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Credit: Penn State

Grants to help fund variety of interdisciplinary high-impact, materials-focused research

By Jamie Oberdick

The Penn State Materials Research Institute (MRI) has announced the 2022 recipients of seed grants that will enable University faculty to establish new collaborations with partners outside their own units for the exploration of transformative ideas for high-impact materials science and engineering.

There are four research themes for the seed grants, with 18 grants awarded by MRI in partnership with Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory, College of MedicineHuck Institutes of the Life Sciences and the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

“We're working on some strategic areas and looking to extend our support to different types of teams across the University,” said Clive Randall, director of MRI and distinguished professor of materials science and engineering. “In some cases, like the regenerative medicine area under the convergence category, this was to start initial conversations. We anticipate much more growth in this area and going forward is a strategic priority for the University. But we were very happy with all the proposals, including the ones we didn’t fund, so much so comments were supplied to those proposals that we did not fund for their future reference and fit for other seed grant programs that are upcoming.”  

The seed grants were awarded to tenured/tenure track and fixed-term research faculty who hold an appointment of half-time or more at any Penn State location, including staff researchers at the Applied Research Lab and Hershey Medical Center.  The time frame for grants is 18 months from the date of award, which started in the first quarter of 2022. 

The seed grant research themes include: 

Sustainable Materials 

Topics of interest for this research grant include CO2 material footprint, bioprocesses for sustainable materials, circular economy, disruptive concepts in materials recycling, and detailed analyses and case studies. 

Recipients of grants in this theme include: 

"Understanding Limitations of Catalytic Approaches to a Polyolefins Circular Economy Associated with Complexity of Commercial Plastic Formulations"

Co-Investigators: Robert Rioux, Friedrich G. Helfferich Professor of Chemical Engineering; Bryan Vogt, professor of chemical engineering; Wesley Reinhart, assistant professor of materials science and engineering 

"Next Generation Insulated Concrete Form Home Building with Recycled or Waste Materials"

Co-Investigators: Ali Memari, professor and Bernard and Henrietta Hankin Chair in Residential Building Construction, and director of the PHRC; Benay Gürsoy Toykoç, assistant professor of architecture; and Aleksandra Radlińska, Hartz Family Career Development Associate Professor of CEE 

"Biodegradable Electrical Eel-Inspired Hydrogel Batteries"

Co-Investigator: Joseph Najem, assistant professor of mechanical engineering 

Quantum Device Chip Packaging And Quantum Systems

Developing quantum technologies for revolutionary communication and sensor platforms is a major challenge that requires innovative material and device design. This grant is focused on developing packaging concepts for Rydberg gases that can provide room temperature functions such as electrometry and vector magnetometry and enable highly accurate and high-frequency timing devices. The demonstration of quantum packaging prototypes would leverage the standing of Penn State in future federal agency calls in the quantum domain. 

"Room Temperature Electronically Tunable Quantum Field Sensors"

Co-Investigators: Daniel Lopez, Liang Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Wooram Lee, associate professor of electrical engineering; and Gregory Huff, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science 

Convergent Research At The Intersection Of Materials – Life – Health – Environment 

This grant will build on MRI’s success supporting researchers at the intersection of materials science, life sciences, human health and environmental sciences, seeding teams with innovative ideas that include medical and clinical researchers collaborating among Penn State campuses. 

"A Hybrid Biomaterial-surgical Therapy for Accelerating Tissue Vascularization and Regeneration"

Co-Investigators: Amir Sheikhi, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Dino Ravnic, staff physician, Penn State Hershey Plastic Surgery 

"Developing Novel Functional Biomaterials Targeting Neurodegeneration at the Atomic Level"

Co-Investigators: Yingwei Mao, assistant professor of biology; Mauricio Terrones, Verne M. Willaman Professor of Physics and professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering; and Alfredo Bellon, assistant professor in the departments of psychiatry and pharmacology 

"Ultrasound Responsive Therapeutic Delivery Systems for Controlled Bone Regeneration"

Co-Investigator: Daniel Hayes, associate professor of biomedical engineering and Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Chair in Nanotherapeutics and Regenerative Medicine 

"High-resolution Cryo-electron Tomography Investigation of Cellular Junctions in 3D Bioprinted Lung Organoids Enabled by Cryo-focused Ion Beam Milling"

