A new, multimillion dollar bioenergy research center at the University of Illinois that promises to be a catalyst for the development of sustainable, cost-effective biofuels and bioproducts will involve several faculty from Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
The Department of Energy announced earlier this summer it has awarded the University of Illinois $104 million for the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI). The center is a collaboration between Illinois’ Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), and will include 17 partner institutions.
“As the United States seeks energy independence, we need to look at the most efficient ways to grow, transform, and market biofuels,” said Evan H. DeLucia, the G. William Arends Professor of Plant Biology and Baum Family Director of iSEE. DeLucia will serve as CABBI Director. “This grant is a game-changer, and CABBI will be at the forefront as we press toward a new bio-based economy. Our center’s holistic approach will generate new products directly from biomass, reducing our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and making us more secure.”
CABBI is one of four Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers, joining the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center led by the University of Wisconsin, the Center for Bioenergy Innovation led by the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Joint Bioenergy Institute led by the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
At Illinois, researchers will develop fuels and products by integrating three interconnected priority areas: Growing the Right Crops (feedstock development), Turning Plants into Fuel (conversion), and Determining the Environmental and Economic Bottom Line (sustainability). Crop Sciences professor Stephen Moose will lead the feedstock development theme, in which scientists will integrate recent advances in genomics, synthetic biology, and computational biology to increase the value of biomass crops. Madhu Khanna, ACES Distinguished Professor in Environmental Economics in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, will lead the sustainability theme in which researchers will provide an overarching framework for viewing outcomes from the feedstocks and conversion themes through an environmental and economic lens.
Dr. Huimin Zhao, the Steven L. Miller Chair in Chemical Engineering at Illinois, will lead the conversion area. His team of about 19 principal investigators, which include two other ChBE faculty at Illinois—Professor Chris Rao and Assistant Professor David Flaherty—will further develop a versatile, automated “biofoundry” for rapidly engineering microbial strains that can efficiently produce diverse, high-value molecules such as biodiesel, organic acids, jet fuels, lubricants, and alcohols. Using the design-build-test-learn framework, research in the conversion theme will overcome the challenges associated with driving biological systems to produce non-natural compounds.
“It’s a unique vision. We want to use the plants as the factories to produce lipid-based chemicals and then we’ll couple that with the microbial conversion platform to make more high-value added products. Furthermore, we will use the lignocellulose from those plants as the feedstocks to make a wide variety of chemicals,” Zhao said.
This approach is different from the other three existing bioenergy centers funded by the Department of Energy, he said. The other centers focus their work on developing technologies to deconstruct the lignocellulose to generate fermentable sugars like glucose and xylose and using those sugars to make a variety of fuels and chemicals.
He and his team of researchers also want to understand what constrains the production of those biofuels or chemicals in the microorganisms. And they want to produce more chemicals and biofuels as well. That’s why Zhao has brought in experts in catalysis like Dr. David Flaherty who will develop chemical catalysts to upgrade the fuels and chemicals produced by the microorganisms.
Flaherty’s group will be collaborating with others in CABBI to develop catalysts to convert advantaged molecules produced from microorganisms, such as butanol and unsaturated fatty acids, into clean burning fuels. They’ll also be coproducing high value chemicals to help increase the economic viability of the overall process.
“The networks of catalytic reactions in these systems are incredibly complex, and to be successful, we will need to develop maps of the reaction pathways that exist and use that information to identify opportunities to control the selectivity to specific desired products,” Flaherty said.
Dr. Chris Rao will focus on the engineering of oleaginous yeast to produce biofuels and chemicals and to understand what constrains the production of those products in the yeast.
“If you think from the organisms’ point of view, they don’t want to produce the product we want at large amounts because it will not benefit their survival and growth. … So we have to hijack the native metabolism to make the organisms themselves produce the product we want,” Zhao said.
The goal of metabolic engineering is to essentially engineer microorganisms to produce useful chemicals, but if they produce at low levels, that would not be economical, Zhao said. How does one make the organism produce a lot of product in a very short period of time? That’s another challenge researchers will address.
