The Millennium Cafe

Exchanging ideas and challenges

Nov 21 2017
No Cafe: Happy Thanksgiving!
Nov 14 2017
Naturmort-in-Infra-Red: Nanoscale Needle in a Haystack

Among the nanomaterials that emerged over the past few decades, one-dimensional needle-like carbon nanotubes (NT) attracted the attention of physicists for a number of unique properties. Discovery of functionalization of NTs with DNA strands placed them at the interface between biotic and abiotic systems and opened wide perspectives for using NTs as sensing and imaging agents at the nanoscale.

Roots of the Second Green Revolution

The world needs crops with better root systems that can produce food with less water and fertilizer. Understanding how to optimize root structure and function entails complex computational, mathematical and biophysical challenges.

Nov 7 2017
What I Talk About When I Talk About the Glass Transition”

The glass transition, i.e., the gradual arrest of a supercooled liquid into the glassy state, is often described as a “mystery” due to the complicated nonequilibrium physics involved in describing glass-forming systems.  Notwithstanding these difficulties, a comprehensive fundamental understanding of the glass transition is of critical importance for many practical high-tech applications of glass, including optical fiber, glass substrates for liquid crystal displays, and chemically strengthened cover glass for electronic devices.  In this presentation, I will review recent progress that offers an unprecedented level of understanding of the glass transition and the glassy state, as well as the ability to design new industrial glasses starting at the atomic level.

Protecting Ourselves from Emerging Diseases

Emerging infectious diseases, like Ebola, spillover from wildlife to humans and cause mortality and concern. We know almost nothing about the spillover process and so we are unpacking and revealing the processes involved. One example is given by the Hendra virus, an infection  that spreads from bats to horses and then people in eastern Australia. To solve these issues globally, we have formed a new laboratory called the Applied Biological Research Lab (ABRL) and seek collaboration.

Oct 31 2017
Serendipitous Formation of Carbon-Sulfur Composites: How a Geoscientist Became Involved in Battery Design

Science and innovation can often send you in unexpected directions. In this talk, I will describe how a failed attempt at growing sulfur-oxidizing bacteria from the Arctic lead to the discovery of a new process to produce micro-structured carbon-sulfur composites that might be used as cathode materials for next-generation Li-S batteries. I will discuss the exciting discoveries, roadblocks, and victories of this project, along with some future goals and avenues for collaboration.

Convergence of Materials and Life Sciences – NIH and Imaging Focused Seed Grants 2018-2019

The Materials Research Institute, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and partner Institutes and Colleges are seeding teams focused on securing NIH funding.  We are now accepting proposals for NIH-focused research and imaging studies that take advantage of new analytical capabilities and insights at the interface of physical and life sciences.  Teaming is required, mentoring of junior faculty is highly encouraged, and the deadline for proposal submission is January 12, 2018.  Come hear additional details of this new seed funding program.

Oct 24 2017
Precision Farming: How Intelligent Sensing Systems are Shaping Future Agriculture

How can we produce more food sustainably?  Precision agriculture is an emerging area that involves using data and technology to optimize farm management practices.  Sensing systems with machine learning capabilities can increase productivity in agricultural production systems.

From there to here…Atomic Things are Everywhere

Recent advances in cryo-EM have brought us into a new era where atomic structures are feasible.  Successful cryo-EM consists of three components: sample preparation, data collection, and processing.  Penn State has invested in a state of the art temperature and humidity controlled prep room to prepare samples.  Penn State has recently acquired a new Titan Krios microscope that collects atomic resolution data.  We are equipped with the computer resources to process cryo-EM data into high resolution maps.  So what do you need to get an atomic resolution map? Can you take advantage of this revolutionary new technique?  Will your sample work? This talk will present the criteria for a good input sample required for an atomic resolution 3D structure.

Oct 10 2017
Harnessing the Power of Electrons in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (NMR) is a unique technique providing both structural and dynamic information with atomic resolution in both life and material sciences.  However, it suffers from inherently poor sensitivity due to the low magnetic moment of the active nuclei and low natural abundance.  Dramatic NMR signal enhancement as a result of dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) using microwave irradiation at the electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) transition reduces the measurement time by 2-4 orders of magnitude compared to the traditional solid-state NMR.  The remarkable contributions of the new technology in both material (heterogeneous catalysts, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), periodic mesoporous organosilicates (PMOs), covalent organic frameworks (COFs), colloids, composites and polymers) and life sciences (membrane proteins, intrinsically disordered proteins, fibrils, amyloids, and cell membrane) will be highlighted by several recent studies.

