No. 3, Summer 2019
Director's Message:

Happy start of Summer!

It's that time when the weather is nicer, vacations and visitors are in sight, kids' schedules are keeping things interesting, and social networking becomes easier with the opening of outdoor terraces!

As you may have heard, the Institute for Molecular Engineering is now formally known as the Pritzker School for Molecular Engineering (PME) with a $100 Million gift from the Pritzker foundation. Dean Matthew Tirrell gives an interview with WTTW explaining some of the common questions associated with the PME.

The 2019 FORUM in early May was well received and I received many words of encouragement and interest to deepen and broaden the content. If you have a particular interest in a topic or hearing an expert talk, please do let me know! I have included some pictures from the event
FORUM pictures, poster winners, ideas for next year, other events coming up.

For those of you who submitted feedback through the questionaire, thanks! There were four companies represented here: Quasar Design, Hacha Products, Cabot Microelectronics, and Excelitas. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner and Marvin Ruffin from Excelitas won the Amazon gift card!

Felix has recently visited with Hacha Products of Wheaton, IL, the parent company of SolvePFAS, an innovative environmental firm that detects and treats PFAS-contaminated industrial waste and ground-water in the field. Integrating cutting edge detection/measurement technologies and online data management, tracks industry benchmark data for trendline analysis and predictive analytics for government and industry. Felix also visited Daniel Li at Wanxiang (Elgin), a family owned, global player in the automotive, energy and technology industries with significant investment in the U.S.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have!

Marvin Ruffin is a Business Development Manager at Excelitas with over 20 years experience in disinfection, LEDs and general lighting. He graduated with a degree in Engineering Physics from UIC and a Masters degree in Product Design and Development Management from Northwestern University.
A successful 3rd annual UChicago-Abbvie Oncology Symposium (June 24th, 2019, Eckhardt Research Center)

Faculty highlight
Professor C hong Liu
Professor Liu’s research focuses on design and synthesis of materials as well as development of electrochemical and optical tools to address the challenges in water-energy nexus.

Areas include resource extraction from water systems, separation in liquid and gas phases, and catalysis. Her group studies phenomena that span enormous length scales from molecular interaction to mass transport and aims to develop advanced characterization tools to understand and correlate the materials microscopic properties to macroscopic performance.

Professor Liu received her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at Stanford University in 2015 and her B.S. in chemistry from Fudan University. From 2015 to 2018, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. She joined the Institute of Molecular Engineering in 2018 as a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor.
Excelitas Technologies® Corp. is a global technology leader focused on delivering innovative, high-performance, market-driven photonic solutions to meet the lighting, detection and optical technology needs of global customers. From biomedical technology to research laboratory, safety and security, consumer products, semiconductor, energy and environment, industrial sensing & imaging, defense and aerospace, Excelitas Technologies is committed to enabling our customers' success in their end-markets. Excelitas Technologies has approximately 6,700 employees in North America, Europe and Asia, serving customers across the world. 
Congratulations to the FORUM poster prize award winners - Josh Moller (graduate student in De Pablo group), Benjamin Rawe (post doctoral scholar in Rowan group), and Christina Wicker (graduate student in Zhong group)
Josh Moller
Benjamin Rawe
Christina Wicker
Pictures from FORUM 2019
Graduate Student Internships

Are you looking for interns with a highly developed laboratory and/or computational skill set? We are encouraging our 3rd and 4th year PhD students who are curious about industrial positions to seek out internships with companies. Companies can help by providing contact points and a description of the position. Please send any questions or solicitations to Felix .
Additionally, companies that are actively working with faculty can discuss getting NSF funding for graduate student internships by applying for it through the normal faculty led proposals.

