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SURE: Chemical Engineering

Click on the title for full description of SURE 2014 projects in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

CHEM-001: Patterned Superhydrophobic Surfaces by Femtosecond Laser Micromachining

Professor: Anne-Marie Kietzig
Email: anne-marie [dot] kietzig [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http://kietzig-lab.mcgill.ca/about.php
Tel.: 514-398-3302

Research Area: Surface Engineering


DESCRIPTION: Significant amount of drag reduction in fluid flow has been achieved in recent years by the ‘lotus-leaf’ inspired superhydrophobic surfaces. The universally accepted no-slip boundary condition does not hold for these superhydrophobic surfaces. The slippage of liquid over superhydrophobic surfaces reduces friction drag in both laminar and turbulent flow by supporting a shear-free air-water interface on which water slips. Ridge/cavity patterned and micropost patterned surfaces were used to create patterned superhydrophobic surfaces in previous drag reduction studies. These are only a small subset of possible geometries. Moreover, the methods of fabrication of these patterns are usually complex in nature and difficult to scale for real life uses. Laser micromachining is a precise technique, applicable to a wide range of materials and easy to implement in large-scale applications. Different textured surfaces can be fabricated within one processing step by a direct writing process. The student will develop a procedure to obtain different patterns on metal samples by using the femtosecond laser (pulses are ~10-15s). The desired geometries include ridge/cavity and micropost with different length scales (~10-6m). Finally, the student will test the superhydrophobicity of these patterned surfaces by measuring the water contact angles.

TASKS: Fabricate ridge/cavity and micropost patterns on metal surfaces by femtosecond laser micromachining. Measure the water contact angle and optimize the pattern accordingly to create superhydrophobic surfaces.

DELIVER: A procedure to create ridge/cavity and micropost patterned metal surfaces by laser micromachining.

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-002: Fabrication of re-entrant structures for robust superhydrophobicity and lowered ice adhesion

Professor: Anne-Marie Kietzig
Email: anne-marie [dot] kietzig [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http://kietzig-lab.mcgill.ca/about.php
Tel.: 514-398-3302

Research Area: Surface Engineering


DESCRIPTION: Fabricating superhydrophobic surfaces has garnered significant interest in recent years due to their ability to repel water. These surfaces are particularly useful in developing waterproof fabrics, windows, utensils, and other objects that need to stay dry. Also, these surfaces have been shown to prevent ice formation and reduce ice adhesion, which is particularly useful in combatting ice accretion on outdoor infrastructure such as offshore platforms, electricity transmission lines, airplane wings, and communication towers, to name a few. Surfaces are rendered superhydrophobic by modifying their chemistry and/or introducing micro- and nano-scale surface roughness. These surface microstructures may come in the form of regular bumps, or an array of cones or pillars. However, superhydrophobic surfaces lose their ability to repel water when water penetrates the air gaps between these microstructures. A special type of microstructure known as a “re-entrant structure” can prevent the penetration of water into its grooves and cavities. An example of a re-entrant structure would be a regular array of upside-down pyramids or cones. Water would not be able to penetrate the gaps between the cones, resulting in a robust superhydrophobic surface that exhibits low adhesion.

TASKS: The main objective of the project is to fabricate re-entrant structures on metals so as to render them superhydrophobic. This will be carried out via surface coating and femtosecond laser micromachining. The student will optimize the experimental parameters needed to create reproducible structures that are consistently superhydrophobic.

DELIVER: Collection, documentation and analysis of experimental data (e.g. laser parameters, contact angles, adhesion tests).

