The Materials Research Institute (MRI) has announced the three winners of the 2020 Rustum and Della Roy Innovation in Materials Research Award.
The award recognizes interdisciplinary materials research at Penn State which yields innovative and unexpected results and is given annually to two graduate students and one postdoctoral researcher or junior faculty member. This year’s winners include Saptarshi Das, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics; Benjamin C. Steimle, doctoral student in materials chemistry; and Kosuke Tsuji, graduate student in material science and engineering.
Das’ area of expertise is design and experimental demonstration of novel nanodevices based on 2D materials, which consist of a single layer of atoms, for sensing, computing, storage and security. His lab’s vision is to pioneer a new multidisciplinary area of science he refers to as biomimetic sensing and neuromorphic computing.
This work is inspired by how animal brains are structured to enable the types of sensory computations needed for the species to survive in resource-constrained environments. The overall goal is to create biomimetic sensing devices to deploy in remote locations such as deep inside the oceans for aquatic research, unstable geological areas for tectonic and volcanic monitoring, infrastructure sites for various sensing needs, and inside human and animal bodies for health monitoring and treatment.
“Energy efficiency is the key towards the sustainable development of modern societies in the emerging era of Internet of Things, where billions of interconnected sensors will enrich human experience,” Das said. “Our research aids towards such endeavors deriving inspiration from the natural world.”
Steimle works in the field of inorganic nanoparticle synthesis, where he develops new ways to make inorganic nanoparticles, objects that have dimensions approximately 1,000 times smaller than the width of human hair. He is part of a collaborative team in the lab of Raymond Schaak, DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry and professor of chemical engineering, that focuses on forming general design guidelines to synthesize nanoparticles that contain multiple connections between two or more nanoscale crystals.
Steimle’s work has enabled his lab to make some of the most complex nanoparticles in existence, and further the understanding of synthetic capabilities at the nanoscale.
“My research has enabled the synthesis of multicomponent nanoparticles that couldn’t have been imagined even at the beginning of my thesis work four years ago,” Steimle said. “Our long-term hope is that we can start to explore the real-world relevance of our syntheses through collaborations with chemists, engineers and material scientists.”
Tsuji’s research focuses on cold sintering, a sintering technique developed by Clive Randall, MRI director, which enables many types of ceramics to be solidified at very low temperatures, much lower than traditional sintering methods. Working in Randall’s lab, Tsuji is part of a team working on cold sintering of ceramic materials used in most electronics components, such as cell phones and computers.
“It may be possible to reduce electrical energy and CO2 emissions by lowering the processing temperature, or to replace expensive metals with common base metals to make electrodes,” Tsuji said. “We are also currently working on synthesizing new types of ceramic-based composites and exploring new functionalities that could not be achieved with traditional approaches.”
Winning the Roy Award has an added, unique meaning to Tsuji.
“I'm sincerely honored to receive this award because the key concept of this work is related to some early work of Professor Della Roy, one of the people the award is named after, that was published in 1973 in the Journal of Crystal Growth,” Tsuji said.
The prestigious award was created by a gift from Della and her late husband Rustum Roy, who are both alumni of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and long-serving faculty in the college.