Interested in recruiting Graduate students? Join us for the Fall 2019 Industry Expo - limited space as only about 15 companies are invited!
Dr. Briana Konnick, Associate Director of Graduate Student Career Development

For companies, internships provide needed labor for lingering tasks that are often pushed aside during a busy production schedule. Interns may, for example, be able to automate tasks that are unnecessarily cumbersome. CPI companies are also able to assess interns as possible candidates for long-term employment. Internships take effort on both sides to be productive, but the overall benefit for students and companies is immeasurable and can be a win-win relationship.

Traditional histology involves taking thin slices of tissues from patients, staining them, and examining them for irregular features under a microscope. Physical sectioning of the sample introduces tissue loss and distortion that leads to incomplete sampling and imperfect visualizations. According to researchers, X-ray histotomography avoids these problems and allows the three-dimensional features of cells like shape and volume to be measured accurately.

“At Booth more and more students are interested in sustainability, climate change, use of natural resources, and the world around us,” said Caroline Grossman, ’03, director of programs at the Rustandy Center and adjunct assistant professor of strategy. “That interest was the impetus for creating the Rustandy Center’s sustainability executive in residence role—so Karen Weigert can challenge Booth students to grapple with issues plaguing our planet, and to better understand where and how the business world can plug in to help.”

"It was helpful to have a private company involved in the metallic glass project, says Warren, the MGI lead. “They own confidence in AI. They also have experience in industry and they know what industry needs.” 

But having MGI exist as a public-sector venture is an important way to remove risk for companies that want to do new materials work. Just like building the internet, there’s a big return on government investment when the infrastructure is available to everyone who wants to use it."

Argonne’s Materials Engineering Research Facility (MERF) revolutionizes the scaling process for new materials in energy industries.

The facility is aimed at developing cost-effective manufacturing processes to scale up promising new materials. It allows industry to access recently developed, best-performing advanced materials. 
Employing cutting-edge instruments and laboratories, MERF researchers develop scalable processes and produce kilogram-quantities of various advanced materials. They share the samples they produce with industry and academia for evaluation and validation and use them to advance basic research. These activities support Argonne’s Manufacturing Science and Engineering Initiative, a program to put America’s manufacturing sector — which fuels over 11 percent of U.S. gross domestic product — in a forefront of innovation and make it more competitive.
MERF laboratory

Capturing real-time data as nanofibers form makes the technique more affordable and effective.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory is taking the guesswork out of electrospinning by leveraging its unique suite of capabilities to build a database that correlates electrospinning machine parameters with nanofiber properties. The suite will allow companies to design materials optimized for specific applications at top speed, while also making possible real-time feedback and control on the manufacturing floor.
The advanced electrospinning facility is part of Argonne’s advanced manufacturing science and engineering effort to accelerate materials development and manufacturing processes by developing platform technologies augmented with state-of-the-art computing and diagnostics systems. This combination enables predictive science that reduces costly trial-and-error prototyping. The project is funded by Argonne’s manufacturing Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program.

UChicago Innovation Fest 2019 Puts UChicago’s Leadership in Innovation on Stage, Featuring 32 Events in 40 Days

