PITA Fiscal Year 2018 Projects

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY

Study of the Spreadability and Printability of Hydride-Dehydride (HDH) Ti-6Al-4V Powders in Electron Beam Melting Process
PI: Anthony Rollett
Co-PI(s): Sneha Prabha, Jack Beuth
University: Carnegie Mellon University

Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing has attracted interest from industry and academia in the past few years. Among direct metal 3D printing processes, powder based processes are an important category that utilizes powder as a feedstock material. Metal powder is one of the contributors to the final cost of the component. Hydride-Dehydride (HDH) powders are approximately 50% cheaper than the regular gas atomized powders that are spherical in shape. However, HDH powders are non-spherical and require the development of spreading and deposition parameters that are different from the parameters developed by the machine manufacturer for atomized powders.

The goal of the proposed project is to develop methods to use the HDH powders in electron beam melting (EBM) process. Specifically, spreading and deposition parameters will be developed followed by the study of as-built porosity and surface roughness. In addition, powder flow characteristics will also be studied and the part quality will be compared against the parts built using spherical powders. Though, the methods will be developed for Titanium powders (Ti-6Al-4V) in EBM, the general technique can be extended to other materials and other beam based powder bed process such as selective laser melting.

This project utilizes effective collaboration between CMU and Ametek Powders to enable the use of HDH powders in powder bed additive manufacturing processes. This capability will eventually result in reducing the cost of feedstock powders by approximately 50% which is beneficial to both the powder companies and the end users of powder bed processes. Along with Ametek, other powder manufacturing companies in PA such as ATI Powder Metals Research, Carpenter Powder Products, and Arconic will also benefit by manufacturing cheaper powders that can be used in AM. Graduate students involved in the project will gain AM expertise that is valuable to the industries mentioned above.

A topology optimized composite material for more efficient structures and infrastructure
PI: Paolo Bocchini and Clay Naito
Co-PI(s): John Fox
University: Lehigh University
 
The objective of the project is to develop a new composite material and a new structural design approach specifically tailored to this new material, which can be used for high-performance components in bridges and buildings, for hazard mitigation, cost efficiency, and environmental impact reduction.
The material consists of a cementitious matrix formed via an innovative binder jet printing process, and a polymeric reinforcement that is then embedded into the matrix through impregnation. The 3D printing allows complete versatility on the shape of matrix and voids that will be filled by reinforcement. Preliminary work performed by Lehigh University in collaboration with Buzzi Unicem demonstrates that this composite material is suitable for structural and architectural applications. It was chosen to pursue a composite based on concrete chemistry because reinforced concrete elements represent a ubiquitous and effective form of construction that is well understood by designers and builders.
The new design approach will leverage the unprecedented versatility offered by the new composite and its construction technique, for the overall shape of the structural member and for the shape of the reinforcement. In particular, it will leverage Topology Optimization (TO), which a numerical method used in design to find the best shape of an object. In recent years, TO approaches for structural and architectural applications have clearly illustrated that nonlinear surfaces and reinforcement geometries are more efficient in providing strength and stiffness. However, numerically optimized shapes are often drastically modified to meet constructability constraints, as advancements in numerical design have outpaced advancements in technologies able to build these optimized shapes. Herein, the Lehigh led academic-industry collaboration aims to close the gap between TO and built objects. The team will advance understanding and development of this novel composite material that enables the manufacturing of numerically optimized shapes.
 
 
Development of Sustainable Polymers for Additive Manufacturing Phase 2: Polymer Nanocomposite-Based SLS Powders
PI: Raymond A. Pearson
University: Lehigh University
 
The goal of this project is to develop sustainable polymer nanocomposites for SLS printing.  In Phase 1, the processing behavior and mechanical properties of polyamide 11 (a biopolymer) was compared to  polyamide 12 (a petroleum-based polymer). Although polyamide 11 (Rislan resin from Arkema) must be processed at higher temperatures, the mechanical properties (notably ductility) can exceed those of polyamide 12. Some preliminary work with polyamide 11 filled with silica nanoparticles is in progress (mixing powders at Zzyzx Polymers).  The next phase of the project is to systematically change the surface of the silica nanoparticles to improve processing and mechanical behavior (specifically fracture toughness) of polyamide 11 nanocomposites.

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

Computational Methods for Enterprise-wide Optimization under Uncertainty
PI: Ignacio Grossman
University: Carnegie Mellon University

Our main vision has been to develop advanced computational models and solution methods for Enterprise-wide Optimization (EWO) for process industries. A major challenge that is involved in EWO is the integrated and coordinated decision-making across the various functions in a company (purchasing, manufacturing, distribution, sales), across various geographically distributed organizations, and across various levels of time scales (strategic, tactical and operational). A major focus of the proposed PITA project, which is a collaboration with EQT, is the optimization of infrastructure investment, operations and water management of shale gas supply chains accounting for uncertainty in the decline curves, and gas demand and prices.

The funding requested for 2018 PITA, $25,000, is for the period January 1, 2018-December, 31, 2018. Funding is requested for the PhD. student Can Li who will be developing stochastic programming methods to anticipate the effect of uncertainties in decline curves, and gas demand and prices. Can will work closely with Dr. Markus Drouven from EQT to gather data to develop a case study that will be used to test the proposed optimization models in the Marcellus Shale play.

The special interest group EWO has been created with the membership of 12 companies: ABB, Air Liquide, Aurubis, Braskem, Dow Chemical, EQT, ExxonMobil, P&G, Petrobras, Praxair, SK-Innovation and Total. Since these companies are members of the Center for Advanced Process Decision-making (CAPD http://capd.cheme.cmu.edu, in addition to the basic annual membership of $20,000, they pay a fee of $13,500 per year for the EWO project (http://egon.cheme.cmu.edu/ewo/). With Dow we have set up special projects that provide full support for graduate students. We conduct semi-annual EWO meetings in which the progress of the case studies are reported, and where industrial representatives give presentations. We are currently undertaking 13 case studies related to shale gas, petroleum processing, and electric power.

