FASTER-CHARGING, SAFER BATTERIES

At UD, Prof. Thomas H. Epps, III and his team have patented an idea to improve lithium battery performance.

UD invention aims to improve battery performance

Imagine a world where cell phones and laptops can be charged in a matter of minutes instead of hours, rolled up and stored in your pocket, or dropped without sustaining any damage. It is possible, according to University of Delaware Professor Thomas H. Epps, III, but the materials are not there yet. So, what is holding back the technology? For starters, it would take more conductive, flexible and lighter-weight batteries, said Epps, who is the Thomas and Kipp Gutshall Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UD. The batteries would need to be more impact-resistant and safer, too. In May, an e-cigarette exploded in Florida and killed a man. Evidence reportedly suggests that this unfortunate accident may be due to battery-related issues, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Similar problems have plagued devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and auxiliary power units of the Boeing Dreamliner. “All of these challenges came from batteries that have safety and stability issues when the goal is to push performance,” said Epps, an expert in designing and fabricating conducting membranes useful in energy generation and storage devices. One way to overcome this challenge in the lithium-ion batteries for the above devices is to improve the battery membranes — and the associated electrolytes — that are designed to shuttle the lithium ions, which offset the electrical charge associated with charging and discharging the battery.

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HIGH-LEVEL RESEARCHER ON TEACHING INTRODUCTORY CLASSES

Arthi Jayaraman, a UD associate professor, points toward the board while discussing the material with students in her Introduction to Chemical Engineering class

UD Engineering’s Arthi Jayaraman explains her approach

Arthi Jayaraman wears many hats. She is a tenured associate professor at the University of Delaware. She teaches one class each semester and serves as the graduate program director for the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. In this role, she works closely with coordinator Kathleen Young to help students navigate through the graduate process. On top of that, she does her own research, regularly travels to present at conferences and personally advises about nine students of varying degree levels. And she has a puppy named Barnaby that she adores. For her research, Jayaraman’s team designs polymers to advance or discover various materials. This means she makes simulation models on the computer to test and design the properties of potential new products. Car tires, bumpers and creating genes to fix damaged DNA are examples of projects she may work on developing. Once a model is ready, she shares her findings with experimental collaborators who develop the physical product. While Jayaraman does high-level research, she also teaches students the basics. She was the co-teacher of Introduction to Chemical Engineering with Joshua Enszer during the spring semester.

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THOMAS EPPS ELECTED AS FELLOW INTO RSC

Thomas H. Epps, III elected as a Fellow into the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Thomas H Epps, III, the Thomas and Kipp Gutshall Senior Career Development Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of Delaware and Director for the Center for Molecular & Engineering Thermodynamics (CMET), has been admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), a UK-based professional society with worldwide membership. The Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) designation is given to elected fellows who have made significant contributions to the chemical sciences. “It is a great honor to be appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry,” says Epps. “Several of my colleagues at UD are Fellows of the RSC, along with other people who I admire in the polymers community in the United States and abroad. It is a great privilege to become a part of this esteemed group in chemistry. I am extremely grateful to all of my students, postdocs, and collaborators who have contributed to my activities.”

To learn more about Epps’s research, click here. For more information about the RSC, visit their official site.

REEBOK LAUNCHES SHAPE-SHIFTING, SPACE INSPIRED BRA

Reebok’s new tech-infused sports bra reacts to movement (photo credit by Reebok).