The fourth-annual UChicago Innovation Fest was held May 1-June 9, 2019 and celebrated pioneering discovery and entrepreneurial endeavors at the University of Chicago. Organized by the Polsky Center, the nearly six-week schedule of events, workshops, and accelerator programs, highlighted the breadth and impact of innovation at UChicago in the areas of entrepreneurship, research commercialization, scientific advancements, and social and global impact. 
This year, the kick-off to Innovation Fest featured an event with UChicago’s Center for Data and Computing (CDAC) on how artificial intelligence challenges the notion of truth and reality, the grand opening celebration of the Harris School of Public Policy’s Keller Center, a quantum workshop, an all-day facilities open house for industry partners at the Institute for Molecular Engineering, research on Chicago’s CityKey program from School of Social Service Administration faculty, and the inaugural Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC) finals.
The Polsky Center’s capstone 23 rd  annual Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge finals had a record-breaking day on June 6. For the first-time-ever, 12 finalists presented in the finals and the judges awarded $850,000—the highest total prize pool awarded in the program’s 23-year history—to the top startup teams. My Art Cache, a startup led by current Chicago Booth student Jilian Fenton and is a private online matching platform for the fine art industry, won the Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize at the 2019 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, winning a record-breaking $365,000 in prize money.
Another spotlight event during Innovation Fest was the George Shultz Innovation Fund spring cycle finals. Managed by the Polsky Center, the Shultz Innovation Fund invests in proof-of-concept and early business development work for viable startups created by UChicago faculty, staff, and students. The Polsky Center announced plans to invest up to $250,000 in Anapneo Therapeutics, which is led by Nanduri Prabhakar, the Harold H. Hines Professor and inaugural director of the Institute for Integrative Physiology and Center for Systems Biology of Oxygen Sensing at the University of Chicago. Anapneo is developing novel agents for sleep apnea, a disorder for which the standard of care is often poorly tolerated and for which no pharmacotherapies are FDA-approved. Anapneo’s therapeutic is designed to target a paradigm-shifting mechanism of respiratory regulation, treating both obstructive and central sleep apneas. With $250,000 in funding, Anapneo will continue its work towards enabling an investigational new drug application and begin Phase I clinical trials.
In total, UChicago Innovation Fest featured 32 events in 40 days, including a first-ever event in Hong Kong in partnership with the Chicago Booth Angels Group of Hong Kong and Greater Bay Area. 
SAVE THE DATE:  UChicago Innovation Fest 2020 will take place April 23-June 7, 2019. All members of the University community, including alumni across the world, are invited to participate.

Solar steam generators could be made with wood, fabric or sponges

As the global population grows, fresh water supplies are more precious than ever. While scientists and engineers know how to purify water, making those methods sustainable and energy efficient is another question.

One promising approach is solar-driven distillation, or solar steam generation, which can help us get fresh water from wastewater or seawater. Researchers have used this method to successfully distill small batches of purified water, but they are still searching for a way to do this on a large scale.
Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and UChicago-affiliated Argonne National Laboratory were part of a team that developed a pioneering new method of solar steam generation that could help bring this technology into the real world. The materials can be grown on top of wood, fabric or sponges in an easy, one-step process, and show promise for large-scale manufacturing.
PME Professor Shrayesh Patel
PME Fellow and Argonne Scientist Seth Darling
PME Professor Jeff Hubbell
PME Professor Melody Schwartz
Articles of interest to our corporate affiliates, but not associated with the University of Chicago

"Without deep understanding of the basic tools needed to build and train new algorithms, he says, researchers creating AIs resort to hearsay, like medieval alchemists. "People gravitate around cargo-cult practices," relying on "folklore and magic spells," adds François Chollet, a computer scientist at Google in Mountain View, California. For example, he says, they adopt pet methods to tune their AIs' "learning rates"—how much an algorithm corrects itself after each mistake—without understanding why one is better than others. In other cases, AI researchers training their algorithms are simply stumbling in the dark. For example, they implement what's called "stochastic gradient descent" in order to optimize an algorithm's parameters for the lowest possible failure rate. Yet despite thousands of academic papers on the subject, and countless ways of applying the method, the process still relies on trial and error."
A New Era of Manufacturing

The developments in manufacturing technologies, processes, business models and configuration will have far reaching implications to the global economy. Companies and governments will need to quickly and continuously adapt in order to maximize the upside of such manufacturing transformation, while minimizing its downside. To maximize impact, there are two crucial aspects to consider.

First, it is necessary to see beyond the hype and develop a solid understanding of manufacturing technologies, processes and economics — an understanding that articulates the micro and macro levels, technology and business, company performance and national policies. Second, companies and governments need to think and act strategically.