Soft Magnetic Materials Development for Energy Applications
PI: Michael McHenry
Co-PI(s): Paul Ohodnicki
University: Carnegie Mellon University

Michael E. McHenry-PI, and Paul R. Ohodnicki-co-I, propose work leveraging funding from Carpenter Technology (PA), the National Energy Technology Lab (NETL) (PA) and Carnegie Mellon Univ. (CMU) to benchmark soft magnetic magnetic materials (SMMs) in rotating machinery with increased energy efficiency. Co- and FeNi-based metal amorphous nanocomposite (MANC) alloys are being studied with DOE SunLamp funding (CMU subcontractor to NETL). A CMU led DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) program targets Co- and FeNi-based MANCs for high-speed motors (HSMs). Frequency limitations with silicon-steels, Carpenter FeCo Hiperco, and other conventionally cast and rolled alloys, are typically < 400 Hz. MANCs enable higher speed motors (magnetic switching frequencies) and higher power densities. Worldwide studies cite > 50% of the world’s power to pass through motors, making increased motor efficiency attractive for sustainable energy demands. Three project aims are: (1) with PITA funding for a CMU MSE grad student, to benchmark MANCs against crystalline materials in finite element analysis (FEA) of motor designs; (2) with Carpenter support of a 2nd CMU MSE grad student to explore MANC glass former modifications to improve mechanical properties and formability in shapes needed in novel motor designs; (3) with Year 3 SunLamp funding for CMU PhD student, Natan Aronhime, to benchmark economics of Co-based vs. FeNi-based MANCs for which CMU has IP on both. CMU will interact with Carpenter through Sam Kernion, Manager Alloy Design & R&D, a 2012 McHenry group Ph.d. Yuval Krimer, who will receive a 2018 CMU M.S. degree in MSE, will intern the summer of 2018 at Carpenter and if accepted return to complete a Ph beginning Fall 2018. The second PITA-funded CMU student will be identified to also begin in Fall 2018. CMU will interface with NETL through Paul Ohodnicki, Staff Scientist and CMU Adjunct Professor, a 2008 McHenry group PhD.

Electrolyte Design through Physics-Driven Machine Learning
PI: Venkat Viswanathan
Co-PI(s): Jay Whitacre
University: Carnegie Mellon University

The aim of the proposed project is to enable a rational design approach for electrolytes via a combination of physics-driven models that are coupled with large datasets and machine learning. The design of an electrolyte for properties such as conductivity, voltage stability depends on a large number of properties. While physics-driven models can identify simple descriptors, these tend to be inadequate for actual material selection. The advent of big data and machine learning allows the opportunity to couple physics-driven descriptor selection for machine learning. This effort will leverage our current capabilities around SEED, System for Electrolyte Exploration and Discovery, which contains an exhaustive dataset on liquid electrolytes. In partnership with Citrine Informatics, we aim to leverage the Citrination platform to carry out advanced electrolyte discovery.

Mitigating Cracking of Steel Slabs
PI: Bryan Webler
University: Carnegie Mellon University

The 3rd Generation of Advanced High Strength Steels (AHSS) are currently under development for advanced lightweight vehicle applications. Before they can see wider adoption, a cracking problem in semi-finished slabs must be solved. This cracking problem results in constrained operations at steel production facilities and high scrap rates, i.e. wasted money and energy. Initial industrial observations suggest that steel microstructure produced after casting determines slab cracking susceptibility. Microstructure evolution in these steels is complicated by their high levels of alloying elements. In this project, we will perform heat treatments on controlled-composition steels to examine conditions under which potentially susceptible microstructures develop. We will then test the mechanical performance of steels with various microstructures via Charpy impact testing. Completing these studies will link steel composition, processing, and properties in the as-cast condition. Developing these links will enable strategies to mitigate detrimental microstructures and reduce cracking of AHSS slabs.

 
Novel Coolants for Large-Scale Rapid Freezing of Biologics
PI: Dr. James T. Hsu
Co-PI(s): Dr. Lori Herz
University: Lehigh University
 
Production of biologics is an expensive process, and to optimize capacity use, bulk protein solution is often produced in manufacturing campaigns. It is converted into drug product based on market demand and therefore may have to be stored for relative long periods. To decouple the bulk drug product, bulk is often stored frozen.
 
Transport of frozen bulk product between sites offers several advantages of transport in the liquid state (2-8 C). Maintaining 2-8 C requires accurate control systems to ensure that a product does not get too cold and partially freeze. A liquid shipment also subjects protein to greater degrees of agitation stress at air-liquid interfaces. So a successful bulk storage program will enhance bioprocess capacity use and reduce overall cost of production.  However, success requires careful consideration of biophysical and engineering principles in development of a frozen-storage operation and its impact on the product to be frozen.
Publicly available information suggests that nearly half of commercial biotherapeutics are stored frozen.  Given the high value of product being processed in the freezing operation, it is surprising that there is little scientific guidance available for practitioners.  Literature on the impact of protein freezing is limited to very small-scale experiments that, although useful, do not address complications created by the relatively large heat and mass transfer dimensions of practical large-scale systems.
 
The objective of this project is to explore the basics of freezing biologics relevant to large-scale processes, and critically to examine some technologies and systems available to provide guidance on rational development of this unit operation, also to develop the novel coolants for rapid freezing of the biologics. 
 
 
Study of Processing Pennsylvania Anthracite for Mercury Removal in Flue Gas
PI: Jonas Baltrusaitis
Co-PI(s): Carlos Romero
University: Lehigh University

Activated carbon is a sorbent material widely used for removal of harmful pollutants in gases and liquids.  One application that has gained increased attention is the application of activated carbon for mercury removal from coal-fired power plant flue gas.  Mercury is a toxic metal targeted for emissions control, due to its toxicity, high volatility and potential for bioaccumulation.  The market for activated carbon for mercury emissions compliance is large and active.  Activated carbon can be prepared from different raw materials that include coal and biomass.  With a recent decline in coal markets, anthracite coal producers have been exploring alternative market opportunities for their coal production.  Blaschak Coal Corporation mines Pennsylvania anthracite coal and is actively searching avenues and new markets for its products.  Blaschak has partnered on a project with Lehigh University and the University of Kentucky that aims at characterizing the full range of anthracite sources it mines at various mine sites and from multiple coal veins.  A review of anthracites have indicated the potential of this coal rank to be an efficient sorbent material, comparable to commercially activated carbon from other raw materials.  Blaschak desires to use these characterization results as the basis for selection of raw anthracite to be used for activated carbon preparation.  Lehigh University and Blaschak intend to carry out a project under Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance’s (PITA’s) funding to investigate a methodology for synthesis of anthracite for mercury capture in flue gas, in a way that is competitive with commercially available products.  Results from this study will be presented in terms of the sorption characteristics and mercury capture efficiency of the activated anthracite-based carbon in comparison to a benchmark product commonly used by coal-fired power plants.  A report will be prepared summarizing the methods used in the study, the test results and a discussion on the assessment and potential of an activated anthracite for mercury capture applications in flue gas.
 
