Materials Science Teams Score Honors

Three interdisciplinary teams won honors at the Materials Science & Technology 2011 conference for their photographic images of a variety of natural and manufactured phenomena taken using electron and atomic force microscopes.  The posters were presented at the American Ceramic Societyʼs Ceramographic Exhibit and Competition sponsored by the ACerS Basic Science Division. The Columbus, OH conference attracted approximately 3,500 attendees, including 900 graduate and undergraduate students.

The competition is an annual poster exhibit promoting the use of microscopy and microanalysis as tools in the scientific investigation of ceramic materials.

Each of the winning teams from UConn included students and faculty from the Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) program, part of the Department of Chemical, Materials & Biomolecular Engineering.

Doctoral students Vincent Palumbo (MSE) and John Doyle (Marine Sciences), along with Dr. J. Evan Ward (Marine Sciences) and associate professor Dr. Bryan Huey (MSE), won the Roland B. Snow Best of Show Award, also receiving 1st place in the Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) category. Their poster depicted four crisp images of nano and microscale structures that resemble archaeological ruins.  In fact, the features are naturally occurring diatoms, along with agglomerations of man-made TiO2 nanoparticles such as those used in consumer products ranging from sunscreen to toothpaste to Oreo cookie filling.  Diatoms are sea-dwelling phytoplankton distinguished by their silica shell; diatom communities are one indicator of environmental health and water quality.  The winning poster will appear in an upcoming issue of the Bulletin of the American Ceramic Society.  The research reflects interdisciplinary work being conducted in Dr. Huey’s NanoMeasurements lab in collaboration with Dr. Wardʼs group and Roger Ristau, an electron microscopy expert who oversees the TEM and SEM labs in the Institute of Materials Science (IMS).  The group is investigating the influence of nanoparticles in the environment, particularly how they enter the aquatic and possibly human food chains.

A second UCONN team won 1st place in the Scanning Probe Microscopy category for its image of never-before-seen details of interfaces found at domain boundaries in the technically important field of multiferroic thin films. This work was based on images acquired by undergraduate student Joseph Desmarais (MSE) as part of a work-study project in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratory. Partnering with him were doctoral student Linghan Ye (MSE), Jon Ihlefeld of Sandia National Laboratory, and Dr. Huey.  The image recently appeared in the journal Applied Physics Letters, and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

A third poster, prepared by Palumbo and fellow doctoral student Arif Mubarok, assistant professor Dr. Rainer Hebert (MSE) and Dr. Huey, received 3rd place in the SEM category.  Their poster included a single photo of a 6 μm particle found at the fracture surface of a steel specimen.  One micrometer (μm) is one-millionth of a meter in size, about the scale of a single cell. The research pertains to the mechanical properties of steel that will be used in the construction of the new World Trade Center towers, as part of a Department of Homeland Security-sponsored project on blast resistance structures.

Published: November 15, 2011