Potsdam, NY, United States
Potsdam, NY, United States

Clarkson University is a private research university located in Potsdam, New York. It was founded in 1896 and has an enrollment of about 3,700 students studying toward bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in each of its schools or institutes: the Institute for a Sustainable Environment, the School of Arts & science, the School of Business and the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering. Clarkson University ranks #14 among "Best Engineering Colleges By Salary Potential". The Carnegie foundation classified Clarkson University as "High Research Activity" institution. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING | Award Amount: 70.00K | Year: 2017


Perfluoroalkyl compounds, that is those compounds that have fluorine attached to a carbon, have recently received considerable attention due to their ubiquitous presence in the environment. The presence of perfluoroalkyl compounds is problematic due to the lack of effective treatment technologies. The objective of this proposed research to develop an effective treatment, results from technology recently developed in the PIs laboratories, the foaming electrical discharge plasma reactor that rapidly and efficiently degrades many chemicals including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, disinfection byproducts, and perfluoroalkyl compounds.

The research objective of this project is to advance the fundamental understanding of the chemical reaction mechanisms by which reactive species produced by the foaming plasma reactor transform perfluoroalkyl compounds in water, evaluate the performance of the reactor for additional perfluoroalkyl substances, and identify potential degradation byproducts. The major hypothesis to be tested in this project is that free and aqueous electrons are the species responsible for the primary degradation reactions of perfluoroalkyl compounds. Radical propagation and termination reactions involving the formed radicals and electrons may be driven by any other species including hydroxyl radicals, hydrogen radicals, hydroperoxyl radicals and oxygen radical anions. To test these hypotheses, the experimental plan involves spectroscopic, radical scavenging, and state-of-the-art analytical techniques to determine the species responsible for the degradation of these compounds and their byproducts. The development of a versatile, robust and cost-effective technology that can rapidly and efficiently degrade perfluoroalkyl compounds and other contaminants of emerging concern in industrial effluent and groundwater before they can impact rivers and drinking water supply networks would likely be widely adopted and have a significant positive impact on water quality. The project is designed to answer critical questions: 1. Is the plasma-based water treatment equally effective for perfluorinated alkane substances other than perfluorinated octyl acids and perfluorinated octyl sulfonates? 2. What is the fate of these compounds during treatment and what are the key chemical species responsible for their transformation and what are the final products? 3. Can free electrons degrade short- and long-chained perfluorinated alkane substances or other oxidative radical contributing species? 4. Are transformation pathways similar for different perfluorinated alkane substances? Do physicochemical properties of the compounds (e.g., chain length) play a role in their extent of degradation? 5. Does the presence of co-contaminants lower the treatment efficiency? The project will involve both graduate and undergraduate students. Undergraduate students, who will serve as assistants to graduate students, will be recruited through institutional pipeline programs at the Institution.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PLASMA PHYSICS | Award Amount: 450.00K | Year: 2016

This project focuses on improving the understanding of the fundamental processes that occur at or near interfaces of a plasma, a cloud of ionized gas composed of electrons, ions and neutral particles, and a liquid. A plasma that is created above or within a liquid can have a number of uses. For example, plasma discharges have been used to sterilize water, fruit juices, and milk, to remove harmful chemicals from water, to create new materials, and for medical applications. Some cancer-causing pollutants found in the environment can only be treated using plasmas. In material processing technologies plasmas formed directly in liquids that do not contain water, such as alcohols, can transform these liquids into different useful products including carbon nanotubes, a material with unique properties that is currently used in a wide variety of electronics. A better understanding of the physical and chemical processes near the plasma-liquid interface will not only help to improve the existing plasma-based processes, but will also open new applications in biomedicine, agriculture, energy, green chemistry and pollutant mitigation.

