alone (Materials Chemistry Frontiers, "Vortex fluidic enabling and significantly boosting light intensity of graphene oxide with aggregation induced emission luminogen").

“It’s crucial to develop highly sensitive ways of detecting bacteria that pose a potential threat to humans at the early stage, so health sectors and governments can be informed promptly, to act quickly and efficiently,” says Flinders University researcher Professor Youhong Tang.

“Our GO/AIE nanoprobe will significantly enhance long-term tracking of bacteria to effectively control hospital infections, as well as developing new and more efficient antibacterial compounds.”

The VFD is a new type of chemical processing tool, capable of instigating chemical reactivity, enabling the controlled processing of materials such as mesoporous silica, and effective in protein folding under continuous flow, which is important in the pharmaceutical industry. It continues to impress researchers for its adaptability in green chemistry innovations.

“Developing such a deep understanding of bacterial viability is important to revise infection control policies and invent effective antibacterial compounds,” says lead author of the research, Dr Javad Tavakoli, a previous researcher from Professor Youhong Tang’s group, and now working at the University of Technology Sydney.

“The beauty of this research was developing a highly bright fluorescence dye based on graphene oxide, which has been well recognised as an effective fluorescence quenching material.”

The type of AIE luminogen was first developed in 2015 to enable long-term monitoring of bacterial viability, however, increasing its brightness to increase sensitivity and efficiency remained a difficult challenge. Previous attempts to produce AIE luminogen with high brightness proved very time-consuming, requires complex chemistry, and involves catalysts rendering their mass production expensive.

By comparison, the Vortex Fluidic Device allows swift and efficient processing beyond batch production and the potential for cost-effective commercialisation.

Increasing the fluorescent property of GO/AIE depends on the concentration of graphene oxide, the rotation speed of the VFD tube, and the water fraction in the compound – so preparing GO/AIE under the shear stress induced by the VFD’s high-speed rotating tube resulted in much brighter probes with significantly enhanced fluorescent intensities.

Tags:  Flinders University  Graphene  graphene oxide  Healthcare  Youhong Tang 

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First Graphene Re-opens UK Laboratories

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Advanced materials company, First Graphene Limited is pleased to advise the re-opening of its laboratories at the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC), Manchester.

The GEIC laboratories were closed by the University of Manchester on 18th March 2020 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The First Graphene UK team has been working remotely since the closure.

Following extensive risk assessment and planning in collaboration with the University facilities management team the UK laboratories are now ready to restart operations. A range of risk controls are now in place including social distancing markings, access restrictions and carefully planned activities. The formal clearance to proceed was given by the University on Monday 15th June.

While working remotely the UK team has continued to provide technical support to global customers, completed background research in preparation for technical projects and supported the activities for the Henderson site.  In addition, the website hosting service has been upgraded and a number of technical enhancements have been made to the website backend to improve performance and security.  Also, multiple announcements and articles for publication were authored during this period.  The team is well prepared for the immediate restart of technical programmes in rubber and TPU additives, supercapacitor materials, fire retardancy and customer application development.

Craig McGuckin, Managing Director of First Graphene Ltd. said “The UK team has played a critical role supporting our business throughout the lockdown. We are all very pleased to be re-starting operations and getting back to technical projects and customer application development in our laboratories”

Tags:  Covid-19  Craig McGuckin  First Graphene  Graphene  Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre  Healthcare 

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UT Projects Win $23.6M in R&D Funds as Part of Portuguese Government Technology Program

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, June 10, 2020
The UT Austin Portugal program, a 13-year-old innovation partnership between the university and the Portuguese government, received $23.6 million in funding to pursue 11 R&D projects as part of a major technology initiative from Portugal’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education.

The projects fall under four major categories: nanomaterials, earth-space interactions, medical physics and advanced computing. The teams will spend the next three years developing their projects, which could transform industries like automotive, space, health care and data science.

“Ranging from electromagnetic interference shielding nanomaterials, to in-beam time-of-flight positron emission tomography for proton radiation therapy, all the way to an ocean and climate change monitoring constellation based on radar altimeter data combined with gravity and ocean temperature and salinity measurements, the spread, number, and quality of the UT Austin Portugal joint strategic projects selected for funding within the recent competitive solicitation set forth by the Foundation for Science and Technology and National Innovation Agency are truly outstanding,” said Manuel Heitor, Portugal’s Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education. “I look forward to witnessing the results of such collaborative research between Portuguese and UT researchers.”

The call for proposals included just three universities: The University of Texas at Austin, Carnegie Mellon University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. UT won the majority of the investment dollars, about 40% of the funding, and saw the most projects funded among the three engineering powerhouses.