Sportswear giant Reebok has launched a new premium sports bra which integrates Shear Thickening Fluid, a gel-like solution developed by engineers at the University of Delaware that solidifies when in motion to offer enhanced support. Read T.Evo article… Reebok’s PureMove bra weaves in the viscous fluid that is said to have no effect on the look or feel of the fabric. The technologically-enhanced fabric adapts to body shape and movement to offer necessary support depending on the intensity of an activity. The creation of the bra was spearheaded by Danielle Witek, a Reebok designer, who stumbled upon the technology while thumbing through a science journal (something she does for fun). In 2005, chemical engineers at the University of Delaware had invented a new substance called Shear Thickening Fluid, a gel-like solution that takes liquid form when in a still or slow-moving state, and stiffens into a solid when moving at high velocities. It was originally designed to be a modern form of armor technology, since you can incorporate it into a protective garment to defend the wearer from items flying at their body at a high speed–it’s since been used in everything from Kelvar bulletproof vests to NASA spacesuits that protect astronauts from shrapnel. As Witek read about this amazing fluid, she had her “aha” moment. What if she could incorporate it into a sports bra to provide control and compression when the wearer is in motion, but lighter support when the wearer is still? She reached out to the scientists, beginning the three-year journey that led to Reebok’s PureMove bra…Since this technology is so new, Reebok had to do a lot of testing to make sure the bra would actually do what it advertised. The company set up a breast biomechanics testing center with the help of the University of Delaware, with 54 separate motion sensors tracking and measuring various parts of a tester’s chest area. This is a far more rigorous approach than most testing facilities in the industry that typically only use between two to four sensors. Over the course of a year, the facility gathered the data required for the scientists and Reebok product designers to develop the PureMove bra. Read Prosyscom Tech News article…

Read American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) First Bell article and Delaware Business Now article

NEW PROCESS TURNS WOOD SCRAPS INTO TAPE

Different tape has different ingredients in the adhesive and different strengths.

UD engineers convert commonly discarded material into high-performance adhesive

Whether you’re wrapping a gift or bandaging a wound, you rely on an adhesive to get the job done. These sticky substances often are made from petroleum-derived materials, but what if there was a more sustainable way to make them? Now, a team of engineers at the University of Delaware has developed a novel process to make tape out of a major component of trees and plants called lignin—a substance that paper manufacturers typically throw away. What’s more, their invention performs just as well as at least two commercially available products. The researchers recently described their results in ACS Central Science, and they are working on more ways to upcycle scrap wood and plants into “designer materials” for consumer use.

Sticky science

Lignin is a renewable resource, a substance in trees that helps to make them strong. But you do not have to cut down trees to get it, because there’s plenty lying around. When pulp and paper manufacturers process wood, the lignin is left behind and usually discarded in landfills or burned for heat. Some companies are even willing to deliver a free dump truck full of the stuff because that is cheaper than disposing of it in a landfill. An inexpensive, plentiful and sustainable material, lignin presents a prime opportunity for some scientifically advanced upcycling. Lignin is also a natural polymer, a material made of very large molecules composed of smaller subunits called monomers. Lignin shares some structural and materials property similarities with petroleum-derived polymers, such as polystyrene and polymethyl methacrylate, which are commonly used in adhesives and other consumer products, from packaging materials to cups. “One of the thoughts that we have always had is: Can we take lignin and make useful products, and in this case, useful polymers out of it?” said Thomas H. Epps, III, the Thomas and Kipp Gutshall Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at UD, and the corresponding author of the new paper. In particular, Epps suspected that lignin could be used to make adhesives with similar strength, toughness, and scratch resistance to the petroleum-based versions.

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UD’s EPPS NAMED AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY FELLOW

Thomas H. Epps, III was named an American Physical Society Fellow

Chemical engineering and materials science professor joins the top 0.5 percent of society members

Thomas H. Epps, III, the Thomas & Kipp Gutshall Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Delaware, has been named a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). No more than one-half of one percent of APS members are elected to Fellow Status. Fellows have made significant contributions to the field of physics through research, applications, teaching, or participation in society activities. “It is a great honor to be elected as an APS Fellow,” said Epps. ”Several of my colleagues at UD are APS Fellows, along with many people who I admire in the polymer physics community. It is a great privilege to become a part of this esteemed group in physics. I am extremely grateful to all of my students, postdocs, and collaborators who have contributed to my activities.” Darrin Pochan, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Eric Furst, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, nominated Epps for this honor. “Prof. Epps’ accomplishments in the research and engineering of block-copolymers and his service and leadership in the American Physical Society forum make him exceptionally qualified for this honor,” said Furst. “He is an extraordinary researcher and educator whose work has had a major impact on macromolecular and soft matter science and engineering.”