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-003: Catalytic Process Engineering (Laboratory setup and Reactor design)

Professor: Jan Kopyscinski
Email: jan [dot] kopyscinski [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: www.mcgill.ca/chemeng
Tel.: 514-398-4276

Research Area: Chemical reaction engineering / Energy


DESCRIPTION: In January 2014, the new research laboratory “Catalytic Process Engineering (CPE)” led by Prof. Kopyscinski is established. Our group is engaged in the development and understanding of catalyzed processes and reactor engineering concepts dedicated to sustainable energy conversion technologies. We conduct research on many levels from the micro- (catalyst), meso- (reactor) to the macroscopic scale (process). In detail, we focus on the conversion of biomass/coal derived syngas as well as CO2 into substitute natural gas (SNG) and other high valuable products. SNG for example can be easily transported in the existing distribution infrastructure and in used in mature technologies (CNG cars, gas power stations). The Catalytic Process Engineering Group is setting up its new laboratory and seeking a summer student who has hand-on experience to work with tools and technical skills to assemble reactors and experimental setups. An optically accessible catalytic reactor will be designed, which will allow us to gather spatially-resolved gas concentration and catalyst surface temperature measurements along the reactor axis. Thus, reaction mechanism can be studied much more in detail compared to traditional laboratory reactors with measurement of the exit gas composition only.

TASKS: The student will be involved in various aspects from the design (e.g., computational fluid modeling, CFD) to the assembly of the reactor system. In addition, a gas delivery station (gas cylinders including gas purification system) and gas mixing station needs to be designed and build. Beside the technical work, standard operation procedures “SOP”, emergency shut down plan, laboratory safety guides and chemical waste protocols needs to be prepared. This projects may lead to Master’s project. Level U2+

DELIVER: Design laboratory plan, install gas lines with gas purification systems and prepare report and present CFD-modelling results.

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-004: Electrospinning Fibrin for Bioscaffolding Materials

Professor: Jeff Gostick
Email: jeff [dot] gostick [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http://pmeal.com/
Tel.: 514-398-4301

Research Area: Bioscaffolding


DESCRIPTION: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a promising method for treating organ or tissue damage by promoting tissue regeneration. PRP therapy has been shown to drastically increase the rate of healing of damaged tissues. However it is still currently relatively difficult or ineffective to deliver the PRP directly and effectively to the site of the injury. The purpose of this project is to develop fibrin based bioscaffolds as a vector for the PRP to target the injured tissue more effectively. Fibrin can be electrospun into a nanofibrous material which will resemble the extracellular matrix (ECM) near the damaged tissue, which could allow for more effective PRP therapy and quicker healing and tissue regeneration. The student will be largely responsible for the preparation and electrospinning of the fibrin and the eventual characterization of the materials produced. This will involve learning to use the electrospinning device as well as developing the method for effectively spinning fibrin in order to make an adequate bioscaffold. Lab work will include the operation and maintenance of the electrospinning device as well as the characterizations of any material produced. This will all be accompanied by analysis of any results obtained to be presented as a report at the end of the summer term.

TASKS: The student will be largely responsible for the preparation and electrospinning of the fibrin and the eventual characterization of the materials produced. This will involve learning to use the electrospinning device as well as developing the method for effectively spinning fibrin in order to make an adequate bioscaffold. Lab work will include the operation and maintenance of the electrospinning device as well as the characterizations of any material produced.

DELIVER: A term end report summarizing and analyzing all findings.

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-005: Polymers with Controlled Microstructure for Barrier Materials

Professor: Milan Maric
Email: milan [dot] maric [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http:/ppl.research.mcgill.ca/people/maric/
Tel.: 514-398-4272

Research Area: Advanced Materials


DESCRIPTION: Polymer blends, where one polymer is dispersed in a particular orientation within another polymer, are often used to improve mechanical and physical properties that are not possible with the single polymer. Control of morphology at various scales has been widely cited as the enabler to achieve the design performance required of a vast range of polymeric materials. The barrier phase domains are generally dispersed as elongated domains to improve the barrier properties against not only organic liquids, as is the case for fuel tanks, but against gases which is important for packaging of food, beverage and pharmaceutical products. More tailored control of the barrier materials becomes desirable to enhance existing properties or to introduce new functionalities into the barrier material required of this lucrative and competitive market. A brief survey of the literature shows barrier materials with relatively complex microstructures (i.e. segmented block copolymers) are required of many products such as breathable diapers3 or as tie layers between incompatible multi-layer materials. This project aims to synthesize alternative acrylonitrile-based copolymers for poly(ethylene) barrier materials using nitroxide mediated polymerization, a method that permits a high degree of control of microstructure and molecular weight distribution. Specifically, functional acrylonitrile-containing copolymers will be designed for blending into poly(ethylene) followed by morphology orientation to achieve the desired domain size and shape in the matrix polymer. Ultimately, blends will be scaled-up and tested for their barrier properties, specifically for permeability testing against organic liquids and gases.