“We had anticipated four to five projects would be selected for strategic grant awards and were astounded when we learned 11 had been selected by the evaluation panel in Portugal,” said John Ekerdt, Cockrell School associate dean for research and principal investigator for UT Austin Portugal. “This is a testament to the outstanding faculty and quality projects they proposed with collaborators in Portugal and to the close ties that have been forged between UT researchers and faculty and counterparts in Portugal.”

“The performance of the UT Austin Portugal program in the 2019 call for strategic projects has been remarkable,” said Marco Bravo, executive director of the UT Austin Portugal program. “Eleven of 14 project proposals submitted by the UT Austin Portugal research consortia were approved for funding through an independent assessment process. Overall, UT Austin Portugal saw 11 of its groundbreaking, industry-led proposals approved out of a total of 25 projects approved at this solicitation that included proposals from two other international partnerships, corresponding to nearly $24 million over three years. That’s 40% of total funding to UT Austin Portugal projects, the largest share of research dollars available. UT Austin researchers are to be congratulated on this effort.”

The UT Austin Portugal program dates back to 2007, and it is one of several partnerships between the Portuguese government and research institutions. The goal is to elevate science and technology in Portugal while fostering strong partnerships to help universities continue to innovate. The partnership with UT was extended in 2018, continuing the alliance until at least 2030.

“Of the three international partnerships with American universities sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology in Portugal, the partnership with UT Austin had the best performance in this call, which was designed and launched on the Portuguese side,” said José Manuel Mendonça, national director of the program. “The 11 approved projects represent a proposal success rate of almost 80% for the UT Austin Portugal Program. The approved projects will, undoubtedly, contribute to promoting and strengthening collaborations with UT Austin in high-level R&D matters with immediate transposition to various sectors of economic activity, several of which are critical to Portugal's competitive position at an international level.”

About a third of the funds for UT’s projects come from the university, with the rest coming from a combination of public and private Portuguese entities. Each project team in Portugal is led by a Portuguese company. The UT side includes 21 faculty members and one from the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Here is a look at the UT projects:

Shielding electronic devices from electromagnetic interference
This project proposes to use the “wonder material” graphene to improve on methods to combat electromagnetic interference, which can disrupt circuits and cause devices to fail. The team plans to create two composites with electromagnetic interference shielding capabilities and fabricate a solution to protect electric wires used in the automotive industry.

UT Austin Faculty: Deji Akinwande, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Brian Korgel, Cockrell School of Engineering, McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering

New lasers for next-generation biomedical imaging
The use of multiphoton microscopy to examine cell behavior in live tissue over time has become an important research tool for learning more about brains and tumors. This project aims to increase the speed and depth of this form of imaging and diagnostics through the development and application of ultrashort laser pulses.

UT Austin Faculty: Andrew Dunn, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Adela Ben-Yakar, Cockrell School of Engineering, Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering

Nano-satellites for gravitational field assessment
Researchers propose to develop a nano-satellite prototype for studying gravitational fields. The project will also develop a platform for future nano-satellite capabilities, including Earth observation, communications and exploration missions.

UT Austin Faculty: Byron Tapley, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, and the Center for Space Research; Brandon Jones, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, and the Texas Spacecraft Laboratory

Software to match big data with high-performance computing
The advancement of technology has generated huge troves of data, which requires stronger computing power to process and analyze all that information. This project aims to create a software bundle to help companies pair their big data operations with high-performance computing, which includes tools for managing challenges such as computing and research storage.

UT Austin Faculty: Vijay Chidambaram, College of Nature Sciences, Department of Computer Science; Todd Evans, Texas Advanced Computing Center

Sensors for monitoring cancer patients
This project will develop a biosensor that can be injected into prostate cancer patients after surgery. The minimally invasive sensor would allow medical personnel to monitor high-risk patients remotely and look for the development of early tumors, with the potential to increase the predictive value of cancer screenings.

UT Austin Faculty: Thomas Milner, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering; James Tunnell, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering

Wearable rehabilitation devices
Researchers will develop a series of nano-sensors embedded into clothing that administer electrostimulation to people suffering from a lack of mobility and motor deficiency. The sensors could be monitored remotely by health professionals, creating a mobile rehabilitation option for people who have trouble getting to a doctor’s office consistently or want greater freedom to complete treatment anywhere. The team envisions its project as a tool mostly for elderly people, but it has applications for training high-level athletes as well.

UT Austin Faculty: George Biros, Cockrell School of Engineering, Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences; Michael Cullinan, Cockrell School of Engineering, Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering

Software for gathering better data on manufacturing
Getting reliable data on manufacturing processes proves challenging due to issues with placing sensors in the right spots and retaining strong connectivity. Thin films loaded with small sensors that can be applied directly to the equipment represent a promising solution; however, installation has proved difficult. This project proposes a new set of software to make it easier to layer these films on top of equipment by providing necessary data to avoid mechanical problems during installation.