“In the traditional chemical industry, what a chemist or chemical engineer often does is to develop chemical catalysts and use them to convert non-renewable petroleum oils into fuels and chemicals. Now we want to develop biological catalysts such as microorganisms and enzymes and use them to convert renewable plant biomass into fuels and chemicals, which represents a paradigm shift in the chemical industry,” Zhao said.
Zhao, Rao and Flaherty have collaborated before. All three were involved with the Energy Biosciences Institute, which was established in 2007 as a partnership between Illinois and the University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, with initial funding from BP. Because of their work with EBI, Illinois had a strong track record of collaboration and accomplishments in bioenergy research and an infrastructure in place, Zhao said.
At the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, Zhao leads the Biosystems Design theme and he has been involved in development of the Illinois Biological Foundry for Advanced Biomanufacturing, or iBioFAB. Housed at IGB, iBioFAB is a computational and physical infrastructure that supports rapid design, fabrication, validation/quality control, and analysis of genetic constructs and organisms.
IGB will oversee and integrate CABBI’s core science team under one roof.
“The IGB, now with over a decade of experience in successfully addressing grand challenges by transdisciplinary integration of the life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering, will provide an outstanding environment for the talented CABBI team,” said director Gene Robinson.
The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment will coordinate and integrate field work off campus and at the Illinois Energy Farm, a 320-acre site that enables researchers to trial promising biofuel feedstocks at scale, and it will utilize the nearly complete, $32 million Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory.
“We are very excited about this project because this will further build on our strengths in this area. This is definitely the future. I’m pleased the Department of Energy is committed to this direction,” Zhao said.
The center is expected to receive $4 million in fiscal year 2018, then $25 million a year in 2019-22.
Partner institutions include Brookhaven (N.Y.) National Laboratory; the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Joint Genome Institute in Berkeley, Calif.; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Houma, La., the USDA ARS in Peoria, Ill.; Iowa State University; Princeton University; Mississippi State University; the University of California-Berkeley; West Virginia University; Boston University; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Colorado State University; the University of Idaho; the University of Florida; the University of Nebraska; the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle; and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Ala.
The Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Research Program was established in 2007 and has led to 2,630 peer-reviewed publications, 607 invention disclosures, 378 patent applications, 191 licenses or options, 92 patents, and 14 start-up companies.
When it comes to efficiency, sometimes it helps to look to Mother Nature for advice – even in technology as advanced as printable, flexible electronics.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed bio-inspired dynamic templates used to manufacture organic semiconductor materials that produce printable electronics. It uses a process similar to biomineralization – the way that bones and teeth form. This technique is also eco-friendly compared with how conventional electronics are made, which gives the researchers the chance to return the favor to nature.
Templating is used for making near-perfect semiconductors to enhance their electronic properties, or to modulate the spacing between atoms for better electronic properties. These templates help to properly align the atoms of semiconductor materials, typically silicon or germanium, into the form that is needed.
However, this conventional methodology only works well for rigid nanoelectronic devices. The larger, more disordered organic polymer molecules needed to make flexible electronics cannot arrange around a fixed template.
In a new report in the journal Nature Communications, chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Ying Diao, graduate student Erfan Mohammadi and co-authors describe how the biomineralization-like technique works.
In nature, some biological organisms build mineralized structures by harvesting or recruiting inorganic ions using flexible biologic polymers. Similarly, the templates Diao’s group developed are made up of ions that reconfigure themselves around the atomic structure of the semiconductor polymers. This way, the large polymer molecules can form highly ordered, templated structure, Diao said.
This highly ordered structure overcomes the quality control issues that have plagued organic semiconductors, slowing development of flexible devices.
“Our templates allow us to control the assembly of these polymers by encouraging them to arrange on a molecular level. Unlike printing of newspapers, where the ordering of the ink molecules does not matter, it is critical in electronics,” Diao said.
The manufacturing process that can use these dynamic templates is also eco-friendly. Unlike conventional semiconductor manufacturing methods, which require temperatures of about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and produce a significant amount of organic waste, this process produces little waste and can be done at room temperature, cutting energy costs, Diao said.