How 3D Metal Printing Can Reduce Your Airfare

Recent advances in the field of three-dimensional, metal printing, also known as additive manufacturing, have increased the potential for building components used in engines that provide propulsion for flight, namely gas turbines. Using 3D printing for turbine components broadens the design space and allows for increasingly small and complex geometries to be fabricated with little increase in time or cost. This presentation will show how turbine engines can become more efficient thereby using less fuel through advances in additive manufacturing.

Oct 3 2017
Observing the Nanoworld Through the Lens of Ultrafast Super-Resolution Spectroscopy

Time-resolved laser spectroscopy provides detailed examinations of energy transfer processes in chemical and materials systems. However, these techniques are typically limited to hundreds of nanometers in spatial resolution, which is insufficient to view nanoscale energy flow in “real time.” I will describe advances from our lab that allow us to pinpoint the spatial position of optical signals with spatial accuracies of one nanometer, including examples from energy localization and interfacial charge transfer. I will also describe how these methods can be combined with magnetic fields and correlated electron microscopy to characterize the electronic and optical properties of photonic systems.

What to do with Memory Beyond Storage

All of us know the common use of memory as a storage element. However, in this talk I’ll discuss interesting aspects of memory that make them an excellent candidate for computing, analytics, learning, cybersecurity and so forth. Several new memory technologies beyond conventional RAMs and Flash along with their potential applications will be discussed.

Sep 26 2017
Key Trends in Higher Education – How will Penn State Respond?

Higher education is facing a considerable number of challenges, including demographic changes, growing financial stresses, evolving models of the roles and characteristics of faculty, and significant changes in the content and delivery of an education.  In many ways, Penn State is sensing and responding to these challenges.   The trends predicted for the next decade are worthy of a more strategic analysis as they will likely define the evolution of our University.

Guitar Music of South America

Some of the best music for solo guitar (nylon string) comes from guitarist/composers of South America. I will play selections of music from Brazil and Paraguay that are sure to delight the listener.  A wonderful thing about instrumental music is its symbolic power to captivate the imagination and impact each listener personally. So come prepared to dream with me as I perform this compellingly beautiful repertoire.

Sep 19 2017
The Penn State Microbiome Center is a Community Studying Communities

In 12 months, the Penn State Microbiome Center has moved from concept to community. This intercollege initiative turned center started in fall 2016 with the financial and scholarly support of ten colleges and institutes. The Center was further spurred by cluster hires funded by the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Medicine and the Huck Institutes. Today the Microbiome Center is working toward the goal of supporting transformative, interdisciplinary research in microbiomes by fostering long-term working relationships while simultaneously providing infrastructure and resources needed for increasing diversity and breadth of interdisciplinary microbiome research at Penn State.

Modeling, Understanding, and Manipulating Microstructural Patterns in Materials

Pattern formation is common in nature, ranging from biological cell structures, snow-flakes, to cloud patterns. Understanding the structural, chemical, thermal, electrical, and magnetic patterns in materials at different length scales and their responses to the changes in the environmental conditions at different time scales is considered as the holy grail of materials research.  In this presentation, I will show a few representative examples to demonstrate the utilization of the phase-field modeling method to understand experimentally observed microstructural patterns and to provide guidance to the synthesis and manipulation of microstructural patterns for optimum properties and device performances.

Sep 12 2017
What’s so Cool About Cold Spray?

In the cold spray process, powders are heated and accelerated in a supersonic gas stream. These high velocity particles impact a substrate, causing them to bond and build up a coating. This process has been used at the Penn State Applied Research Lab for the past 20 years to create corrosion and wear resistant coatings, and more recently, for restoration of metallic components and additive manufacturing. This presentation will highlight some of these projects as well as the material processing equipment available to researchers at PSU.

The Importance of Safety in Industry

Cultivating a safety minded culture is more than a list of near misses and good saves; it encompasses how a company or university approaches and views safety in the work place.  Developing an effective culture of safety in the work environment includes recognition of preventative actions, constant improvement of workplace practices, and employee engagement in developing and implementing the best and safest practices. This talk will focus on (i) the importance of a safety minded culture, (ii) how it is practiced in one chemical company, (iii) and how the insights from the chemical industry can be applicable to academic lab settings.

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