The region near the plasma-liquid interface exhibits complex dynamics that depend on the formation of reactive radicals, ions and high energy electrons, their transport across the interface, and the physics of the bulk fluid motion for mixing and transport. These processes are interrelated and incorporate both physical and chemical dynamics. The overall goal of this research project is to determine relationships between the physical and chemical processes occurring at the plasma-liquid interface in a system where the plasma discharge contacts the liquid surface. Two specific goals of this study are to: (1) Correlate the bulk liquid transport processes with the plasma-liquid interface dynamics and (2) Determine the significance of the plasma excited species transport in the kinetics of interfacial processes. The approach for achieving the goals of this multidisciplinary study is to identify degradation mechanisms of several compounds of interest and apply quantitative optical diagnostic tools (i.e. Particle Image Velocimetry and Laser-Induced Fluorescence) to understand the physics at the interface as well as the role bulk liquid transport plays in the dynamics of the degradation process. Further, molecular dynamics simulations will be performed to develop a quantitative understanding of the microstructure of the studied compounds at the gas-liquid interface.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CLIMATE & LARGE-SCALE DYNAMICS | Award Amount: 326.60K | Year: 2016

Topographically bound low-level jets are strong, persistent winds in the lower atmosphere associated with elevated terrain features such as mountain ranges and plateaus. Examples include the persistent northerly and southerly flows on opposite sides of the Rocky Mountains in North America and the Andes Mountains in South America, and the easterly flow that surrounds Antarctica. The goal of this project is to understand what causes these jets and to study their impacts on climate. Previous work developed a two-dimensional theory which explains such jets as a balanced dynamical response of the atmosphere in response to forcing by solar heating and infrared radiative cooling of the elevated terrain. Computed results using simplified terrain profiles showed qualitative agreement with observed winds in two-dimensional cross sections through the Andes and Antarctica.

This project will extend the theory to three dimensions, taking into account the effects of the earths spherical shape and the full shape of the elevated terrain. Solutions of the resulting equations will be computed using a novel numerical method which refines the grid where needed to obtain accurate solutions with minimal computational work. Solutions will be computed for jets associated with several regions of complex terrain around the globe, such as Antarctica, the Tibetan Plateau, Greenland, and the Rockies and Andes, and validated by comparison with observational data.

Beyond developing our fundamental understanding of atmospheric dynamics, this work has societal relevance due to the importance of low-level jets for regional climate. For example, the Great Plains low-level jet is responsible for a substantial portion of the moisture transport into the eastern half United States which sustains agriculture, and the low-level jet off the eastern coast of Africa is a major component of the Indian monsoon which greatly affects many aspects of life in the Indian subcontinent. This project will also contribute to developing the future scientific workforce by supporting and training two graduate students in research, and training one undergraduate student in computational mathematics and modern scientific programming. Finally, the methods developed in this project will be made available to researchers in atmospheric dynamics through software codes, so that they can be applied to a wide array of scientific problems.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Materials Eng. & Processing | Award Amount: 350.00K | Year: 2016

Nanoscale metal foams exhibit several remarkable properties. The most common nanostructured foams are currently made of pure metals, and they demonstrate exceptional performance in areas such as catalysis, batteries, and optics. These metal foams are, however, often fragile and difficult to integrate into engineering applications. The ability to mechanically strengthen foams to create robust materials has heretofore been limited in pure metals. This award supports research aimed at creating a new class of materials - composite nano foams - which display the same remarkable properties as pure metal foams, but with significantly enhanced structural integrity. The new materials designed through this work will allow researchers and engineers to exploit unique properties without suffering failure during mechanical handling or service. The fundamental knowledge gained from this research may be used in designing and manufacturing catalysts with low cost and high strength, fuel cells with higher capacity and faster charging times, biomedical implants with high fatigue resistance, and lighter and stronger hydrogen storage units. A team of researchers at two universities, Clarkson and Purdue, will carry out this work, exposing students at both schools to the increasingly common long-distance collaborations needed for advancing research.

The research team will couple computational methods of materials engineering at the atomistic and mesoscopic scales (molecular dynamics and finite element analysis) to experimental methods of manufacturing and characterizing composite nanostructured foams. The working hypothesis is that coating individual foam ligaments with nanostructure multilayers will result in the formation of stronger foams. To create these materials, copper and nickel will be electroplated to form core-shell layers on templates of paper-like mats of eletrospun polymers, which will be oxidized and then subsequently reduced to form nanoscale copper metal wires. Pulsed-laser thermoelastic excitation will be used to determine the dispersion and vibrational resonance to obtain the foams bulk elastic properties. These results will be compared directly to finite element simulations of the composite to isolate the effects of geometry and ligament properties. Foam strength will be predicted based on molecular dynamics simulations of the ligaments, which will provide information to feed into the finite element models, and finally compared to experimental studies of the yield strength using nanoindentation with a flat punch geometry. The intellectual significance of this work will be the development of a new class of materials guided by computational materials engineering, and the development of novel techniques for manufacturing and testing nanoscale metallic foams.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Environmental Chemical Science | Award Amount: 390.00K | Year: 2016