Co-Investigators: Danielle Hickey, assistant professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering; Matthew Swulius, assistant professor, department of biochemistry and molecular biology; and Ibrahim Ozbolat, Hartz Family Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics; and Dishary Banerjee, postdoctoral scholar in engineering science and mechanics

Integrated Projects In Data Science, Advanced Characterization, And Materials Processing 

Recipients of this grant will push the boundaries in the use of data science tools to advance materials characterization and processing. Due to the emphasis on in-situ characterization and high-rate data acquisition of rich datasets, modern data science tools will be needed to extract maximum value from experimental efforts. These grant recipients will develop approaches to develop new experimental and data science methods to complement materials genome and large-scale computational projects.  

"Deep Kernel Learning for Accelerated Materials Discovery"

Co-Investigators: Ismaila Dabo, associate professor of materials science and engineering; Vasant Honavar, professor and Edward Frymoyer Chair of Information Sciences and Technology; and Mehrdad Mahdavi, Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering.

"Data-Enabled Leaning and Controlling Metallurgy Matters in Dissimilar Metal Joints for Energy Storage Systems"

Co-Investigators: Ingjing Li, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering and Shun-Li Shang, research professor of materials science and engineering 

"Functionalized Atomic Force Microscopy for Advanced Characterization of Complex Particle-Particle Frictional Forces to Improve Additive Manufacturing of Cementitious Materials"

Co-Investigators: Juan Pablo Gevaudan, assistant professor of architectural engineering; Timothy Tighe, staff scientist with Materials Research Institute; and Albert Segall, professor of engineering science and mechanics 

"Use of 2DCC Data as a Testbed for Materials Data Integration"

Co-Investigators: Anthony Richardella, assistant research professor of thin films-MBE and Joan Redwing, director 2DCC-MIP, synthesis lead and distinguished professor of materials science and engineering and electrical engineering 

"Correlation Between Polarization Wakeup and Conduction Behavior in AlN-based Ferroelectrics"

Co-Investigators: Wanlin Zhu, assistant research professor with the Materials Research Institute; Betul Akkopru-Akgun, research assistant professor 

MRI-ARL Partnership 

This grant will fund seed new collaborations between Penn State’s ARL and MRI faculty linking manufacturing processes, such as additive manufacturing in CIMP-3D, and materials characterization and simulation. Central facilities usage combined with big data and modeling directed towards developing new collaborative teams between faculty and staff researchers is a key goal of this seed grant. 

"Functionally Graded Metal-Ceramic Composites for High Temperature (Hypersonic) Applications"

Co-Investigators: Matt Lear, division head/assistant research professor at ARL; Guha Manogharan, assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering; and Jeremy Schreiber, assistant research professor at ARL 

"Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Technology of Metals for High-Temperature DOE/DOD Applications"

Co-Investigators: Allison Beese, assistant professor of materials science and engineering; Douglas Wolfe, professor of materials science and engineering and head of the Department of Metals, Ceramics and Coatings Processing at ARL; and Edward Reutzel, assistant research professor at ARL 

"Template Alignment Optimization in Additively Manufactured Piezoelectric Ceramics"

Co-Investigators: Benjamin Cowen, assistant research professor at ARL; John Mauro, professor of materials science and engineering; and Christopher Eadie; research and development engineer at ARL 

"High-Frequency Electromagnetic Characterization of Ceramics in Extreme Environments for Hypersonic Applications 

Co-Investigators: Michael Lanagan, professor of engineering science and mechanics and Kristoffer Greenert, department head, antennas and electromagnetics 

"Synthesis and Characterization of Quantum Defect Materials for Quantum Information Processing"

Co-Investigators: Nitin Samarth, associate director 2DCC-MIP, characterization lead and George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Department Head; Luke Lyle, assistant research professor of materials science and engineering; and David Snyder, adjunct professor of chemical engineering 

"Seed grants have been an ongoing priority for MRI and this new round of grants demonstrates our commitment to diverse teams attacking important problems," Mike Hickner, associate director of MRI, co-director of CIMP-3D, and professor of materials science and engineering, said. "We are excited to see what new programs can be built upon these seeds and we look forward to fruitful collaborations across the wider Penn State." 


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