News - 2019


By Walt Mills

A device to quickly capture and identify various strains of virus has been developed, according to researchers at Penn State and New York University.

Currently, virologists estimate that 1.67 million unknown viruses are circulating in animal reservoirs, a number of which can be transmitted to humans. Known viruses, such as H5N1, Zika and Ebola have caused widespread illness and death. The world Health Organization states that early detection can halt virus spread by enabling rapid deployment of countermeasures.


A paper published in the Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics Journal details how researchers examined additive manufacturing methods and materials using atomistic-scale simulations to optimize their performance for ultimately stronger and more useful 3D-printed components. 

“We went down to the most fundamental level, looking at the physical chemistry and the strengths of these molecular interactions,” van Duin said.


Every day, more than 141 billion liters of water are used solely to flush toilets. With millions of global citizens experiencing water scarcity, what if that amount could be reduced by 50%? 

The possibility may exist through research conducted at Penn State, released today (Nov. 18) in Nature Sustainability. 


Microscopic tiny swimmers shaped like donuts promise a wide range of application options: Fabricated with Nanoscribe’s 3D Microfabrication technology, they can move with their own propulsion and are able to transport particles to a desired location. Moreover, the 3D printed microtori can manipulate other microscopic swimming objects. Within an international research project scientists outlined the complex dynamics that chemically- and magnetically-driven microtori can unfold.


A new technique to change the structure of liquid crystals could lead to the development of fast-responding liquid crystals suitable for next generation displays, for example 3-D, augmented and virtual reality and advanced photonic applications such as mirrorless lasers, bio-sensors and fast/slow light generation, according to an international team of researchers from Penn State, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan.


Next-generation solar cells that mimic photosynthesis with biological material may give new meaning to the term "green technology." Adding the protein bacteriorhodopsin (bR) to perovskite solar cells boosted the efficiency of the devices in a series of laboratory tests, according to an international team of researchers.


Researchers at Penn State and Delaware have developed a theoretical method to improve the efficiency of thin-film solar cells by up to 33 percent. Flexible thin-film solar cells are needed to supply electrical power to fabrics, clothing, back packs and anywhere that a local autonomous power supply is required.


A better understanding of the mechanisms behind the cold sintering process (CSP) will lead to faster adoption and the cold sintering of many new materials, according to a team of Penn State researchers.


A new liquid-cell technology allows scientists to see biological materials and systems in three dimensions under an electron microscope (EM), according to researchers at Penn State, Virginia Tech and Protochips Inc. 


By Walt Mills

A few weeks ago the novelist Jonathan Franzen published an article in which he essentially gave up on the prospect of controlling the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, concluding it was time to begin preparing for a future filled with the risk of devasting environmental disaster. It was the culmination of all the bad news we have heard about the changing climate, and I, and many others, was filled with a growing sense of hopelessness.


A new research partnership with Pennsylvania State University and the University of Sheffield aims to promote more sustainable supply chains to meet US policy standards.

Researchers from the Energy Institute at the University of Sheffield have now launched the USA branch of the Advanced Research Efficiency Centre (AREC-USA) at Pennsylvania State University. This research centre will promote collaboration between industry and universities. It will offer easy to access platforms that will help meet the challenges of sustainability across supply chains.


While computers have become smaller and more powerful and supercomputers and parallel computing have become the standard, we are about to hit a wall in energy and miniaturization. Now, Penn State researchers have designed a 2D device that can provide more than yes-or-no answers and could be more brainlike than current computing architectures.


The theme of this year’s Materials Day is Mind the Gap Transiting Technology to Application. The gap between the university lab and commercialization of research is often called the Valley of Death.  During this Materials Day, we look for ways to close the gap.


By discovering a way to combine lithium salts with ceramics, researchers in the Penn State College of Engineering and the Penn State Materials Research Institute may have created a new class of materials for longer-lasting batteries. According to researchers, the composite nature of the batteries could make recycling easier, reducing landfill waste.


Every scientific discovery has one thing in common: It started with a question. But, as Penn State materials scientist Jeffrey Catchmark will attest, sometimes the most ingenious answers come from questions you didn’t even know to ask.

Catchmark is developing new biomaterials by manipulating compounds found in nature. His research with biomaterials began with a single question: Is there an eco-friendly alternative to styrofoam?


The way barn owl brains use sound to locate prey may be a template for electronic directional navigation devices, according to a team of Penn State engineers who are recreating owl brain circuitry in electronics.

"We were already studying this type of circuit when we stumbled across the Jeffress model of sound localization," said Saptarshi Das, assistant professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics.


Ibrahim Tarik Ozbolat, Hartz Family Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics, has received four grants totaling about $1.5 million to explore ways to bioprint biological tissues like bone, lungs and other organs for use as models in a variety of studies.


A new strategic partnership between Penn State and the University of Freiburg in Germany will propel the development of a new class of engineered living materials with potential applications in sustainable infrastructure, robotics technologies, and next-generation medical care. This will enable the institutions to compete globally on ambitious and innovative work that neither institution could accomplish alone. Today, July 24, Penn State President Eric J.