We will simultaneously see the appearance of new manufacturing players and concepts in the market and the transformation of existing companies and industries. Technology penetration will vary from industry to industry, country to country and company to company. Economics is chief, and timing is critical in seizing the technology opportunity for manufacturing.
One way that corporations spur innovation is by working with startups—through mechanisms such as corporate accelerators, venture builders and venture clients. Since 2013 the number of corporate investments in startups has nearly tripled from 980 in 2013 to 2,795 in 2018, and their value has risen from $19 to $180 billion, according to GCV Analytics , a company that tracks corporate venturing deals.

Yet the success rate of these initiatives is low. Research we conducted with chief innovation officers (CINOs) and others in similar roles in the United States, Asia and Europe, shows that around three quarters of corporate innovation initiatives fail to deliver the desired results. Failed projects don’t help a company fend off hungry, agile competitors.

To discover the challenges that arise in these initiatives, we talked to more than 120 CINOs in 22 sectors. They shared the challenges that derailed (or threatened to derail) their projects and described the approaches they deployed to surmount them. We found that three strategies are proving effective against 80% of the major issues.

In today’s economy everyone knows that finding new ways to combine an organization’s diverse knowledge is a winning strategy for creating lasting value. But it doesn’t happen unless employees have the opportunities and tools to work together productively across silos. To unleash the potential of horizontal collaboration, leaders must equip people to learn and to relate to one another across cultural and logistical divides. The four practices we’ve just described can help.

Not only is each one useful on its own in tackling the distinct challenges of interface work, but together these practices are mutually enhancing: Engaging in one promotes competency in another. Deploying cultural brokers who build connections across groups gets people to ask questions and learn what employees in other groups are thinking. When people start asking better questions, they’re immediately better positioned to understand others’ perspectives and challenges. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective—walking in his or her moccasins—in turn makes it easier to detect more pockets of knowledge. And network scanning illuminates interfaces where cultural brokers might be able to help groups collaborate effectively.
A custom titanium 3D-printed cranio-maxillofacial implant made using EBM technology. (Image courtesy of Arcam.)

With an understanding that something doesn’t just come from nothing, we explored the base materials used for the creation of plastics used in the 3D printing industry . Similarly, the metals that make up 3D printing don’t appear out of thin air. Instead, they are physical resources on a finite planet. While all metals are limited in supply, some are far rarer and their use will ultimately result in supply issues.

Through sustainable packaging, manufacturers aim to bring about the circular economy. As the name implies, the goal of the circular economy is to bend the linear “take, make, waste” model into a continuous loop, where packaging materials can be reused or regenerated into new products. This will extend the usefulness of each product, extract maximum value while it’s in use and recover or recycle the product after it has exhausted its service life. 
Jabil recently conducted a survey of 204 packaging decision-makers involved in a variety of industries, including food and beverage, personal care and home care. All participants had a packaging or sustainability role at a consumer-packaged goods company with revenues of $50 million or more. The survey posed a range of questions about sustainability progress and goals as well as specific approaches to achieve sustainable packaging.  Download the full survey report.

If you’re hiring for innovation, you need to ask what this person authentically brings to work. Ideas, after all, are not invented and grown in a vacuum; they grow and evolve by connecting previously separate elements. Figuring out what people genuinely care about lets you put people together who don’t have the same approaches but who want to reach the same goal. It’s that connection where innovation happens. But people need to be united around a shared purpose and focused on something that has meaning to them. Ask candidates, “What did you find meaningful about that project? What does that particular success say about what matters to you?” People want to match their purpose to the organizations they work for. And it’s your job as the leader to align that purpose so that seemingly disparate people can come together into an “us” headed in the same direction.Too often, leaders screen out perfectly good candidates because they don’t understand how to hire people for co-creative problem solving. It’s easy to forget that the job of a leader isn’t to know all the answers but to create the conditions by which the entire team gets to learn and innovate.

"We showed that it's always better to have more photons in a smaller area than to have a homogeneous distribution of photons across the entire membrane ," Alabastri said.
Halas, a chemist and engineer who's spent more than 25 years pioneering the use of light-activated nanomaterials, said, "The efficiencies provided by this nonlinear optical process are important because water scarcity is a daily reality for about half of the world's people, and efficient solar distillation could change that.
"Beyond water purification, this nonlinear optical effect also could improve technologies that use solar heating to drive chemical processes like photocatalysis," Halas said.