In this project funded by the Environmental Chemical Sciences Program, Professor E. Silvana Andreescu of Clarkson University is studying the chemical processes that occur at the surface of individual nanoparticles upon exposure to environmental contaminants. To meet this challenge, a new method based on measurements of the collision events of nanoparticles with a microelectrode is developed. The integrated characterizational approach can be used to assess nanoparticle stability and predict their change as a result of exposure to the environment. These studies provide new data for understanding the relationship between nanoparticle properties and their behavior under environmental conditions. Since nanoparticles are used in many consumer products (such as soaps and make-up), increasing our knowledge of their changes in the environmental has significant economic and societal implications. This research provides training for graduate and undergraduate students, especially women and minorities, who have demonstrated significant promise for career development and leadership. The project also provides undergraduate research experience to underrepresented minority students from three 4-year public colleges that usually do not have access to research to broaden their education.

The project focuses on the development of a new electrochemical collision method for the investigation of the surface properties, size-dependent effects and redox reactivity of model metal and metal oxide nanoparticles. Changes in oxidation state, surface adsorption / desorption and reaction kinetics are evaluated using collision electrochemistry and the results are correlated with a suite of spectroscopic and surface characterization methods. These experiments determines how environmental constituents and solution chemistry affect the surface properties and reactivity of individual nanoparticles, and establish the mechanism of these interactions. The development of a new methodology for studying nanoparticles by collision electrochemistry has potential for broad application as a complementary and inexpensive tool for particle characterization and environmental screening purposes. These studies provide new data for understanding the relationship between nanoparticle characteristics and their behavior under environmental conditions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Service, Manufacturing, and Op | Award Amount: 203.62K | Year: 2017

The electricity grid and the natural gas network are two essential infrastructure systems in the U.S. energy industry. They are designed and managed independently. However, because of the planned retirement of many coal-fired generators, the deeper penetration of renewable energy sources, and the commercially sustainable gas price, their interactions have intensified over the last five years. Hence, in order to ensure environmentally friendly, reliable, and cost-effective electricity and gas production and delivery, it is important to jointly optimize these two systems. However, due to their scales, complexities, and requirements/regulations, such a co-optimization planning problem is very challenging in both modeling and computation aspects. To address this critical challenge, this project will build analytical decision support models and design efficient solution methods to aid the energy industry in formulating and computing practical-scale co-optimization problems. The effectiveness and benefit of co-optimization planning will be demonstrated and evaluated through an actual microgrid project and industrial collaborations. In addition to including doctoral students in research and creating educational materials for the next generation energy system planners and operations researchers, concrete projects will be designed to involve underrepresented students on utilizing analytical/computational tools to address real energy problems.

Previous research on co-optimization planning of electricity and gas systems is limited, while also often neglecting critical reliability considerations, key random/uncertain factors, or the long-term multi-stage nature of planning problems. This research project will address these shortcomings by (1) investigating key interactions between electricity and gas systems with different spatial-temporal granularities as well as multiple planning and operation levels; (2) building a set of co-optimization planning models that simultaneously consider the multi-stage planning horizon, the hourly chronological operation details with critical random/uncertain factors, and the requirements of long-term reliability and short-term flexibility; (3) designing and implementing high-performance computational methods and tools through advanced decomposition strategies, strong approximation approaches, and effective hybrid methods; and (4) validating, demonstrating, and promoting the developed models and computational tools through an on-going microgrid project and established industry connections.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: BIOMATERIALS PROGRAM | Award Amount: 99.73K | Year: 2017

Non-technical section:

