Eight Win Dean’s Catalyst Awards


Shock wave therapy, methods for hydrogen storage, MRI contrast agents and the efficiency of solar cells are all topics that will be studied in College of Engineering labs this year as a result of the Dean’s Catalyst Awards grant program.  In the program’s third year, four teams of interdisciplinary researchers will receive grants to work on their innovative projects.

The awards, established by Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen in 2007, encourages the development of novel research that could lead to new advances in various fields of engineering. All College of Engineering full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty may apply for Dean’s Catalyst Awards. Applications are reviewed by a faculty committee and are evaluated on innovation and their potential for receiving additional external funding in the future for their efforts.

The 2009 Catalyst Award winners are:

Associate Professor Robin Cleveland (ME) and Assistant Professor Elise Morgan (ME) will focus on the effects of shock wave therapy (SWT) on non-union bone fractures, a condition where bone’s natural repair process of stops. While past research has been conducted using SWT in the treatment of soft tissue pain, recent in vitro and in vivo studies have shown evidence for the potential of SWT to treat non-union fractures. The researchers’ goal is to understand the physical means that may respond to SWT in bone fractures.

Professor Ted Moustakas (ECE), along with Assistant Professor Roberto Paiella (ECE), will develop an intermediate-band solar cell concept to attempt to increase efficiency of the cells by more than 30 percent. Using indium gallium nitride, the researchers will attempt to maximize absorption of electrons below allowable limits, or below-bandgap, within a confined space. Moustakas and Paiella further propose to use patterned silver nano-particles located on the device’s surface to demonstrate that the direct light can lead to a greatly enhanced absorption path.

Professor Vinod Sarin (ME) and Associate Professor Srikanth Gopalan (ME) will research different methods of storing hydrogen. While recent research has suggested metal-diboride nanotubes as successful storage devices, the pair’s approach will be to develop a TiB2 nano-whiskers hydrogen storage system, which will help break down the barrier of the commercialization of fuels cells for transportation applications.

Associate Professor Xin Zhang (ME) and Stephan Anderson, a radiologist at the School of Medicine, propose to develop a new MRI contrast agent that would advance the study of biological systems. The researchers hope to achieve concurrent imaging of multiple targets or the tracking of multiple cells. The agent would allow for a system similar to optical imaging, facilitating an in-depth look at larger biological systems, such as humans, and more complex deep tissue structures.