 
Unique valorization of recovered pollutant phosphorus for 'green' energy materials
PI: Mark A. Snyder
Co-PI(s): Arup SenGupta
University: Lehigh University
 
The ability to address the problem of pollution nutrient (e.g., phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N)) leakage into surface and ground waters requires efforts to mitigate the effects of the build-up of legacy nutrients. Despite strategies for removal and recovery of P and N nutrients, their common recycle in the form of land-applied fertilizers only leads to a self-propagative build-up of legacy nutrient pollutants. This problem demands a new strategy for recycling nutrients in the form of non-fertilizer products so as to enable permanent removal of pollutant nutrients from the fertilization/fertigation cycle. This PITA project brings together a team of faculty and PA-based industrial experts (ESSRE, Purolite) to establish the proof-of-principle for how recovered P nutrients can be valorized in the form of specialty ‘green’ energy materials, namely phosphated zeolites (P-ZSM-5). These materials hold specific promise as efficient fluidized catalytic cracking (FCC) catalysts, where the addition of phosphate has been shown to improve activity, stability, and selectivity for conversion of heavy distillates into lighter gasoline, diesel, etc. Moreover, these materials have shown promise for conversion of alternative renewable feedstocks (e.g., biomass) into the same high-value chemicals or liquid fuels derived commonly from petroleum sources. This project will leverage P nutrients, separated from concentrated wastewaters by established ion exchange technologies (HIX-Nano), as a source for the synthesis of ‘green’ P-ZSM-5 catalysts. Identification of critical synthesis-structure-function relations governing the viability of recovered/recycled (rather than pure) P sources for P-ZSM-5 will help establish this ‘green’ energy material as a first example of a non-fertilizer valorization target. This work should subsequently stimulate future diversification of the target materials palette (e.g., battery materials) for non-fertilizer P as well as N pollution nutrient recycle.
 
 
Polymer composites for wear components in industrial pumps and compressors
PI: Brandon Krick
University: Lehigh University
 
The proposed research focuses on ultralow wear, fluoropolymer-based composites for low friction, sliding applications. Fluoropolymers are chemically inert and have the lowest friction coefficient of any bulk polymer (as low as 0.05), but have high wear rates. The wear rate of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) can be reduced by four or more orders of magnitude when composited with organic and inorganic materials through novel processing techniques. This renders them potentially viable for commercial applications where wear resistance, low friction and chemical inertness (in reactive chemical environments) is needed. One major application is in wear components of compressors and pumps in industrial markets. This includes pump wear rings, rod and packing rings, piston rings and other bearings, bushings and seals in markets such as hydrocarbon processing (e.g. oil and gas refinement), water desalination and industrial gas/specialty chemical suppliers. The goal of this project is to take PTFE-based composite materials (currently studied in the academic setting at Lehigh) and extend them to applications in industrial pump and compressor components (currently being served by Boulden Company, Inc, a Pennsylvania company). This will require the transition from fundamentally motivated academic studies (which focus on materials in a laboratory setting) to real-world application environments and conditions. The partnership with the Lehigh University Tribology Laboratory and Boulden Company, Inc. is a natural step to applying a breadth of fundamental knowledge (developed at Lehigh) to industrial applications where they can realize environmental and economic impacts. Research efforts to develop and optimize the next generation polymer composite system for industrial applications will include: evaluating effects of fiber orientation and polymer processing on wear, determining abrasion resistance of these composites, and developing a model to predict thermal expansion of these composite materials. These findings will be used to assess scale -up and commercialization potential of these composites.
 
 
Effects of Temperature Cycles on Laterally Loaded Energy Piles
PI: Muhannad Suleiman
University: Lehigh University
 
The goal of this project is to understand the effects of temperature changes and cycles on the soil-structure interaction (SSI) of laterally loaded energy piles installed in clayey soils. The use of thermal foundations (energy piles) has been growing to achieve the requirements of sustainable codes in different countries. Energy piles have an important advantage due to their dual capability of supporting structural loads and exchanging heat with the ground for heating and cooling of buildings and snow melting of bridges. During operation, the ground source heat pump (GSHP) connected to energy piles operates in cycles where it functions for a period of time (running time) then stops for another period of time (stoppage time). This intermittent operation subjects the piles and surrounding soil to temperature changes and cycles. If the soil temperature during stoppage time does not return to the original ground temperature, the soil will experience a cumulative increase of temperature with number of cycles. When installed in clays, this leads to accumulation of pore water pressure and reduction of soil shear strength and stiffness within the zone that affects the SSI of energy piles. There have been several funded studies in the U.S. and abroad on energy piles, focusing on understanding their SSI behavior when subjected to vertical (or axial) loading. However, the behavior of laterally loaded energy piles has not been investigated. Accordingly, the goal of this research is to conduct a preliminary investigation on the behavior of energy piles subjected to lateral loading. This research will focus on performing preliminary small-scale lateral load tests on energy piles subjected to temperature changes.

FACILITIES

Chemotopographic Control of Adhesion in Complex Fluids
PI: Christopher Bettinger
University: Carnegie Mellon University

High-performance adhesives that are effective in fluids have utility as materials for medicine, consumer projects, and industrial applications. To date, the design and implementation of materials that provide robust adhesion in aqueous or oily environments has been elusive. Various elaborations of bioinspired approaches have been implemented to overcome this formidable technical barrier. One such approach is to functionalize materials with catechol groups, chemical motifs in proteins that are used by organisms to adhere to inorganic surfaces in marine environments, for example. Catechols in these specialized natural proteins increase the interfacial adhesion to many substrate materials by forming coordination bonds, hydrogen bonds, and aromatic interactions. PROBLEM: To date, the design of synthetic catechol-bearing adhesives has been moderately successful, but many technology gaps remain. Three key problems with existing catechol-bearing adhesives: 1) the areal density of adhesive catechols is low (<10 nmol/cm^2); 2) the adhesive polymers delaminate from substrates (when used as a thin film) or undergo cohesive failure (when used as a bulk material); 3) interfacial chemical bonding is reduced in rough surfaces. INNOVATION: We have recently discovered a novel technique to synthesize and transfer print catechol-bearing nanomembrane adhesives to virtually any polymer substrate. These adhesives, termed polydopamine nanomembranes, contain catechols at areal densities of ~26 nmol/cm^2. Furthermore, polydopamine nanomembranes can be covalently bonded to many industrial polymers, therefore reducing the risk of delamination of the functional adhesive film from bulk substrates. APPROACH: In this project, we propose a partnership with nanoGriptech, a Pittsburgh-based company founded by a CMU professor that fabricates microstructured adhesive polymers for use in consumer products and industrial applications. Microstructured adhesives will be combined with polydopamine nanomembranes to address challenges with surface roughness. Specifically, we will integrate polydopamine nanomembranes with microstructured substrates to create a new class of high-performance adhesive that is effective in both aqueous and oily environments.

