News - 2017


Much as a frame provides structural support for a house and the chassis provides strength and shape for a car, a team of Penn State engineers believe they have a way to create the structural framework for growing living tissue using an off-the-shelf 3-D printer.


Since their invention in 1962, semiconductor diode lasers have revolutionized communications and made possible information storage and retrieval in CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray devices. These diode lasers use inorganic semiconductors grown in elaborate high vacuum systems. Now, a team of researchers from Penn State and Princeton University have taken a big step toward creating a diode laser from a hybrid organic-inorganic material that can be deposited from solution on a laboratory benchtop.


Synthetic microspheres with nanoscale holes can absorb light from all directions across a wide range of frequencies, making it a candidate for antireflective coatings, according to a team of Penn State engineers. The synthetic spheres also explain how the leaf hopper insect uses similar particles to hide from predators in its environment.


An artificial system using a DNA-laced hydrogel can receive a chemical signal and release the appropriate protein, according to Penn State researchers. Further stimulation by the chemical signal continues to trigger a response.

A hydrogel is a network of polymer chains that attract water and can be used to simulate biological tissue.

Many systems in cells and in the human body are set up with a signal and response pathway. One of the best known is that of glucose, a small sugar that triggers the release of insulin.


In London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, a whisper can be heard far across the circular whispering gallery as the sound curves around the walls. Now, an optical whispering gallery mode resonator developed by Penn State electrical engineers can spin light around the circumference of a tiny sphere millions of times, creating an ultrasensitive microchip-based sensor for multiple applications.


By Max Wetherington, MCL Staff Scientist


In Penn State’s Materials Research Institute, an electrical engineer and a biomaterials engineer have joined their expertise to develop a flexible, biodegradable optical fiber to deliver light into the body for medical applications.


A theoretical method to control grain boundaries in two-dimensional materials could result in desirable properties, such as increased electrical conductivity, improved mechanical properties, or magnetism for memory storage or information processing, among other applications.


Every culture on the planet has its ways of producing, using and communicating through its fabrics. Today the inclusion and intertwining of electronic and other kinds of fibers into textiles transform what is possible with these fabrics and now allow us to compute through our clothing, furnishings and our buildings.


We have come a long way from leaky sulfur-acid automobile batteries, but modern lithium batteries still have some down sides. Now a team of Penn State engineers have a different type of lithium sulfur battery that could be more efficient, less expensive and safer.


The properties of materials can behave in funny ways. Tweak one aspect to make a device smaller or less leaky, for example, and something else might change in an undesirable way, so that engineers play a game of balancing one characteristic against another. Now a team of Penn State electrical engineers have a way to simultaneously control diverse optical properties of dielectric waveguides by using a two-layer coating, each layer with a near zero thickness and weight.


An international team of researchers, including scientists from Shinshu University (Japan) and the director of Penn State’s ATOMIC Center, has developed a graphene-based coating for desalination membranes that is more robust and scalable than current nanofiltration membrane technologies. The result could be a sturdy and practical membrane for clean water solutions as well as protein separation, wastewater treatment and pharmaceutical and food industry applications.


A new, lightweight composite material for energy storage in flexible electronics, electric vehicles and aerospace applications has been experimentally shown to store energy at operating temperatures well above current commercial polymers, according to a team of Penn State scientists. This polymer-based, ultrathin material can be produced using techniques already used in industry.


Learn about a science contest at Penn State - the Millennium Cafe Pitch Competition - that's helping scientists better communicate the complexity of their work.


Squid-inspired proteins can act as programmable assemblers of 2D materials, like graphene oxide, to form hybrid materials with minute spacing between layers suitable for high-efficiency devices including flexible electronics, energy storage systems and mechanical actuators, according to an interdisciplinary team of Penn State researchers.


An investigational compound developed by Penn State researchers that targets and destroys cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed has been approved for phase one clinical human trials by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Finding practical hydrogen storage technologies for vehicles powered by fuel cells is the focus of a $682,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, awarded to Mike Chung, professor of materials science and engineering, Penn State.

Chung's recent research on superabsorbent polymers, which shows potential to aid in oil spill recovery and cleanup, may also be a storage vehicle for hydrogen fuel cells.


One of the latest ventures to come out of Penn State, Persea Naturals, began with an unintended discovery. Gregory R. Ziegler, professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences, was extracting starch from avocado pits when he noticed something interesting. When avocado pits are pulverized, an enzymatic reaction produces a bright orange color. After extracting the starch, Ziegler just couldn’t get the color to wash away.


Research Breakthrough: Cold sintering of ceramics instead of high-temperature firing


CIMP-3D Advances Direct Metal Printing: Learn how the Center is advancing and deploying additive manufacturing technology for critical applications.