“Our research looks to nature for solutions,” Diao said. “In nature, polymers are used to template ions, and we did the opposite – we use ions to template polymers to produce flexible, lightweight, biointegrated electronics at low cost and large scale.”
Other co-authors of this work include graduate student Ge Qu and postdoctoral scholar Fengjiao Zhang of chemical and biomolecular engineering; professor Jian-Min Zuo and graduate student Yifei Meng of materials science and engineering; and professor Jianguo Mei and graduate student Xikang Zhao of Purdue University.
The U. of I., the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program supported this research.
By Lois Yoksoulian, Physical Sciences Editor, University of Illinois News Bureau; 217-244-2788; firstname.lastname@example.org
To reach Ying Diao, call 217-300-3505; email@example.com.
The paper “Dynamic-template-directed multiscale assembly for large-area coating of highly-aligned conjugated polymer thin films” is available from the U. of I. News Bureau.
New approach combines synthetic biology, genome editing tools, and automation to quickly and effectively produce novel yeast strains
One of humankind’s oldest industrial partners is yeast, a familiar microbe that enabled early societies to brew beer and leaven bread and empowers modern ones to synthesize biofuels and conduct key biomedical research. Yeast remains a vital biological agent, yet our ability to explore and influence its genomic activity has lagged.
In a new article in Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS15187), University of Illinois researchers describe how their successful integration of several cutting-edge technologies—creation of standardized genetic components, implementation of customizable genome editing tools, and large-scale automation of molecular biology laboratory tasks—will enhance our ability to work with yeast. The results of their new method demonstrate its potential to produce valuable novel strains of yeast for industrial use, as well as to reveal a more sophisticated understanding of the yeast genome.
“The goal of the work was really to develop a genome-scale engineering tool for yeast . . . traditional metabolic engineering focused on just a few genes and the few existing genome-scale engineering tools are only applicable to bacteria, not eukaryotic organisms like yeast,” said Steven L. Miller Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Huimin Zhao, who led the study. “A second innovation is the use of synthetic biology concepts, the modularization of the parts, and integration with a robotic system, so we can do it in high-throughput.”
The team focused on yeast in part because of its important modern-day applications; yeasts are used to convert the sugars of biomass feedstocks into biofuels such as ethanol and industrial chemicals such as lactic acid, or to break down organic pollutants. Because yeast and other fungi, like humans, are eukaryotes, organisms with a compartmentalized cellular structure and complex mechanisms for control of their gene activity, study of yeast genome function is also a key component of biomedical research.
“In basic science, a lot of fundamental eukaryotic biology is studied in yeast,” said Tong Si, a Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology Research Fellow. “People have a limited understanding of these complicated systems. Although there are approximately 6,000 genes in yeast, people probably know less than 1,000 by their functions; all the others, people do not know.”
The group took the first step toward their goal of a novel engineering strategy for yeast by creating what is known as a cDNA library: a collection of over 90% of the genes from the genome of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), arranged within a custom segment of DNA so that each gene will be, in one version, overactive within a yeast cell, and in a second version, reduced in activity.
Zhao and colleagues examined the ability of the CRISPR-Cas system, a set of molecules borrowed from a form of immune system in bacteria (CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, describing a feature of this system in bacterial genomes). This system allowed Zhao to make precise cuts in the yeast genome, into which the standardized genetic parts from their library could insert themselves.
“The first time we did this, in 2013, there was no CRISPR . . . the best we could get was 1% of the cells modified in one run,” said Si. “We struggled a little on that, and when CRISPR came out, that worked. We got it to 70% [cells modified], so that was very important.”
With gene activity-modulating parts integrating into the genome with such high efficiency, the researchers were able to randomly generate many different strains of yeast, each with its own unique set of modifications. These strains were subjected to artificial selection processes to identify those that had desirable traits, such as the ability to survive exposure to reagents used in the biofuel production process.
This selection process was greatly aided by the Illinois Biological Foundry for Advanced Biomanufacturing (iBioFAB), a robotic system that performs most of the laboratory work described above in an automated way, including selection of promising yeast strains. Use of iBioFAB greatly accelerated the work, enabling simultaneous creation and testing of many unique strains. The iBioFAB was conceived and developed by the Biosystems Design research theme at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), which is led by Zhao.