The hunt is on for materials that have exotic properties, to enhance quantum computers, touch screens and electronic displays, and to double the efficiency of solar cells, for example. Historically, materials that revolutionized technology, including tungsten light-bulb filaments, penicillin, Teflon and C 60 buckyballs, were found through a combination of intuition, trial and error and lucky mishaps. But the complex characteristics needed today cannot be found by accident: they must be designed in at the start.

Chemists are seeking alternatives to organofluorine compounds for non-stick coatings. Teflon, polytetrafluoroethylene, has been coating our frying pans since the 1940s. But with increasing evidence of organofluorines’ environmental persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity, the hunt is on for new non-stick solutions. One place where chemists have been looking enviously is nature itself. Numerous plants and animals have surfaces designed to repel water, and in some instances even oil. But the chemistry of these surfaces is not nature’s only trick – complex nanostructuring plays a huge role. Exploiting these designs is now helping chemists to produce the next generation of non-stick coatings.

X-rays and N-rays are similar in concept, but the way they interact with atoms differ—X-rays interact with an atom’s electron cloud, while neutrons interact with the nucleus—which means that they interact differently with different materials. Neutrons will pass through some materials that X-rays cannot, whereas X-rays will more easily pass through materials that neutrons cannot. As a result, these two radiography methods will both show details you’d overlook if you only used one of them.
To put the difference between X-rays and N-rays in simple terms, X-rays are good at showing dense materials within light materials (such as the bones in your arm) whereas N-rays are good at showing light materials within dense materials (such as a metal object with another substance or empty space inside it).

As a concept, splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity—called electrolysis—is a simple and old idea: a power source connects to two electrodes placed in water. When power turns on, hydrogen gas bubbles out of the negative end—called the cathode—and breathable oxygen emerges at the positive end—the anode.

But negatively charged chloride in seawater salt can corrode the positive end, limiting the system's lifespan. Dai and his team wanted to find a way to stop those seawater components from breaking down the submerged anodes.

The researchers discovered that if they coated the anode with layers that were rich in negative charges , the layers repelled chloride and slowed down the decay of the underlying metal.
They layered nickel-iron hydroxide on top of nickel sulfide, which covers a nickel foam core. The nickel foam acts as a conductor—transporting electricity from the power source—and the nickel-iron hydroxide sparks the electrolysis, separating water into oxygen and hydrogen. During electrolysis, the nickel sulfide evolves into a negatively charged layer that protects the anode. Just as the negative ends of two magnets push against one another, the negatively charged layer repels chloride and prevents it from reaching the core metal.

Are you a start-up, spin-off or small-medium business with a solution (at least at MVP or prototype level) that could make the difference in addressing the following challenges? We are looking for you!

The accelerated joint development that will turn external innovation opportunities into actionable results.
Contribute to bringing our Company into a new era. We are seeking innovative solutions to transfer into our products and processes.

Two new polypseudohalogen compounds derived from cyanogen bromide have the unusual property that they can dissolve gold at room temperature. The discovery could lead to safer chemicals for leaching gold and other noble metals from ore, as well as offer a new way to recover and recycle metal from electronic waste.
Polyhalogen chemistry has been of increasing interest in recent years. However, due to their high instability, volatility and problematic synthesis, less time has been spent studying polypseudohalogens, which are pseudohalogen compounds that essentially imitate halogens in their chemistry while also possessing polyhalogen ions.
Now, Benjamin Schmidt and colleagues in Sebastian Hasenstab-Riedel ’s group at the Free University of Berlin have used their expertise in polyhalide chemistry and halogen bonding to explore the pseudohalogen compound cyanogen bromide. They have also managed to synthesise and characterise two new anions of polypseudohalides that can dissolve gold.