The possibilities for the new field of two-dimensional, one-atomic-layer-thick materials, including but not limited to graphene, appear almost limitless. In a new paper in the journal 2D Materials, Penn State researchers report two discoveries that will provide a simple and effective way to “stencil” high quality 2D materials in precise locations and overcome a barrier to their use in next-generation electronics.


A new method to improve semiconductor fiber optics may lead to a material structure that might one day revolutionize the global transmission of data, according to an interdisciplinary team of researchers.


The structural properties of proteins that could eventually become important materials for manufacturing and medicine are revealed by a novel optical technique that works rapidly to sort through amino acid sequences even inside living bacteria, according to a team of engineers.

"There remains an urgent need for fast and efficient techniques that can screen the properties of large numbers of protein sequences with minimal sample volume or in living cells," the researchers report online in the journal Analyst.


A nanoscale product of human cells that was once considered junk is now known to play an important role in intercellular communication and in many disease processes, including cancer metastasis. Researchers at Penn State have developed nanoprobes to rapidly isolate these rare markers, called extracellular vesicles (EVs), for potential development of precision cancer diagnoses and personalized anticancer treatments.


Six University faculty members have received the 2017 Faculty Scholar Medals for Outstanding Achievement.

They are James Adair, professor of materials science and engineering, biomedical engineering and pharmacology; Adri van Duin, professor of mechanical engineering and professor of chemical engineering; Frederico Rodriguez Hertz, professor of mathematics; Christine Keating, professor of chemistry; Sophie De Schaepdrijver, professor of history; and Joshua Smyth, distinguished professor of biobehavioral health and medicine.


The textile industry in the US is making a comeback after a decades-long slump. Crucial to the resurgence of textile manufacturing in America is investment in advanced fiber technologies that add value to traditional textiles.


Written by Krista Weidner

That constant change is what motivates materials scientist Lauren Zarzar in her research.

“The world around us is always changing—materials are constantly being exposed to different external pressures, external stimuli,” says Zarzar, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and assistant professor of chemistry. “Many materials we use are static in their properties and functions, but I’m interested in designing materials that respond to changes in the environment.”


Zakaria Al Balushi, a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering, was awarded the Materials Research Society (MRS) Gold Graduate Student Award for a presentation on his research on two-dimensional materials.


An endowed professorship is opening doors for two Penn State students to obtain laboratory experience as undergraduates. These materials science and engineering majors, Atraphol Sae-Tang and Evan McHale, are conducting research for their senior theses in the Millennium Science Complex with Susan Trolier-McKinstry, Steward S. Flaschen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. Their respective research may be just the beginning of larger, innovative projects at Penn State.


On March 8, we celebrated International Women's Day where the theme was "Be Bold For Change".  See our portfolio of women influencers' accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


Aiming to develop non-invasive techniques to diagnose and evaluate treatment strategies for degenerative disease and injuries.


Materials Science and Engineering is an interdisciplinary study of the properties of matter and exploration of potential uses for materials.  Materials Science and Engineering draws from nearly every scientific discipline


Battery-operated medical devices implanted in human bodies have saved countless lives. A common implant, the cardioverter defibrillator, sends a jolt of electricity to the heart when needed, preventing a heart attack or heart failure. While patients’ lives are improved by this technology, if the device causes an infection or the battery needs to be replaced, more invasive procedures are necessary.


Long-Qing Chen, Donald W. Hamer Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, professor of engineering science and mechanics, and professor of mathematics at Penn State, has been named a fellow of The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS), the society's highest honor.


Take a look at the latest advances in the science of 2D technology.


All ferroelectric materials possess a property known as piezoelectricity in which an applied mechanical force can generate an electrical current and an applied electrical field can elicit a mechanical response. Ferroelectric materials are used in a wide variety of industrial applications, from ultrasound and sonar to capacitors, transducers, vibration sensors and ultrasensitive infrared cameras. Now, an international team of scientists led by Penn State may have solved the 30-year-old riddle of why certain ferroelectric crystals exhibit extremely strong piezoelectric responses.


Many groups are working to discover new, safer ways to deliver drugs that fight cancer to the tumor without damaging healthy cells. Others are finding ways to boost the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. For the first time, researchers at Penn State have combined the two approaches by conjugating biodegradable polymer nanoparticles encapsulated with chosen cancer-fighting drugs into immune cells to create a smart, targeted system to attack cancers of specific types. 


L. Eric Cross (1923-2016) passed away peacefully on the 29th of December. He was an Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Penn State, a member of the US National Academy of Engineering and a founding member of the Penn State Materials Research Laboratory. He was a world leader in the field of ferroelectrics from a fundamental perspective, as an inventor of new characterization techniques and in materials applications.