With support from the High Performance Biological Computing Group at Illinois, Zhao, Si and their colleagues analyzed the modified genomes of their most promising yeast strains. They identified combinations of genes whose altered activities contributed to desirable traits; the functions of some of these genes were previously unknown, demonstrating the technique’s ability to generate new biological knowledge.
“I think the key difference between this method and the other existing metabolic engineering strategies in yeast is really the scale,” said Zhao. “The current metabolic engineering strategies are all focused on just a few genes, dozens of genes at most . . . it’s very intuitive. With this we can explore all the genes, we can identify a lot of targets that cannot be intuited.”
The work, which was funded by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, IGB, Defense Advanced Research Program Agency, and National Academies Keck Futures Initiative on Synthetic Biology, paves the way for similar approaches to broad-scale, automated genome engineering of other eukaryotic species.
By Claudia Lutz, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is pleased to announce Dr. Elmer L. Dougherty, Jr. will be the convocation speaker for the May ceremony.
Convocation will be at 10 a.m., Sunday, May 14, 2017, in the Tryon Festival Theatre in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana. This year the department will celebrate undergraduates who are receiving bachelor degrees and graduate students earning master’s and doctoral degrees.
A reception will follow the ceremony in a tent on Centennial Plaza, the area between Noyes Laboratory and the Chemistry Annex, just east of the Quad.
Born in Kansas, Elmer Dougherty earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1950 and his MS and PhD degrees from the University of Illinois in 1951 and 1955, all in Chemical Engineering. For his PhD adviser, the legendary Professor Harry Drickamer, he measured thermal diffusion in isomeric mixtures to understand small changes in composition caused by a temperature gradient.
Following stints with Esso, Dow (where he wrote his first computer program in 1955), Union Carbide, and Chevron (as well as forming two software companies) Dr. Dougherty became a Professor at University of Southern California in 1971. In 1960 while at Chevron and Aramco, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, he headed an engineering-mathematical project that developed a reservoir simulation program and applied it successfully to Aramco’s Safaniya Field in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. It was the first such application of what is now a standard fundamental tool for oil field operations. In 1980 while at USC, he formed and headed a team of engineers, economists and computer specialists to create a computer system for OPEC Secretariat that successfully modeled the cost of evolving and competing energy supplies and its impact on economic output in the world’s economic regions. Dr. Dougherty was on the faculty of the University of Southern California until his retirement in 1995.
He continues his involvement in computer applications via Maraco, Inc., an oil and gas software development firm he established in 1979. He has consulted around the globe– in Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya, The Netherlands, France, England—and has written over 50 technical papers.
Dr. Dougherty is a Distinguished Member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and is the recipient of its Cedric Ferguson and Jon Arps Awards. He has also lived long enough to be inducted into its Legion of Honor, which occurs automatically after 50 years of membership. He also has been a member of AIChE since his days as an undergraduate. In 2006 he was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame at the University of Kansas’ Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.
By Liz Ahlberg Touchstone, University of Illinois News Bureau
In the fight against disease, many weapons in the medicinal arsenal have been plundered from bacteria themselves. Using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, researchers have now uncovered even more potential treasure hidden in silent genes.
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois and colleagues at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore used CRISPR technology to turn on unexpressed, or “silent,” gene clusters in Streptomyces, a common class of bacteria that naturally produce many compounds that have already been used as antibiotics, anti-cancer agents and other drugs. The study, led by chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Huimin Zhao, was published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
“In the past, researchers just screened the natural products that bacteria made in the lab to search for new drugs,” Zhao said. “But once whole bacterial genomes were sequenced, we realized that we have only discovered a small fraction of the natural products coded in the genome.
“The vast majority of biosynthetic gene clusters are not expressed under laboratory conditions, or are expressed at very low levels. That’s why we call them silent. There are a lot of new drugs and new knowledge waiting to be discovered from these silent gene clusters. They are truly hidden treasures.”
To mine for undiscovered genomic treasure, the researchers first used computational tools to identify silent biosynthetic gene clusters – small groups of genes involved in making chemical products. Then they used CRISPR technology to insert a strong promoter sequence before each gene that they wanted to activate, prompting the cell to make the natural products that the genes clusters coded for.