UT Austin Faculty: Rui Huang, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Center for Mechanics of Solids, Structures and Materials; Kenneth M. Liechti, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Center for Mechanics of Solids, Structures and Materials

A new way to measure next-generation cancer therapy
Proton radiation therapy, the use of protons rather than X-rays to treat cancer patients, is on the rise, but measuring the distance protons travel proves problematic. Typically, it takes a ring of detectors surrounding the patient to get accurate measurements, but that poses geometric challenges. This project proposes to develop a new type of Positron Emission Tomography scan, which shows how tissues and organs are functioning to better understand the range of protons and whether they are traveling to the right spots to attack the cancer.

UT Faculty: Karol Lang, College of Natural Sciences, Department of Physics; Narayan Sahoo, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Department of Radiation Physics

Satellite constellations for monitoring climate change
This project aims to develop the next generation of radar altimeter instruments — which measure the distance between an aircraft and the terrain below it — and a series of small satellites that can understand long-term variability in local, regional and global climate created by changes in sea levels due to water temperature. The project also includes a data processing and visualization system using advanced modeling, estimation techniques, statistical and scientific machine learning methods and error analysis.

UT Austin Faculty: Byron Tapley, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department, and the Center for Space Research; Patrick Heimbach, Jackson School of Geosciences, Department of Geological Sciences, and the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences

Improving cutting tools for airline and automotive components
Fabricating parts of cars and planes is hard on cutting tools and tends to ware them down. This project aims to develop coatings that better protect and extend the lifespan of these crucial pieces of equipment. The team also plans to develop simulation programs to improve cutting tools’ performance.

UT Austin Faculty: Gregory J. Rodin, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, and the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences; Filippo Mangolini, Cockrell School of Engineering, Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering

An alternative to traditional water treatment options
Traditional water treatment tech struggles to efficiently remove high amounts of pollutants from some types of surface and groundwater. This team is looking to use metallic nanoparticles to clean water by improving a process called catalytic hydrogenation, which involves adding hydrogen via a metallic catalyst.

UT Austin Faculty: Charles J. Werth, Cockrell School of Engineering, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering; Simon M. Humphrey, College of Natural Sciences, Department of Chemistry

Tags:  Biomedical  Carnegie Mellon University  Electronics  Environment  Graphene  Healthcare  John Ekerdt  Marco Bravo  Massachusetts Institute of Technology  nanomaterials  Sensors  The University of Texas at Austin  Water Purification 

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Chemical engineering major earns Astronaut Scholarship

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, June 4, 2020
Penn State rising senior Ava Self is a 2020 recipient of the competitive Astronaut Scholarship, which rewards students for their work in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Self, of Warrington, Pennsylvania, is a chemical engineering major and chemistry minor. She is one of 56 recipients of the award from 41 universities across the United States. Astronaut Scholarships are awarded in a student’s sophomore or junior year to be used for research or advancement of their field during their junior or senior year, respectively.

Self’s undergraduate research is conducted under the supervision of Esther Gomez, associate professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering. Self said her research focuses on using graphene as a platform for targeted breast cancer treatment.

“The graphene is coated with lipids to make it biocompatible, meaning it can be used within the human body without having any adverse reactions,” Self said. “Therapeutic enzymes can then be bound to the lipids, and this nanoscale device can be targeted to the mitochondria for cancer treatment.”

Though she has earned the Astronaut Scholarship based on her accomplishments as a junior in college, Self said she initially was not sure if she would pursue a graduate degree when she began her undergraduate research. However, she said she quickly became passionate about the work, spurring her to apply for and receive a biofellowship from the Department of Chemical Engineering for summer 2019. This allowed her to work on her research full time.

“I appreciate that research challenges me to learn something new each day and also develops my critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” Self said. “This experience has changed my view of graduate school from a potential future path to an avenue that I am determined to pursue.”

Self said she was surprised and excited when she learned she had earned the scholarship.

“A lot of highly qualified individuals apply for this award, so I am very grateful and blessed to have won,” Self said. “My parents were ecstatic when they learned the news.”

Gomez praised Self for her hard work and dedication.

“Ava is a highly accomplished student who has excelled in academics and research while also being involved in athletics, mentoring of others and volunteer activities,” Gomez said. “As her honors thesis adviser, I have been incredibly impressed with her initiative, dedication and passion for science. I have no doubt that she will have a positive impact on the world. Ava is very deserving of the honor and recognition of the Astronaut Scholarship. We are very proud to have her represent our department and Penn State!”

Self said she plans to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering. She said she is fascinated by 2D materials, especially graphene, and their ability to be used for disease treatment.

Tags:  Ava Self  Graphene  Healthcare  The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation 

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