In 2017, MRI and Penn State began piloting a new program aimed to support the further development of strategic collaboration with industry.


Proof that a new ability to grow thin films of an important class of materials called complex oxides will, for the first time, make these materials commercially feasible, according to Penn State materials scientists. 

Complex oxides are crystals with a composition that typically consists of oxygen and at least two other, different elements. In their crystalline form and depending on the combination of elements, complex oxides display a tremendous range of properties. 


By Walt Mills

A technique to substitute carbon-hydrogen species into a single atomic layer of the semiconducting material tungsten disulfide, a transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD), dramatically changes the electronic properties of the material, according to researchers at Penn State.

With this material, the researchers say, they can create new types of components for energy-efficient photoelectric devices and CMOS electronic circuits.


By Walt Mills

The field of two-dimensional (2D) materials with unusual properties has exploded in the 15 years since Navasolov and Gheim pulled a single atomic layer of carbon atoms off of bulk graphene using simple adhesive tape. Although a great amount of science has been conducted on these small fragments of graphene, the challenge has been to create 2D materials at an industrially relevant scale. Now, researchers at Penn State have discovered a method for improving the quality of one class of 2D materials with potential to achieve wafer-scale growth in the future.


In a paper published in the journal Science on April 19, 2019, multiple researchers affiliated with the Materials Research Institute and labs in China, Australia and the United States report a piezoelectric material with the highest piezoelectric charge to date. Piezoelectrics are widely used as sensors, transducers, in electromechanical systems and in ultrasound. In this case, the relaxor perovskite oxide single crystal  is doped with the rare-earth element samarium. MRI-affiliated authors include lead author Fei Li, Long-Qing Chen, Thomas Shrout and Shujun Zhang.


By Walt Mills

Cryogenic-Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM) has been a game changer in the field of medical research, but the substrate used to freeze and view samples under a microscope hasn’t advanced much in decades. Now, thanks to a collaboration between Penn State researchers and the applied science company Protochips, Inc., this is no longer the case.


PoreDesigner, a fully automated computational workflow process for altering the pore size of a bacterial channel protein, is the result of a collaboration between researchers from Penn State and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This process enables assembly of the proteins into artificial membranes for precise sub-nanometer scale separation of solutes of marginal size difference, which can improve water purification and bioseparations.


By Walt Mills

“Frustration” plus a pulse of laser light resulted in a stable “supercrystal” created by a team of researchers led by Penn State and Argonne National Laboratory, together with University of California, Berkeley, and two other national labs.

This is one of the first examples of a new state of matter with long-term stability transfigured by the energy from a sub-pico-second laser pulse. The team’s goal, supported by the Department of Energy, is to discover interesting states of matter with unusual properties that don’t exist in equilibrium in nature.


Rechargeable lithium metal batteries with increased energy density, performance, and safety may be possible with a newly-developed, solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI), according to Penn State researchers.

As the demand for higher-energy-density lithium metal batteries increases — for electric vehicles, smartphones, and drones — stability of the SEI has been a critical issue halting their advancement because a salt layer on the surface of the battery's lithium electrode insulates it and conducts lithium ions.


Under the right conditions, ordinary clear water droplets on a transparent surface can produce brilliant colors, without the addition of inks or dyes. This iridescent effect is due to “structural color,” by which an object generates color simply by the way light interacts with its geometric structure.


Susan Trolier-McKinstry, the Steward S. Flaschen Professor of Ceramic Science and Engineering, Penn State, has been named a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Trolier-McKinstry is among the 86 new members and 18 foreign members elected for 2019. The NAE recognized her for "development of thin film multilayer ceramic capacitors and piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems."


A new type of light-emitting diode lightbulb could one day light homes and reduce power bills, according to Penn State researchers who suggest that LEDs made with firefly-mimicking structures could improve efficiency.


While the polyester leisure suit was a 1970s mistake, polyester and other synthetic fibers like nylon are still around and are a major contributor to the microplastics load in the environment, according to a Penn State materials scientist, who suggests switching to biosynthetic fibers to solve this problem.


Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

The researchers developed a three-dimensional, cross-linked polymer sponge that attaches to the metal plating of a battery anode.


By Walt Mills

Antireflection (AR) coatings on plastics have a multitude of practical applications, such as reducing the glare on eyeglasses, computer monitors or on the display on your smart phone when out of doors. Now, researchers at Penn State have developed an AR coating that improves on existing coatings to the extent that it can make transparent plastics, such as Plexiglas, virtually invisible.


By Walt Mills

The rapid growth of research on 2D materials – materials such as graphene and others that are a single or few atoms thick – is fueled by the hope of developing better performing sensors for health and environment, more economical solar energy, and higher performing and more energy efficient electronics than is possible with current silicon electronics.


Researchers devise encryption key approach that cannot be cloned, reverse-engineered.

By A'ndrea Elyse Messer

Data breaches, hacked systems and hostage malware are frequently topics of evening news casts — including stories of department store, hospital, government and bank data leaking into unsavory hands — but now a team of engineers has an encryption key approach that is unclonable and not reverse-engineerable, protecting information even as computers become faster and nimbler.