Structural-Fire Testing of Restrained Steel Composite Floor Assemblies
PI: Spencer Quiel
University: Lehigh University
 
Recent reports from a variety of federal agencies and research organizations have recommended the increased use of performance-based provisions for the design of structures to resist unwanted fire rather than prescriptive methods, which are the current state-of-practice in the US.  Performance-based methods examine the changes in demand and capacity that occur as a structural member is heated - these methods also consider the effects of the member's connection to the surrounding structure.  Performance-based methods can be used to evaluate the ability of structural systems to survive fire until burnout by using realistic fire temperature time histories that include a decay phase. The PI is currently engaged in a 4-year AISC-funded research project to develop performance-based methods to design and evaluate steel composite floor systems for fire exposure.  This PITA project will expand the scope of that project by conducting two large-scale tests of steel composite floor assemblies in the modular structural testing furnace at the ATLSS Laboratory.  The focus of these tests is the influence of axial and rotational restraint on the response of the fire-exposed assembly.  Restraint will be provided both to the steel beam via realistic connections and to the slab edges near the beam ends via clamping.  The two specimens will be structurally similar, but one will be designed without passive fire protection while the other will be coated with spray-applied fire resistive materials (SFRM) in accordance with current code criteria.  This test data will be invaluable for validating both high-fidelity computational models as well as analytical approaches that are more conducive to design.  This project contributes to the current national momentum toward further developments in structural-fire engineering, which is being led by the ASCE Fire Protection Committee (in which the PI is an active participant) and the National Fire Research Laboratory (NFRL) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The PI will collaborate with NIST-NFRL researchers as well as practicing engineers at Simpson, Gumpertz, & Heger (SGH) in order to enhance the impact of the proposed research.  The PI will be collaborating with a Pennsylvania company specializing in steel sales and fabrication for specimen donations and to identify avenues to commercialize the outcomes of this research.

HAZARD MITIGATION AND DISASTER RECOVERY

Automated Aerial Sensor Data Analysis for Detection of Abandoned Oil Extraction Wells
PI: Burcu Akinci
Co-PI(s): Silvio Maeta
University: Carnegie Mellon University

The Pennsylvania oil boom launched the american commercial oil industry when the first well was drilled in 1859 near Oil Creek,Venango County. Pennsylvania was one of the first states to have oil exploration fields in the country, starting around 1860’s until the early 1900’s. Now, most of those oil exploration fields are covered by dense forests and the abandoned wells present an environmental and societal hazard since they can leak gas and/or they can collapse, causing damage to property and endangering people. To eliminate such hazards, it is important to identify all of the wells in the region and seal them. However, this is a challenging task given the absence of records that show where those wells were drilled and the absence of visual marks that indicate the location of those wells. Any indication of man-made structures are mostly gone after one century. To address this problem, we propose to team up with a NETL team and utilize data from aerial lidar surveys to develop an automated processing approach to detect abandoned wells. Other sources of information (e.g. magnetic field variations caused by buried metal pipes, old pictures of Oil Creek, GPS position of already identified wells) will be combined to improve detection accuracy. This project will evaluate different automated machine learning and deep learning approaches to assess their performance and feasibility in detecting abandoned wells. We will conduct a detailed field case study with NETL in which we will process 3D imagery data and generate a list of candidate locations for abandoned wells. We will verify if the detected well candidates are valid against existing ground truth data and measure the confidence level. Our team is well equipped to perform this research bringing knowledge on aerial robots, 3D imaging and data analytics applied to civil engineering problems. Teaming up with NETL will provide an unprecedented access to data and resources to perform a detailed case study at Oil Creek.

Systems-level Development of a Snake-like Robot with Construction, Inspection, Aerospace, and Disaster Recovery Applications
PI: Subhrajit Bhattacharya
University: Lehigh University
 
As the facility infrastructure in the United States ages there is a continual need to upgrade safety, electrical, and telecommunication systems. Impossible Incorporated LLC, a PA Keystone Innovation Zone company, has developed a patent pending 1 inch diameter snake-like robot which is able to run wires without the mess. It will be inserted through an outlet-sized hole then teleoperated inside the wall to the destination drilling holes in studs and joists along the way. Then it rewinds through the wall pulling the wires behind. Other applications include locating trapped victims following natural disasters, inspection of critical infrastructure and hazardous areas, and as the next generation of robot arms for space exploration. The goal of this project is to use the expertise of Professor Subhrajit Bhattacharya’s research group at Lehigh University to address systems-level development. Path planning algorithms that direct the robot’s links to avoid obstacles within the walls will be developed. Randomized exploration and search in the robot’s high-dimensional configuration space using algorithms such as Rapidly-exploring Random Trees (RRT*) and Probabilistic Roadmaps (PRMs) will be used for efficient path planning. Ad hoc algorithms such as “follow the leader” -- in which the snake-like robot’s body traces the path history of the robot’s head -- will also be implemented and evaluated.
A virtual environment and model of the robot will be created to test algorithms and demonstrate the system’s to potential customers. Feedback from wall mapping systems will be integrated into the simulations to create a user interface displaying in-wall hazards.
Through this industry/university partnership formed by the PITA program students will be able to learn the technical entrepreneurship process while using their research to solve industry problems. The results of this project will allow Impossible Incorporated LLC to launch the robot and revolutionize how upgrades in existing structures are performed.
 
 
Experimental Evaluation of a Prototype Precast Concrete Insulated Wall System Under Blast Loading
PI: Clay Naito
Co-PI(s): Spencer Quiel
University: Lehigh University
 
The scope of the proposed work includes dynamic experimental testing of an innovative precast concrete insulated wall system. These wall systems are often the first line of defense in facilities vulnerable to explosive threats. In addition to providing resistance to blast loading, a layer of insulation sandwiched between concrete wythes provides exceptional thermal resistance, thus increasing the energy efficiency for a building envelope. A proprietary, polymer-based shear tie system is used to provide composite action in the panel while eliminating any localized areas of thermal bridging, which would decrease the overall thermal efficiency. The wall system was developed through an NSF-funded study using state-of-the-art performance-based design practices, and the system was detailed to optimize both structural and thermal efficiency. The NSF study is moving toward commercialization with the help of a Pennsylvania company, ALP Supply, and the NSF GOALI program. ALP Supply is a developer and supplier of precast products and may license the technology once the research effort is completed.
Further research is needed to properly quantify the mechanics of the new wall system under dynamic loading. This project will investigate the behavior of the insulation and shear ties under high loading rates, validate the use of appropriate dynamic increase factors for simplified single-degree-of-freedom design methods, and provide updated design recommendations to comply with antiterrorism and petrochemical damage definitions and structural performance levels. Experimental dynamic testing will be performed on the wall system using a shock tube testing facility located in York, PA. Several panel specimens will be constructed, each strategically designed for varying levels of blast design response criteria. The global response of each specimen, including midspan deformation and reaction loads in addition to the slip generated between the concrete wythes, will be recorded using strategically placed instrumentation. The outcomes of the proposed work will foster improved design and construction techniques to provide safe and economic building envelopes for high risk facilities.
 