“This is a less-explored direction with the CRISPR technology. Most CRISPR-related research focuses on biomedical applications, like treating genetic diseases, but we are using it for drug discovery,” Zhao said. His lab was the first to adapt the CRISPR system for Streptomyces. “In the past, it was very difficult to turn on or off a specific gene in Streptomyces species. With CRISPR, now we can target almost any gene with high efficiency.”
The Illinois team collaborated with a team from A*STAR in Singapore.
The team succeeded in activating a number of silent biosynthetic gene clusters. To look for drug candidates, each product needs to be isolated and studied to determine what it does. As a demonstration, the researchers isolated and determined the structure of one of the novel compounds produced from a silent biosynthetic gene cluster, and found that it has a fundamentally different structure from other Streptomyces-derived drugs – a potential diamond in the rough.
Zhao said such new compounds could lead to new classes of drugs that elude antibiotic resistance or fight cancer from a different angle.
“Antimicrobial resistance is a global challenge. We want to find new modes of action, new properties, so we can uncover new ways to attack cancer or pathogens. We want to identify new chemical scaffolds leading to new drugs, rather than modifying existing types of drugs,” he said.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Research Foundation of Singapore supported this work.
To reach Huimin Zhao, call (217)333-2631; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The paper “CRISPR–Cas9 strategy for activation of silent Streptomyces biosynthetic gene clusters” is available online. doi:10.1038/nchembio.2341
On Friday, April 7, the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering honored its outstanding students by holding the annual Undergraduate Awards Ceremony. Faculty presented the 2016-2017 scholarships and Omega Chi Epsilon students announced winners of the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Congratulations to all!
At the ceremony, Department Head Dr. Paul Kenis called the students an inspiring group and said he was confident they will add to the department’s luster and tradition of excellence.
“The students who sit among you today come from throughout the U.S. and around the world, from small farm towns to cities of over 8 million. Some are among the first in their families to go to college. Others come from a long line of engineers. During their time at Illinois, they’ve established themselves as outstanding, driven students,” he said.
“In addition to excelling in the classroom, many also work in the labs of our faculty members on exciting new research, such as synthesis of electrocatalysts. Several hold leadership positions in student organizations like AIChE, OXE, and the Society of Women Engineers. They volunteer their time tutoring other ChemE students and introducing chemical engineering concepts to high schoolers. They’ve devoted themselves to causes outside the classroom, such as advocating for homeless students. They have dreams of becoming professors, process engineers, doctors and entrepreneurs,” Kenis said.
This was the first year the department awarded the James K. Grant Scholarship. Grant, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering in 1969 from the University of Illinois, attended the ceremony with his wife Pamela Grant, a graduate of the College of Media.
Also on Friday, 13 students participated in the Undergraduate Research Symposium.
Thanks to our symposium judges this year: John Schnake, BS ’89, who is corporate director of process analyzers at Endress+Hauser Group; Corey Correnti, BS ’85, retired executive from BP and currently consultant to energy companies; and John Bassett, BS ’72, also retired, having worked in petroleum refining and the mining industry, most recently as Vice President of Operations for Molycorp and president of Seadrift Coke.
First place winner was Edwin Zen of the Rao Group with his presentation, “Selection for enhanced growth yield strains of Escherichia coli in xylose via emulsion-based encapsulation.”
Second place went to Moeen Meigooni of the Shukla Group with, “Molecular Perspectives on Agrochemical Control of Drought Resistance.”
Third place was a tie. Those winners included the team of Omotola Okesanjo and Robert Schneider of the Guironnet Group with “Topology Control of Bottlebrush Polymers” and Zaid Al-Bardan of the Yang Group with “High performance oxygen evolution catalysts for water splitting in acidic electrolytes.”
Below is the complete list of 2016-2017 scholarship winners. More information on scholarships funded by generous alumni and friends can be found here.