TASKS: Performing synthesis of tailored copolymers followed by characterization of composition and molecular weight. Blending of the copolymers into poly(ethylene) will be done in a miniature twin-screw extruder and morphology orientation using a specially designed die will be performed. Determining the domain size and orientation using electron microscopy. If desirable morphologies are achieved, the student will scale-up the blends and provide sufficient material for permeability in conjunction with industrial partner.

DELIVER: The student will provide fully characterized samples of copolymers and scale-up the blends to larger batches. A report be submitted to the professor and industrial partner detailing the achievements of control of morphology using the copolymers described above in the matrix of poly(ethylene).

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-006: Stimuli-responsive Polymers by Nitroxide Mediated Polymerization

Professor: Milan Maric
Email: milan [dot] maric [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http:/ppl.research.mcgill.ca/people/maric/
Tel.: 514-398-4272

Research Area: Advanced Materials


DESCRIPTION: The ability to tailor the precise architecture of a polymeric material has long been targeted to enable specific properties that could not be otherwise attained. Traditional methods to form polymers with such microstructural control were long the domain of tedious ionic or “living” polymerization methods. During the last 15 years, controlled radical polymerization (CRP) strategies have emerged that rival the precision of ionic polymerizations but employ conditions similar to conventional free radical technologies. Further, some copolymers that are attainable by CRP cannot be accessed via ionic polymerizations. This project involves making polymers in the form of random or block copolymers for organic photovoltaics, sensors and gas hydrate inhibitors. The project will use combination of monomers to tailor the chemistry to each of these applications. This project will incorporate electron-donating or electron-accepting monomers into copolymers with water-soluble monomers to make stimuli-responsive materials that exhibit lower critical solution temperature (LCST) behaviour. The project will involve the student using state-of-the-art CRP strategies to synthesize polymers with various functional groups. Polymerization kinetics will be estimated using a combination of gel permeation chromatography (GPC), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and electron spin resonance (ESR) while solution properties will be examined using UV-Vis spectroscopy and dynamic light scattering (DLS).

TASKS: The student will synthesize and characterize various copolymers that are water-soluble and electro-active. They will analyze kinetic data and measure properties of the polymers made.

DELIVER: The student will present their findings to the group meeting and will write a final report.

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-007: Designing a point of use water filtration system for developing countries

Professor: Nathalie Tufenkji
Email: nathalie [dot] tufenkji [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: www.biocolloid.mcgill.ca
Tel.: 514-398-2999

Research Area: Environmental Engineering


DESCRIPTION: Sand filters are used extensively in the water industry throughout the world. In some parts of the world they are the only means of providing potable water. The aim of this project is to design an optimized sand filter capable of specifically capturing/deactivating pathogens for developing countries and disaster scenarios.

TASKS: The student will become familiar with current literature on the subject of depth filtration and gain experience in design of such systems. 2. The student will be trained in a range of areas that include: General microbiology techniques, selected molecular biology techniques, microscopy and general laboratory practices. The student will be given ample guidance in improving their written and oral presentation skills, which will be invaluable for any future study/work environment.

DELIVER: A preliminary design for a simple cost-effective point-of-use water filter

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-008: Interaction of nanoparticles with wastewater biomass

Professor: Nathalie Tufenkji
Email: nathalie [dot] tufenkji [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: www.biocolloid.mcgill.ca
Tel.: 514-398-2999

Research Area: Environmental Nanotechnology


DESCRIPTION: Due to the increasing use of nanoparticles (NP) in consumer products, a significant fraction of NP may enter into wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) from households and industry, and, if not retained, into natural freshwater. Consequently, baseline knowledge on the fate of NP under wastewater and freshwater relevant conditions is needed to identify potential risks for the environment. This project will focus specifically on the interactions of selected NP with biosolids, by investigating their stability in the presence of biomass extracts. To evaluate the impact of selected environmental parameters, experiments will be performed under controlled synthetic wastewater conditions. In a second part, experiments will be carried out where the NP will be directly characterized in real wastewater samples.