 
Small-Scale Structural Dynamic Testing Facility for Education, Training, and Research on the Effects of Natural Hazards on the Civil Infrastructure
PI: James Ricles
Co-PI(s): Spencer Quiel
University: Lehigh University
 
A small-scale structural dynamic testing laboratory is essential for enhancing graduate and undergraduate structural engineering education on the effects of natural hazards mitigation on civil infrastructure and developing mitigation measures to promote resiliency of this infrastructure. This laboratory would provide hands-on laboratory exercises, research training, and enable the development and validation of innovative testing methods and algorithms. The proposed project is a continuation of a previously awarded PITA project to develop such a small-scale testing facility which will include a shake table, also called a seismic simulator, two dynamic servo-hydraulic actuators, servo-hydraulic controller, and the hydraulic power supply system. The shake table, dynamic actuators, and servo hydraulic system will be acquired, while the existing real-time integrated control architecture and the servo-hydraulic controllers available at the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) Lehigh Real-Time Multi-Directional (RTMD) Experimental Facility (EF) housed in the Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS) Engineering Research Center will be used to drive and control the shake table and the actuators. The proposed facility will enable various types of testing to be performed on structural systems and components subjected to natural hazards, including extreme earthquake and wind loads. These tests include shake table testing for seismic simulation; and force/displacement controlled dynamic testing, hybrid simulation, and real-time hybrid simulation for both seismic and extreme wind loads. The reduced scale equipment will enable it to be conveniently arranged for use, making it economical, while also reducing congestion on the main laboratory floor.

MANUFACTURING

Cost-Competitive Mass Customization for Non-assembly Manufacturing
Environments in the Greater Pittsburgh Region
PI: Katie Whitefoot
Co-PI(s): Erica Fuchs
University: Carnegie Mellon University

Manufacturers are currently facing a challenge of balancing the potential of mass-customization to cater to diverse customers with the costs of increased product diversity in their production lines. While research on mass-customization in assembly-based manufacturing is prevalent, very few methods exist for non-assembly fabrication (e.g., forming, casting, drawing, additive manufacturing, etc.), which dominates many manufacturing activities in PA. The proposed research will generate new knowledge and methods to support non-assembly-based mass customization, and to characterize the impacts of product variety on production costs in these environments. The project will be conducted in collaboration with Kennametal, a company headquartered in PA that provides innovative custom and a large variety of standard metal cutting tools. The project will focus on a Kennametal plant located in the Greater Pittsburgh Region as a test-bed before expanding out to additional fabrication manufacturing facilities in PA.

PUBLIC HEALTH AND MEDICINE

Minimalist Electrodes for Suppressing Brain Tsunamis Through Noninvasive
Neurostimulation
PI: Pulkit Grover
Co-PI(s): Marlene Behrmann, Michael Tarr, Shawn Kelly
University: Carnegie Mellon University

The goal of the proposed work is to design and develop novel minimalist electrodes and electrode waveforms to noninvasively stimulate neurons in the human brain. In particular, our focus is on precise, reliable, and steerable patterns of noninvasive neurostimulation that can be used to suppress “Brain Tsunamis,” i.e., Cortical Spreading Depolarizations (CSDs). These waves of neural silencing occur during migraine attacks, as well as after brain injuries, and are known to cause secondary brain injuries. These disorders affect millions of Americans every year. Suppressing these waves is therefore a problem of immense societal importance.

The PIs have already developed the first automated algorithm for CSD detection, and presented it at the World Congress on Brain Injury. The proposed work takes it a step further and aims at suppressing these CSDs in an automated and noninvasive fashion. Our focus is on electrode design, while complementary work (from a cost-sharing partnership with UPMC enterprises) obtains algorithms for detection and suppression. Our goal here is to have electrodes that a) require minimal setup time (a few seconds, instead of the usual hour or more); b) have the smallest electrode count while having current waveforms that precisely stimulate only the target regions, and not elsewhere.

To accomplish this, the PIs will advance on and integrate three of their recent innovations: (i) Conductive sponge-based electrodes; (ii) “STIMULUS” technique for deep, focused non-invasive neurostimulation without stimulating shallow neurons; (iii) Precise and dynamic current stimulation-based CSD suppression. The obtained techniques and electrodes will be validated through ex-vivo and human experiments, demonstrating improvements in noninvasive stimulation accuracy over existing modalities. Precise, noninvasive, and long-term-use neurostimulation will find many applications beyond CSD suppression.

Non-invasive intracranial pressure monitoring in traumatic brain injury
PI: Jana Kainerstorfer
Co-PI(s): Pulkit Grover
University: Carnegie Mellon University

There is a critical clinical need for non-invasive intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring. Current methods are invasive and are only applicable to severe traumatic brain injury. Changes in cerebral autoregulation, which is the brain’s mechanism to maintain blood flow despite pressure changes, after brain injury may contribute to cerebral ischemia, elevated ICP, and/or cerebral hyperemia and may worsen patient outcome. In order to quantify autoregulation and manage patient’s health based on autoregulation and perfusion, ICP needs to be measured. Using a combination of optical methods, such as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS), in acute measurements of increased ICP in non-human primates, we found that hemodynamic changes (as measured with NIRS and DCS) can be used to monitor ICP as well as autoregulation non-invasively. The animal studies have been funded by AHA as well as NIH and are ongoing. Preliminary results demonstrated that cerebral hemodynamic changes as measured with NIRS in combination with a transfer function analysis approach can yield ICP traces and therefore feedback about the autoregulatory state of the brain. Translation of the methods into a clinical setting at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh was proposed in our CMLH submission, which is used as matching funding and is the core of the proposed work. The PITA proposal expands the proposed study by developing a combined NIRS/DCS system, which is an important step towards ease of use in the clinic. 