John Martin Ankenbauer Memorial Scholarship
Isaac N. Strain
Franklin A. Boyle Scholarship
Jacob E. Komenda
Chemical Engineering Alumni Scholarship
Elijah B. Karvelis
Ashley C. May
Omotola O. Okesanjo
Benjamin J. Pedretti
Donald E. Eisele Scholarship
Michael D. Jorgensen
Seo Woo Choi
Tiernan D. Ebener
Robert S. Frye Scholarship
Clarence G. Gerhold Memorial Scholarship
Anthony J. Salazar
Dr. Joseph and Donna Glas Scholarship in Memory of Professor James Westwater
June R. Qian
James K. Grant Scholarship
Chester W. Hannum Scholarship
Justin W. Genova
Edwin K. Zen
Edmund D. and Sara J. Heerdt Scholarship
Lauren C. Schmitt
Noah R. Wood
Earp Jennings Chemical Engineering Scholarship
Lucas S. Kreidl
Donald B. Keyes Scholarship
Ethan J. Dukovic
John W. Latchum, Jr. Scholarship
Caleb J. Zmuda
Dr. Ray A. Mentzer Scholarship
Omega Chi Epsilon Scholarship
Alexandra N. Warton
Edward I. Onstott Scholarship
Daniel J. Cordero
Awele Bill Uwagwu
Raymond M. Pasteris Scholarship
Christian T. Monte
Pathways to Success Scholarship
Austin R. Cepeda
Daniel J. Cordero
Andrew S. Morrice
Liam J. Quinn
Anna R. Welton-Arndt
Phillips 66 Scholarship
Rebecca L. Boehning
Mikaela R. Dressendorfer
Worth Huff Rodebush Scholarship
Thomas R. and Yolanda S. Stein Scholarship
Madeleine M. Chalifoux
Sohum K. Patel
Glenn E. and Barbara R. Ullyot Scholarship
Scott J. Kieback
Alexander J. Koutsostamatis
R. J. Van Mynen Chemical Engineering Scholarship
Faisal A. Aldukhi
Nicholas Y. Chan
Bruno H. Wojcik Scholarship
Moeen S. Meigooni
The University of Illinois Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering are pleased to announce that Anton Paar, a leading laboratory equipment company which makes high end instrumentation for material characterization, will provide state-of-the-art instruments to two faculty members to support their work on advancing fundamental and applied research in the field of rheology.
Anton Paar is loaning Illinois researchers Simon Rogers and Randy Ewoldt each with a top-of-the-line rheometer which will be fully loaded with accessories to allow maximum flexibility to characterize different types of complex fluids such as polymer solutions, colloidal suspensions, micellar solutions, and surfactant monolayers.
“The Rogers lab is extremely grateful to Anton Paar for the confidence they have expressed in our future with this agreement. We will be pushing rheological research forward, in our own little way, with this instrument and the support from Anton Paar,” said Simon Rogers, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His research group investigates the fundamental physics behind time dependent phenomena exhibited by soft condensed matter systems under deformation for biomedical, energy, and environment applications.
A celebration to mark the partnership was held April 3. Anton Paar personnel spent the week installing the rheometers and offering training and demonstrations of the instruments’ capabilities.
“The new equipment brings incredible capabilities to our lab, which we plan to leverage and build upon with several research projects,” said Randy Ewoldt, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering. The Ewoldt group studies rheology, non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, mathematical modeling, and design involving soft materials. His work often involves interdisciplinary collaborations and is a combination of experiment and theory.
Anton Paar, which was established in 1922, develops, produces and distributes laboratory instruments as well as process measuring systems and provides custom-tailored automation and robotics solutions worldwide.
The company was looking to collaborate with researchers who “‘think outside the box’ for novel new ways to use research rheometers, especially folks who have a vision for new rheological test method developments which can impact both fundamental and applied research. Both Ewoldt and Rogers are collaborative researchers, and their work in rheology has a number of diverse applications ranging from biomedical, energy, and environmental to designing of soft materials, said Abhi Shetty, Lead Scientist at Anton Paar.