TASKS: The student will be trained in a range of analytical\laboratory techniques that will include: dynamic light scattering (DLS) and nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) for the determination of NP average size, electrophoretic mobility (by Zetasizer) for the characterization of NP surface charge (zeta potential), ultrafiltration for the quantification of NP dissolution, and general laboratory practices. After receiving the required training in the lab (first month), the student will start working more independently on the fate of NP under controlled synthetic wastewater conditions with an emphasis on interactions in biosolids. This project is part of a large study on fate, impact and toxicity of NP in WWTP and natural freshwater, which involve several post-docs and graduate students. Thus, the student will be introduced to a range of new areas including environmental chemistry and nanotechnology. There will be opportunities to continue this research as a graduate project in the future. Preference will be given to students who have undertaken a wastewater treatment course, aquatic chemistry or environmental chemistry course.

DELIVER: Data describing the interactions of selected NP with wastewater biomass

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-009: Nanoparticle-induced cell membrane disruption

Professor: Nathalie Tufenkji
Email: nathalie [dot] tufenkji [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: www.biocolloid.mcgill.ca
Tel.: 514-398-2999

Research Area: Biophysical engineering


DESCRIPTION: With the growing use of nanomaterials in increasing technological applications, nanoparticles will become a significant contaminant in environmental habitats, including soils or freshwater systems, presenting a substantial potential to affect the population of environmentally important microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, fungi, or algae). Whereas some nanoparticles of specific physicochemical properties are considered to be less harmful to microbial cells, others have been shown to constitute a high risk to the survival of individual cells when accumulating in their natural habitat. A possible mechanism to cause cell death lies in the potential of the particles to disrupt the cells’ lipid bilayer membrane. In this project, the mechanism of nanoparticle-induced lipid bilayer disruption will be investigated using diverse techniques, including quartz crystal microbalance, fluorescence spectroscopy and dynamic light scattering. It is aimed to elucidate the role of particle-membrane interactions on the stability and the disruption behavior of the lipid bilayer membranes. The student will work as part of a team dedicating its research to the fundamentals of nanotoxicity. In the first few weeks, the student will receive extensive training in the lab and then be able to work independently. There will be opportunities to continue this research as a graduate project in the future.

TASKS:After the student has been introduced to several well-established protocols concerning the handling of phospholipids, he/she will be trained in the use of quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D). The student is then expected to independently conduct experiments aimed to investigate the adsorption of lipids and nanoparticles to the microbalance surface. The main part of this project focuses on the deposition of nanoparticles to the surface of the phospholipid bilayer and accompanied bilayer disruption. The student will be taught to interpret and analyze corresponding QCM-D data in qualitative and quantitative manners and will be further trained to present his/her results with respect to high scientific standards.

DELIVER:  A report describing the effects of different nanoparticles on the disruption of lipid bilayers

Positions Available: 2

CHEM-010: Vacuum Ultraviolet Photochemistry for the Deposition of Organic Coatings

Professor: Pierre-Luc Girard-Lauriault
Email: pierre-luc [dot] girard-lauriault [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http://ppl.research.mcgill.ca/people/girard-lauriault/
Tel.: 514-398-4006

Research Area: Plasma Science


DESCRIPTION: Synthetic Polymers are used in several technological applications due to their many desirable properties: low cost, good mechanical properties, resistance to corrosion and durability. However, their surfaces are typically hydrophobic which limits their wettability and biocompatibility. This issue can be addressed using surface engineering: selectively tailoring the surface properties of materials without affecting the desirable bulk properties. Cold reactive plasmas (ionized gases produced by an electrical discharge) have been used to alter a surface by the addition of functional groups or a functional layer. Recently, we have investigated the use of a novel technique, Vacuum Ultraviolet (VUV) Photochemistry, to perform similar operations through a more selective process. The Plasma Processing Laboratory is currently building a novel VUV reactor designed for the surface treatment of polymers. This summer, we will perform the commissioning of the system and we are looking for a student to investigate how the process parameters influences the chemical nature of organic coatings deposited using this system. The candidates should demonstrate scientific curiosity as well as maturity and autonomy. This project may lead to Masters projects.