The full range of antibiotic-resistant microbes found in hospitals and the broader environment represent a clear and present danger to the general public, first responders, and military personnel. Effective response to this public health challenge necessitates adoption of an outside-the-box strategy for the de novo design of novel classes of microbicides. The goal of this NSF Career award is to develop a novel self-assembling antimicrobial nanofiber (SAAN) platform for safer and more effective therapeutic administration of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) compared to conventional treatment options. Systematic engineering of SAANs has minimized host cell cytotoxicity, improved their protease-resistance and their antimicrobial activity against broad-spectrum bacteria. The success of the proposed work will open new avenues for AMP-based antimicrobial therapy to treat a variety of infectious diseases found in both civilian hospitals and military facilities. The fundamental knowledge developed from the proposed research activities will provide a powerful new glossary of fundamental design principles for the synthesis and deployment of AMPs. It will have a transformative impact on the multi-billion-dollar research focused on conventional antibiotics and AMPs by re-engineering and re-formatting thousands of available AMPs in the peptide databank to form SAANs, thereby greatly boosting their therapeutic potential. The multidisciplinary research involving chemistry, microbiology, engineering, nanoscience, and pharmaceutical sciences provides ample opportunities to train and educate students at all levels. The fundamental biomaterials design, supramolecular chemistry and antimicrobial delivery principle will be integrated into various research and educational activities, particularly through summer research opportunities provided to high school students to promote their scientific research interests and enhance their career awareness. Educational partnership with local high school will be established to provide summer research internship to high school teachers to incorporate the fundamental knowledge of the proposed research into various high school curriculum.

Technical section:

The discovery of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) has brought tremendous opportunities to overcome the prevalence of bacterial resistance to commonly used antibiotics due to their direct action against bacterial membrane. However, despite AMPs exceptional bactericidal activity in vitro, their susceptibility to proteases, limited circulation half-lives and severe host cell toxicity represent critical hurdles to their widespread use. This CAREER award supported by the Biomaterials program in the Division of Materials Research to Clarkson University focuses on a new paradigm of Self-Assembled Antimicrobial Nanofibers (SAANs) as a vehicle-free AMP delivery system to alleviate the drawback associated with conventional AMPs. In SAANs, AMPs serve as both therapeutics and key structural components to program and direct the assembly through highly specific intermolecular interactions. Through the proposed work, we will build a toolbox of cationic de novo designed peptides with expanded chemical functionality by which to construct various SAANs families, and explore the effect of new functional groups on the molecular and supramolecular packing of SAANs, antimicrobial activity and hemocompatibility. Fundamental knowledge about the structure-activity relationship is essential for the design of new antimicrobial nanomaterials with precise control over molecular structure, nanostructure, stimuli-responsive antimicrobial activity and exquisite biocompatibility. The impact of this proposal lies in that SAANs could potentially be established as a new and unique AMP delivery platform with well-defined filamentous structure and the ease of incorporating multi-therapeutics for combinatorial antimicrobial and chemotherapy to treat various human diseases. The proposed project will integrate supramolecular chemistry, biomaterials design and antimicrobial delivery principles and techniques with various education and outreach activities for students at all levels.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SPECIAL PROJECTS - CISE | Award Amount: 600.00K | Year: 2017

The United States is experiencing an increasing frequency of catastrophic weather events that inflict serious social and economic impacts. A critical issue associated with such catastrophes is the availability of electricity for the recovery efforts. Community resilience microgrids can connect critical loads in the community and share the distributed energy resources of multiple providers to enhance the availability of electricity supply during disruptions. However, community resilience microgrids are complex networked systems, and their operation can be often interrupted or halted due to the cascaded growth of failures in interconnected electrical and communications components or the unwillingness or inability of individual microgrid partners to respond. In order to enable the full functionality of community resilience microgrids, this project investigates an integrated reconfigurable control and self-organizing communication framework for enhancing operations in both grid-connected and islanded modes. The effectiveness and benefit of the proposed framework will be demonstrated and evaluated through the hardware-in-the-loop simulation and an actual community microgrid project, which will ultimately provide a model for the successful deployment of community resilience microgrids in the U.S. and beyond. In addition to including doctoral students in research and creating educational materials for the next generation operators and researchers of electrical and communications systems, projects will involve underrepresented students in evaluating social, economic, and resilience benefits of integrated control and communication approaches.