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MODELING NEW MATERIALS

Arthi Jayaraman recently received a grant to build predictive molecular models of soft materials

UD Engineer Arthi Jayaraman Uncovers Molecular Mysteries

When scientists develop brand new materials, they must precisely determine the ingredients, quantities, and processing methods to use. It’s kind of like creating a recipe. Before spending time and money to test these recipes in a lab, scientists can first use computer simulations to see how the molecules in the ingredients will behave under changing conditions. However, as researchers invent increasingly innovative and complex materials, they need models and simulations that run for longer time scales, and offer resolutions at multiple length scales, than what is available. “New and better models are needed to address current challenges in materials design,” said Arthi Jayaraman, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Delaware. Jayaraman is building better models right here at UD. For this research, she along with collaborators Ryan Hayward of University of Massachusetts Amherst and Paul Butler of National Institutes of Standards and Technology have been awarded a $726,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

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MILESTONE ANNIVERSARY

Stan Sandler of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering has served 50 years on the UD faculty.

Chemical engineering’s Stan Sandler reaches 50-year mark as UD faculty member

Stan Sandler usually takes the steps to get to his second-floor office in the University of Delaware’s Colburn Lab. But today he’s taking the elevator because he’s hauling two black bags filled with heavy books — books that will be added to a growing pile destined to be shipped to developing countries including Nigeria and Ethiopia. It’s easy to accumulate a lot of books over the course of an academic career, especially one that spans half a century, and, even with 150 or 200 books already boxed up, the shelves in Sandler’s office are far from empty. While Sandler is proud of those awards — which include membership in the National Academy of Engineering and being named one of the top 30 chemical engineering authors by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers — there are other things for which he would like to be remembered. The first, he says, is the many books he has authored, including two new ones in just the past two years. “One of my texts is now in its fifth edition,” he says. “It not only changed what we do here but also has had an impact on instruction around the world.” He’s also proud of the accomplishments of his students, his efforts to promote the use of computers in chemical engineering instruction, and his initiation of a conference series in thermodynamics that was supposed to be a one-time event but so far has had a 40-year run. The most recent meeting was last year in Porto, Portugal. Now the Henry Belin du Pont Chair of Chemical Engineering at UD, Sandler has served as department chair and as interim dean of the College of Engineering, but his heart lies with research and teaching, not with administration.

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1st PRIZE IN THE DPOLY POSTER SESSION AT 2017 APS

Cameron (left) is presented with the award by Professor Ryan Hayward of the University of Massachusetts

Congratulations to Cameron Shelton

Cameron M. Shelton, graduate student at the University of Delaware, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was awarded 1st prize in the Division of Polymer Physics (DPOLY) poster session at the March 13-17, 2017 American Physical Society (APS) meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. Cameron received his award from Professor Ryan Hayward, Polymer Science & Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

View 2017 DPOLY March Program

Read more about the American Physical Society Division of Polymer Physics

EPPS GROUP SELECTED BY MACROMOLECULAR CHEMISTRY & PHYSICS JOURNAL

Epps Research Group Paper

Macromolecular Chemistry & Physics Journal 5/2017 selected a recent paper by the Epps Research Group for cover art for Volume 218, Number 5 issued on March 6, 2017 authored by:

Melody A. Morris
Thomas E. Gartner III
Thomas H. Epps III

Front Cover: This image depicts four strategies that the Epps group has employed to tune the nanostructure, properties, processability, and function of block polymer materials. Clockwise from top left they are: tapered block polymer interfaces, chlorosilane modification of silicon substrates, dopants for lithium-ion battery electrolytes, and solvent vapor annealing of block polymer films combined with in situ characterization. Further details can be found in the article by Melody A. Morris, Thomas E. Gartner, III, Thomas H. Epps, III in the article number 1600513.