Clinical utility of circulating tumor cell detection in metastatic melanoma and renal cancer using microfluidic chip
PI: Yaling Liu
University: Lehigh University
 
This project aims to use wavy-herringbone (wavy-HB) structured microfluidic device to effectively and selectively capture and release circulating tumor cells (CTCs) directly from cancer patient blood samples by using immunoaffinity and magnetic force. As a member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, LVHN Cancer Institute offers groundbreaking, lifesaving cancer care and breakthrough clinical research in the Lehigh Valley. Currently microfluidic based CTC isolation methods are lack of both sensitivity and selectivity. There is a need to optimize these two important parameters to more accurately precast patient cancer stages, monitor therapeutic efficacy, and guide drug dosage. We have collaborated with LVHN Cancer Institute to preliminarily perform CTC isolation from renal cell carcinoma and melanoma patient blood by using our wavy-HB structured microfluidic device, and results are rather positive. Dr. Nair from LVHN would like to use our microfluidic device in a clinical trial for monitoring progression of tumor though CTCs measurement.  A total of 30 melanoma and 20 renal cancer phase 2 patients will be involved in this project and the clinical trial protocol has been approved by LVHN. The wavy-HB structure is demonstrated to have excellent turbulence generation ability in a microfluidic device, which dramatically enhances the possibility of particle/cell collision to device walls. Specific antibody coated magnetic particles (MPs) can be immobilized in the microfluidic device by a strong magnet, and after flowing samples, the MPs with captured cells can also be flushed out and collected, simply by releasing the device off the magnet. In this proposed project period, we plan to use the developed microfluidic device to optimize the sensitivity and selectivity on CTC isolation directly from patient blood, by choosing proper antibodies, tuning experiment setups, and optimizing wavy-HB structure fabrication methods. The project will also incorporate post-analyses of isolated CTCs, including CTC cluster formation, genetic sequencing, and patient treatment tracking. Once our microfluidic device is proved to have sensitivity and selectivity on CTC isolation directly from patient blood, this cost-effective tool can help LVHN Cancer Institute and the whole oncology research and pharmaceutical industry community in a lot of manners, such as CTCs concentration monitoring, therapeutic guidance and drug dosage choice, as well as further study of tumors, such as drug screening and tumor mutation studies.
 
 
Advanced Air Purification for Containerized Gases used in Healthcare Applications
PI: John T. Fox
University: Lehigh University
 
In this collaborative study, the research team will investigate a new type of adsorption media blend so as to purify air for IVF incubators. LifeAire Systems, LLC is a global leader in air purification systems designed specifically for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) laboratories.  While LifeAire has developed the industry standard for ambient air purification systems for IVF laboratories, the team aims to understand in collaboration with Lehigh University how to best purify containerized gases used in healthcare applications.  Through years of research, LifeAire has learned that IVF patient outcomes benefit substantially through improved air quality.  In order to continue advance IVF patient outcomes, air purification for containerized gases is a necessary advancement.
 
This project provides a collaborative effort between LifeAire Systems, LLC and Lehigh University, to understand how air filtration media can be optimized for healthcare air purification.  Through the blended approach of experimental results and application of theory we aim to improve air purification technologies.  These results will be used to strengthen proposals to other entities, as Lehigh and LifeAire Systems have one joint proposal pending with the NIH. This work may also lead to material development proposals to NSF for improved performance in healthcare air purification applications.
 
 
Replenishment decisions based on customer needs and supply chain performance
PI: Luis F. Zuluaga
Co-PI(s): Robert H. Storer
University: Lehigh University
 
Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc. (J&J) provides indispensable medical devices for the performance of surgeries, and the support of orthopedics, cardiovascular disease and other specialty treatments. In fact, for the past 25 years, J&J has been the leading company providing the most innovative medical devices to health providers. These products allow treating conditions like infection prevention, arrhythmias, orthopedics, vision care, as well as devices to help in wound closure, bio surgery, and general surgery. To support the tactical and strategic decisions in the area of Medical Devices made by J&J, the company is committed to the use of quantitative techniques that can be developed to efficiently adapt assets and processes to actual resources, innovations, and market conditions, as well as to ensure the safety and
satisfaction of its clients in the health space. The main objective of this project is to seed the use of such techniques by applying them to a very important decision making problem faced by J&J in their area of Medical Devices; namely, to decide the best way to provide eye surgeons with the intraocular lenses tools (IOL) needed to best perform vision surgery (typically cataract surgery) on a patient. Specifically, we plan to look at the following problems: 1) What fulfillment methodology (make to stock, consignment, or something different) is the best suited for the IOL implant problem when considering what is best for different regions/customers, as well as considering customers’ needs and downstream supply chain performance (e.g., transportation costs and production scheduling). 2) Whether it is the most sensible modeling decision to have different fulfillment systems for different types of customers (doctors) and/or products (IOL implants).
 
 
Developing Novel Therapeutics
PI: Neal G. Simon
Co-PI(s): Hannah Dailey
University: Lehigh University
 
Effective drug treatments for moderate-to-severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are a major unmet medical need. In the United States alone, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury each year. Massive costs are associated with these injuries--52,000 deaths, 275,000 hospitalizations, and some 1.4 million individuals treated and released from emergency departments, with an annual economic burden estimated at $76.5 billion.TBI is a contributing factor to a third of all injury-related deaths in the United States. And among military personnel, there are over 30,000 medically diagnosed cases of TBI annually. In the proposed project, a collaborative effort between Lehigh University and Azevan Pharmaceuticals, we will build on strongly positive initial findings generated with FY17 PITA support to further demonstrate the feasibility of a novel pharmacotherapeutic approach to the treatment of TBI.These promising data provide the initial demonstration that selective vasopressin receptor antagonism eliminates or significantly reduces the cognitive deficits, motor problems, cerebral edema, and altered connectivity within the brain that are defining features of TBI. The project is expected to generate results that can lead to additional sources of funding that support continued collaboration directed toward addressing this significant public health need.
 

TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Test Chip Design For Maximal Yield Learning
PI: Ronald Blanton
University: Carnegie Mellon University

The primary anticipated result of this proposed work is a silicon-based validated methodology for uncovering systematic defect mechanisms through a comprehensive methodology for the design, test and diagnosis of logic characterization vehicles (LCVs). Ideally, an LCV is a test chip composed of interconnected standard cells that is fabricated and tested in volume to validate the capability of a new technology to yield working, reliable logic circuits in actual customer products. Conventional approaches for LCV design do not ensure however that the resulting vehicle is both highly testable/diagnosable and simultaneously reflective of actual product designs. At present, the Carnegie Mellon methodology produces vehicles that are transparent to single, static failures, and reflect logic characteristics (i.e., cell-instance demographics) of customer designs. In this task, we will extend design reflection to include physical (layout) characteristics from cells to back-end interconnect, and transparency to multiple inter- and intra-block failures, and dynamic/parametric failures. Most importantly, we will work with industry to demonstrate the effectiveness of the methodologies with data measured and analyzed from manufactured CM-LCV designs. We are planning to fabricate and test a significant number of CM-LCV test chips using the most state-of-the-art technologies. Over 60 of our designs have already been fabricated in volume in state-of-the-art factories located around the world. Tester data measured from these chips will be analyzed using custom diagnosis software developed in this work. In order to gauge the capabilities of this new software we plant to compare the results (diagnostic accuracy, resolution, analysis time, etc.) with the capabilities of existing commercial tools. Our main industrial partner, PDF Solutions, has a significant footprint in Pennsylvania and success of the proposed work has the potential of growing the number of employees in the state and establishing other, PA-based companies in the semiconductor space.