Ewoldt and Rogers’ labs will receive MCR 702 TwinDrive rheometers, valued at approximately $600,000 total. This is the most advanced rheometer to date, according to the company. The model boasts several advantages, such as allowing researchers to perform rheological tests with two torque transducers and drive units at once. Operating two Electronically Commutated (or EC) motors at once opens up new possibilities, such as counter-rotation. This mode is an invaluable option for microscopy applications, according to Abhi Shetty, Lead Scientist at Anton Paar. Both researchers will receive the microscopy set-ups.
Rogers said some of his current experiments take a lot of time and effort, and with the new instrument, researchers will be able to “be more productive faster.”
“We’ll also be able to perform tests that just aren’t possible on other instruments,” he added.
The equipment will be loaned to the university for three years, with the possibility of extending the term for another two years. As part of the agreement, the researchers will conduct beta testing of new accessories.
Meet Elizabeth Horstman, a Ph.D. candidate in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
In a new video, Elizabeth talks about why she chose the University of Illinois, the strong emphasis on mentorship, the “supportive and collaborative atmosphere” and earning a SURGE, or Support for Under-Represented Groups in Engineering, Fellowship.
Congratulations to Danielle Mai, who was recently recognized with a Lam Outstanding Graduate Student Award.
Mai is a graduate student in Associate Professor Charles Schroeder’s research group, where she started a new line of research by extending single molecule techniques to study the dynamics of branched polymers. Her approach holds the potential to fundamentally change our understanding of the response of branched polymers, which exhibit strikingly different behavior compared to linear polymers. Ongoing work by Mai and other members of the Schroeder group will advance the large-scale production of polymers for commodity and energy applications.
The Lam awards are presented to talented graduate students who are enrolled in the departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Science and Engineering, or Physics. Each recipient receives $5,000.
Lam Research Corporation of Fremont, Calif. is a major supplier of wafer fabrication equipment and services to the worldwide semiconductor industry. The company has been advancing semiconductor manufacturing for more than 30 years.
“Yes we do!”
Before their morning lecture and again in the afternoon before they make catalysts, a group of high school girls respond to the traditional call-out for participants in the GAMES (Girls’ Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering and Science) Camp.
GAMES Camp is a weeklong program designed to provide academically talented high school girls with opportunities to explore a variety of engineering and scientific fields. Several different tracks are offered in addition to chemical engineering, such as bioengineering, computer science, aerospace engineering, and others.
Soon-to-be high school senior Allison Cvec had planned to apply to the University of Illinois this fall and was considering majoring in chemical engineering. But she was on the fence. Before she made a decision, she figured she’d spend a week at the camp this summer to learn about what the field entails.
By the end of her first day at GAMES Camp in Chemical Engineering, she texted her dad, “This is what I want to do.”
“I absolutely love it. I’m all in now,” she said about Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois.
The first days of the camp entailed learning about optimization and mass production, playing computational games, learning about catalysis and surface chemistry and nanoparticles for drug delivery, creating shower gel, extracting DNA and much more. In addition to spending time on campus, the group also tours regional chemical plants. It’s a week packed with lectures and lab time and culminates with a closing ceremony.
“I am amazed at how creative, knowledgeable and curious the girls are,” said Assistant Professor Ying Diao, who joined the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering faculty in January this year. She shared with the girls her knowledge about crystal types, how crystals are born and the science behind chocolate, specifically cocoa butter, which crystallizes into several different crystal forms.
“I felt the unquenchable thirst for knowledge in them which makes me full of hope for future gender equality in science and technology,” Diao said.
The event also energized and excited Diao’s ChBE students, who assisted the girls in their lab activities, she said.
Among the current ChBE students who helped with the camp were Molly McGiles and Elizabeth Sanders. Both attended GAMES camps when they were in high school and said the camp provided opportunities for meeting other young women in engineering and learning more about what they wanted to study in college.
“It helped me find my niche,” said Sanders, who is now a sophomore majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The camp also brought the two of them together and they are now working on their own STEM outreach project which they hope to launch this summer.
The chemical engineering camp is led by Lecturer Dr. Jerrod Henderson and Ricky Greer, a K-12 education specialist, with help from faculty and current students. This year’s group has 24 students from Illinois, Texas, Michigan, and other states.
“It is fantastic that the department sponsors this meaningful event for the high school girls every year,” Diao said.