The Inovo Group , focused on how to forge meaningful relationships with startups. He explored the reasons companies work with startups and how to integrate these partnerships into your innovation system. Other topics included:Which industries are maximizing on startup collaboration

  • The obstacles and benefits of partnering with a startup
  • How to overcome initial challenges
  • Best practices for creating a mutually-beneficial relationship.

Whilst most periodic system enthusiasts are satisfied with rendering their designs in two dimensions, others feel that three are necessary, and some have gone as far as to create models, cut-outs and artworks. Monroe and Turner’s 1926 spiral was actually an early example of this – their 2D circular design was actually a ‘base projection’ of a rather ugly model made from enamel discs labelled with the elements, on sticks. Even earlier, in 1898, UK spectroscopist William Crookes used atomic weights of the known elements to order his vis generatrix, a similar concept, but neater and with a lot of blank discs. In 1911, UK radiochemist Frederick Soddy – who discovered that elements have isotopes – drew 3D teardrop-shaped loops to create a rather an unusual-looking periodic system.

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to Dmitri Mendeleev and Lothar Meyer and the approaches of other chemists to organize the elements, involve different forms of representation of a hidden structure of the chemical elements. This is the conclusion reached by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig and the University of Leipzig in a recent paper. The mathematical approach of the Leipzig scientists is very general and can provide many different periodic systems depending on the principle of order and classification—not only for chemistry, but also for many other fields of knowledge.

Because of the hard, brittle, heterogeneous and orthotropic nature of the composite, machining process can affect the properties of the composite in service and so reduce its service life. Researchers from the University of Nottingham and Rolls Royce investigate the mechanisms, and the influence on the microstructure of the machined surface, that occurs during material removal (cutting) process [Gavalda Diaz et al, Materials Science and Engineering A (2019), ].

Their study focusses on what occurs within the composite microstructure during the cutting process in two different areas of the composite: the fibres area and the matrix area. During the cutting process, severe mechanical and thermal loads are created within the composite surface which induced plastic strain.

Concerning the fibres area, the study reveals that plastic strain generated tensile residual stresses. Investigations on the composite microstructure shows that fibres undergo a brittle fracture-dominated behaviour during the cutting process. These two observations lead to the following conclusion: in the fibres area, a heat stress gradient is responsible of the compressive residual stresses.

Learn more about Mass Spectrometry or MS including what it is, what it is used for and how it works. View helpful diagrams and example charts to help you understand this technique for laboratory and research applications.

"Growing numbers of corporations are deciding they can’t wait five or 10 years for a winner. Daimler Mercedes-Benz, which has been partnering with both IBM and Google on quantum research, is one such believer. “There are certain simulations and modelings that we cannot achieve with current computing power,” says Ben ­Boeser, innovation director for the company’s North American R&D unit. Daimler hopes to use quantum techniques for optimizing transportation logistics and modeling the chemistry of vehicle batteries. Such calculations remain out of reach for quantum computers today, but Boeser’s team expects the technology to get there in the coming years. “We believe if we don’t jump in as an industry giant, the technology partners may not put their emphasis on those use cases, and hence we would miss out.”

Battery-powered portable devices have transformed our lives. But there’s a lot more that can batteries can disrupt, if only safer, more powerful, and energy-dense batteries could be made cheaply. No law of physics precludes their existence.
And yet, despite over two centuries of close study since the first battery was invented in 1799, scientists still don’t fully understand many of the fundamentals of what exactly happens inside these devices. What we do know is that there are, essentially, three problems to solve in order for batteries to truly transform our lives yet again: power, energy, and safety.
Different ways to explore interactions with the PME:
  • senior design projects
  • internships
  • materials characterization /device fabrication facilities
  • participation in FORUM events
  • consulting activities
  • Ask Felix!
Parking on campus
You are welcome to park for free on certain streets if you can find it. The closest parking lot to the Eckhardt Research Center is the North parking lot.