Investigations of Fixed Charge at Semiconductor-Dielectric Interfaces for Power Electronics Applications
PI: Nick Strandwitz
University: Lehigh University
 
Power electronics are ubiquitous in modern electronics and are used for switching large voltages as well as conversion from AC to DC power.  The prototypical "power brick" attached to laptops is one of the more obvious manifestations of power electronics, that, if improved upon, could be embedded directly in the device or into the wall plug.  There is also significant room to improve the efficiency in power electronics and to decrease the characteristic size of power electronic devices.
 
In mid-2017, the Strandwitz group was approached by members of the start-up company iDEALSemi (located in Lehigh Valley) to discuss possible collaborations.  The iDEALSemi team's patented technology relies on a physical phenomenon in which the Strandwitz group has a large amount of expertise: fixed negative charge at aluminum oxide-silicon interfaces.  The overall purpose of our collaboration is to specifically:
 
1. Develop techniques to maximize fixed negative charge at aluminum oxide-silicon interfaces.
2. Understand the time- and thermal-stability of the fixed negative charge
3. Understand the effect of heat with applied bias (voltage stress)
 
iDEALSemi's technology relies upon this fixed negative charge, so understanding the charge and how to manipulate it is of utmost importance to their success. Broadly, thin films of aluminum oxide will be grown on silicon wafers in the Strandwitz group using atomic layer deposition (ALD), and the fixed charge will be quantified using electronic testing.  Also, test structures fabricated by iDEALSemi will be given to Lehigh researchers for aluminum oxide film growth and characterization.
 
 
Uncertainty Quantification and Reduction in Digital Image Correlation for Deep Learning Damage Diagnostic
PI: Shamim Pakzad
Co-PI(s): Martin Takac
University: Lehigh University
 
The emergence of dense instrumentation techniques and the ubiquitous nature of data in our society have provided an exciting set of opportunities and challenges in health monitoring of structures for the engineering community. Whereas only a few important structures were instrumented with sporadic sensor networks for a very high cost just 20 years ago, sensor networks today provide the opportunity to collect an enormous amount of data from any structure at low cost, which due to its nature is posing a BIGDATA problem. These datasets cannot be processed to extract their information using the existing analytical methods. The density of information in these datasets is relatively low, and uncertainty exists in data. When scaled, the existing methods would require memory and computational capacity that is very costly to apply. Furthermore, the existing methods of analysis rely on estimating carefully crafted features that often are limited in what they can do and are not automated in nature, thus not appropriate for a broad range of BIGDATA applications. The objective of this proposal is to develop a deep learning platform to analyze the temporally and spatially dense data collected from Digital Image Correlation (DIC) towards condition assessment and monitoring of the structural systems. DIC data will be used both to develop and calibrate damage identification network, and test the hypothesis that deep learning is a more computationally feasible approach for extracting damage data. The data will also be used to verify the sensitivity of the damage detection, localization, and severity estimation to uncertainty in DIC environment.  This project will be done in close collaboration with the Trilion Quality Systems and Engineering Services, Lehigh Faculty from Civil and Environmental and Industrial and Systems Engineering, and with the participation of at least one graduate student.
 
 
Medical Imaging and Analysis Enhancement Via PCIe-based HPEC and 3D Holography
PI: Sharon Xiaolei Huang
Co-PI(s): Jing (Tiffany) Li
University: Lehigh University
 
Multidisciplinary research to understand functional brain connections and circuits and their anatomical correlations continues to expand. The understanding of the biological underpinning of human behavior and experience, including cognitive states, emotion, perception, communication, and motor control, is expected to play a major role in future disease treatment, accelerated brain/machine interface development, and perhaps enhancements to sensory perception, memory, and learning. Advanced computational methods for analysis of brain data such as MRI/functional MRI images are needed.  These medical images are terabytes in size.  The processing of these computations in real time currently exceeds the capacity of today’s infrastructures.
 
The research on brain image analysis will benefit greatly from faster transfer speed for large amounts of data such as 3D or 4D MRI and fMRI volumes. Furthermore, in order for the developed algorithms and tools to be useful in medical research or clinical use, there is a need for better visualization systems and more intuitive user interfaces. This project combines Lehigh’s research in advanced analysis of anatomical and functional data of the brain with Accipiter Systems next generation compute and display infrastructure.  The three goals of this research are 1) port, for the first time, a medical application to Accipiter Systems’ PCIe-based HPEC with 3D holographic display infrastructure; 2) Test the functionality of the medical application running on the infrastructure; 3) Write a Final Report describing the project tasks, work performed, and the results observed.
 
With the completion of this critical project, further Federal Government and private funding is anticipated and further commercial product sales. The introduction of a new class of computer networking products has been proven to create considerable business opportunity and job creation in Pennsylvania. Successful computer networking companies are capable of creating 2,000 high tech jobs which support an additional 8,000 service industry jobs.

TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

Data-driven Design of Frequent Transit Service Network in Allegheny County
PI: Sean Qian
University: Carnegie Mellon University

Public transportation offers shared transportation service and plays a pivotal role in regional economic develop. Efficient, reliable and sustainable public transportation service would help boost local business, re-shape cities with environmentally friendly and dense land-use, and ultimately support smart and connected communities. The Port Authority of Allegheny County provides public transportation services in Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh via 97 bus routes, 2 light rail lines, and 2 inclined planes. Most of these routes are operated as a hub and spoke model, with the majority of the transit services connecting near downtown Pittsburgh. Recent decline in total ridership in the Allegheny County has negative impact on financing and planning transit services. This research will help the Port Authority of Allegheny County understand: 1) how future investment or reorganization of services towards routes with frequent service could affect its ridership; and 2) the spatial distribution of jobs, population and local business that transit riders can access through a Frequent Transit Service Network (FTSN). This PITA project will use high-resolution automatic passenger counters (APC) and autonomic vehicle location (AVL) technology, coupled with traffic data on roadway and Census data, to design a Frequent Transit Service Network (FTSN) for Allegheny County given a limited budget. The total estimated service cost, social benefits and financial benefits will be computed and provided for each frequent route selected for the FTSN. In addition, additional service routes will be suggested to connect those pairs of traffic analysis zones which do not currently provide a direct service route while being potentially critical for increasing total ridership. A prototype web application will be developed to visualize the recommended FTS in details.