Coordinated dynamic control strategies for distributed energy resources and loads of multiple owners across different timescales, together with their distinct communication requirements, are the key to the resilient and economic operation of community microgrids in both grid-connected and islanded modes. This research will address these challenges by (1) exploring a hierarchically reconfigurable centralized/distributed control strategy to optimally manage power flows of distribution lines, dispatches of distributed energy resources and flexible loads, and the voltage and frequency of the microgrid across multiple timescales; (2) investigating a self-organizing infrastructure with network topology adjustment and multi-scale data aggregation for flexible, fast, and reliable communication; (3) developing an integrated reconfigurable control and self-organizing communication framework to study the interdependency and interaction between control strategies and communication requirements; and (4) validating, demonstrating, and promoting the developed framework through the hardware-in-the-loop simulation and an ongoing community microgrid project.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: INDUSTRY/UNIV COOP RES CENTERS | Award Amount: 397.35K | Year: 2016

This project, acquiring a heterogeneous high-performance computing cluster, aims to support parallel processing research of biometrics and identification technology, as well as broad disciplines of engineering research. Operational capabilities of managing and analyzing large-scale biometric information in an effective and efficient manner constitutes a major challenge faced by researchers in advancing biometrics. Emerging computing elements, such as many-core processors and hardware coprocessors, play an essential role in achieving this goal. This project enables the proponents to investigate novel applications of emerging hardware technology to a problem of current national interest. The platform should achieve effectiveness with great performance from its heterogeneous architecture and efficiency with power-awareness and energy awareness. Both the biometrics and high-performance research computing community will gain from the heterogeneous high-performance computing platform that can employ various state-of-the-art parallel architectures for hardware acceleration of biometric applications. It can serve as a design reference for next-generation commercial and governmental biometric systems. Since this institution currently serves as the lead site of the Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), a multi-university NSF I/UCRC, the instrumentation serves as a great enabler in support of continued research efforts of its affiliates interests as these evolve towards more advanced research in high-performance computing aspects of biometrics. This instrumentation provides the capability for the researchers to contribute towards and advance the parallel processing of biometric applications on heterogeneous computing platforms. The system lends suitable capability for processing a wide range of biometrics applications beyond those currently available. Moreover, the equipment also supports efforts to compete for other competitive research.

The cluster consist of Central Processing Units (CPUs), Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), Many-Integrated Core (MIC) co-processors, and Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), tightly integrated with a light field camera as a data-capturing front-end. The high-performance computing community acknowledges that with the transition from single-core processor to multi/ many-core processors, no one single processing element can achieve the best performance for biometrics applications (as well as other different applications) since often different parts of the program have different parallelism characteristics suitable for acceleration by different processing elements. Inherited in biometric applications a large degree of data parallelism exists that requires carefully mapping the different region of the biometric applications onto different hardware components and orchestrating them to function as whole, so as to produce results in an effective and efficient manner. So, in order to achieve the best performance, a combination of computing elements need to be used.

Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 225.00K | Year: 2017

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Phase I project will lie in the improved ability to accurately monitor indoor and outdoor airborne particles using the proposed low-cost, broad size-range, aerosol sensor to be developed in this research project. Inhalation of aerosol particles can result in adverse human health effects, with the critical parameter from a health effect perspective being the concentration of particles smaller than 2.5µm, i.e. PM2.5. Measurements of PM2.5 are critical to understand the extent of particulate exposure that populations experience in different environments. This project?s proposed approach is to measure particle concentrations by charging them and sensing their abundance using sensitive low-current circuits. This approach allows for measurements over a broad size range and at low-cost. Most of the currently available aerosol sensors are only sensitive to particles larger than ~ 500 nm, and hence are unreliable for ambient measurements. The proposed sensor will, thus, likely generate a significant interest in the aerosol research community and the ambient air quality monitoring industry. The technical objectives in this Phase I research project are to demonstrate the feasibility of accurate aerosol concentration measurements over a size range of 10 nm to 2.5 µm using an electrical-sensing technique. The intellectual merit of the proposed project lies in the novel combination of electrical-mobility aerosol classification, printed electrodes, low-current sensing electronics, and advanced inversion algorithms to result in a low-cost real-time, wide size-range, aerosol sensor. With printed electrodes, the signal response from the sensor can be tailored to be proportional to total particle volume concentration, and, thus, to PM2.5. The research objectives are to demonstrate the accuracy of volume concentration measurements made with our sensor for a range of particle types and size distributions. The successful completion of this project should result in a prototype sensor that can accurately measure total aerosol concentrations in different ambient conditions. This would be a first critical step towards the final development of a low-cost sensor for large-scale air quality measurements.

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