Life-Cycle Optimal Risk-Based Management of Conventional Carbon Steel and Maintenance-Free Steel Bridges
PI: Dan M. Frangopol
University: Lehigh University
 
Life-cycle performance, safety, reliability, and risk of civil infrastructure systems have become emergent issues in recent years owing to the infrastructure crisis and sustainability issues. Management of aging civil infrastructure, such as highway bridges,  involves significant expenditures, and at a time of constrained public resources, requires difficult decisions to establish priorities for maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement. Dealing with uncertainties is an inevitable part of the management process. Decisions regarding requirements for design, continued service, rehabilitation, or replacement must balance conflicting requirements such as cost and performance. This can only be achieved through proper integrated optimal risk management planning in a life-cycle comprehensive framework. The ideal time to consider life-cycle costs is during the design phase of a project, when multiple factors, for example,  the materials chosen, can have a pronounced effect on how a structure performs over its service life. Accordingly, in this research, an integrated optimal risk management planning in a life-cycle context is proposed for steel bridges constructed with conventional carbon steel or maintenance-free steel.
 
Outcomes of this project on life-cycle optimal risk-based management where consequences of non-satisfactory performance are considered, include (a) integrate the effects of risk into life-cycle management activities of steel bridges including design, maintenance and repair, (b) analyze the effects of risk on life-cycle performance of steel bridges with and without  corrosion resistant steel, and (c) quantify the life-cycle savings obtained by the adoption of maintenance-free steel. These  outcomes are relevant to the Nation’s steel bridge  and in particular should provide economic and social benefits to Pennsylvania where steel bridges represent the majority of the total number of highway bridges. Companies such as ArcelorMittal will benefit from this project by using a novel model that includes life-cycle risk-based management approach to assess the true life-cycle costs of maintenance-free steel bridges.
 
 
Manufacturability of Steel Orthotropic Bridge Decks (Phase 2)
PI: Ian Hodgson
University: Lehigh University
 
Steel orthotropic bridge decks (SOBD) are believed to be the only deck system which is capable of achieving a 100 year design life. These decks can be used for both new construction and for redecking applications. The SOBD typically comprises bent closed-shape ribs which are welded to a thick steel deck plate and span between floor beams. A critical design parameters for SOBDs is the effect of repeated loading (fatigue loading) from heavy truck traffic. Due to the complex fabrication that is required, it has been difficult for domestic fabricators to produce these decks economically. Additionally, there is a lack of standardization of the details.
The goal of this project is to identify two rib-to-floor beam details which can be fabricated in an automated fashion, which would reduce the fabrication cost. Two full-scale test panels have been fabricated using automated techniques (robotic welding or programmable cutting). The upcoming phase of the research involved fatigue loading of these panels to establish the fatigue resistance of the details. With standardization, fabricators will be able to more cost-effectively produce these decks and increase their competitiveness. With the continual rise in infrastructure maintenance cost, bridge systems such as the SOBD will become more common in the future. The results of this research allow domestic engineers and fabricators to produce durable and economical SOBD systems for both new bridges as well as rehabilitation of existing bridges to extend their service life.
 
 
WATER SYSTEMS
 
Development of marine compatible ion sensing materials
PI: Sabrina Jedlicka
Co-PI(s): Susan Perry
University: Lehigh University
 
Water quality in environmental waters is on a rapid decline. Temperature, pH, and ionic balance are in flux as a byproduct of agriculture, urban development, global warming, and other factors. Ecotech Marine is interested in the health and vitality of oceans; their business focuses on coral reef hobbyists.  Globally, coral reef systems provide economic and food security to the surrounding communities.  However, due to rising temperatures and fluctuating water chemistries, coral reefs are dying at an unsustainable rate.  Numerous organizations are dedicated to revitalization efforts – which often require growing corals in coral “farms” prior to moving the coral back to the ocean.  To grow these coral ex situ, maintenance of water chemistry is key, although challenging.  In addition, the water chemistry of marine water is increasingly at risk. While widespread control of ocean chemistry is not feasible, developing an understanding of these dynamics could lead to future environmental protection solutions. Developing technologies that allow for robust monitoring of marine water chemistry could enhance our understanding of these delicate ecosystems, as well as provide tools for sustainable aquaculture and other industrial purposes. The long-term goal of the proposed PITA project is to develop a sensing device that can autonomously monitor and report ionic balances in a marine environment (aquaculture facility, aquarium, environmental test bed, etc.).  Previous results from associated research (PITA 2016) have identified a suite of materials that allow for robust calcium, magnesium, nitrate, and pH sensing. However, the materials developed proved to be incompatible with living species in the marine environment.  Thus, the research proposed seeks to modify the material chemistry to improve compatibility, as well as to expand the ionic species that can be sensed.  In addition, the research team will evaluate traditional sensors to more quickly translate a sensor product from Ecotech Marine to the marketplace.
 
 
Treatment Technology for Removal of Toxic Metal Pollutants from Impaired Water Sources
PI: Carlos Romero
Co-PI(s): Arup SenGupta
University: Lehigh University
 
A major issue currently facing society is the demand not only for clean drinking water but also for water that can be recycled for industrial applications.  Due to an increased understanding of the health and environmental effects of toxic metals in aqueous environments, and associated environmental regulations, water treatment technologies suited for speciated forms of regulated toxic metals are in high demand.  Target applications include coal-fired effluent streams, such as from wet desulfurization systems, as well as municipal wastewater sources and agricultural drainage. There is strong interest in water cleaning technologies capable of removing most toxic species of these pollutants; for example, mercury in its cationic states, Hg(I) and Hg(II), and selenium in its anionic forms, Se(IV) and Se(VI), as well as nitrate in municipal treated wastewater.  Lehigh University and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. plan to develop a novel water treatment technology based on a new class of low-cost sorbents, known as Hybrid Ion Exchange Zirconium Oxide Nanomaterials or HIX-NanoZr, with specific affinities toward both toxic metals, metalloids and nitrates.  An important feature of these sorbents is their indicated regeneration and reuse over thousands of cycles using simply carbon dioxide (CO2) or lime, depending on the required acidity or basicity of the application.  The project team proposes a project using Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance (PITA) funding to focus on testing of the HIX-NanoZr concept in terms of its regeneration with CO2.  The results of the project will be used in the further development of a prototype unit capable of demonstrating the integrated water treatment process in the field.  The ultimate goal is the development of commercial technology for treatment of impaired water that meets upcoming toxic metal effluent regulations.