TASKS: - Deposition of thin organic coatings. - Surface analysis and characterization of the deposits. - Process optimization and troubleshooting

DELIVER: VUV deposited set of samples and their characterization

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-011: Effect of Statin Therapy of EC Mechanotransduction

Professor: Richard Leask
Email: richard [dot] leask [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: www.leask-lab.mcgill.ca
Tel.: 514-398-4270

Research Area: Biomedical


DESCRIPTION: 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (also known as statins) are widely prescribed to patients with hypercholesterolemia to mitigate the risk for a cardiovascular event. These drugs effectively reduce cardiovascular related morbidity and mortality by inhibiting the biosynthesis of cholesterol, which consequently reduces blood cholesterol levels. In addition to lowering cholesterol, there is also ample evidence that statins have pleiotropic or non-lipid lowering benefits, which include improving endothelial cell (EC) function and reducing vascular inflammation. Recently the Leask group has shown the influence of statins on EC biology depends on the hemodynamic environment (1-3). This project will focus on how statin treated ECs sense and transduce mechanical forces. The candidate will be required to perform dynamic cell culture experiments, immunostaining and image analysis. This work will help us understand the pleotrophic effects of statin therapy.

TASKS: The candidate will be required to perform dynamic cell culture experiments, immunostaining and image analysis. This work will help us understand the pleotrophic effects of statin therapy.

DELIVER: Final report and weekly update presentations at the lab group meetings.

Positions Available: 2

CHEM-012: Development of electrodes for supercapacitors

Professor: Sasha Omanovic
Email: sasha [dot] omanovic [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http://electrochem.mcgill.ca/
Tel.: 514-398-4273

Research Area: Electrochemical engineering


DESCRIPTION: Batteries currently represent the major energy storage media for portable devices and some other specific applications (hybrid and electric cars, backup power devices, medical devices, renewable energy systems, etc.). However, although their energy density (Wh/g) is relatively high, their power density (W/g) is very low. In addition, they require a relatively long time to re-charge. On the opposite side are electrochemical supercapacitors, which offer high power density and fast charging, but low energy density. Supercapacitors are also used in the above-mentioned applications in parallel with batteries, in order to deliver a high amount of charge in a very short time when needed (bust of power). However, the ultimate goal is to merge the two technologies with the aim of leveraging the benefits of both. This project aims at contributing to this process by developing new materials for supercapacitor electrodes. More specifically, the project focuses on the development of nano-structured mixed multimetal-oxide / carbon composites that would offer high specific capacitance.

TASKS: The SURE student will work on the synthesis of specific metal-oxide / carbon-nanotube (or graphene) electrodes using solid-state synthesis methods. The electrodes will be tested in a liquid electrochemical test cell using a range of experimental techniques and subsequently optimized with respect to the composition, physico-chemical properties and structure. The student will be responsible to design and conduct experiments, produce, treat and discuss results and write weekly reports.

DELIVER: Weekly reports; Final report; SURE poster/presentation

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-013: MWCNT nanofluid synthesis and characterization

Professor: Sylvain Coulombe
Email: sylvain [dot] coulombe [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http://ppl.research.mcgill.ca/people/coulombe/
Tel.: 514-398-5213

Research Area: Nanomaterials


DESCRIPTION: Multi-wall carbon nanotube nanofluids (MWCNT-NF) are stable nanoparticle-liquid suspensions offering enhanced and novel properties to the host liquids. Prof. Coulombe's group of the Plasma Processing Laboratory has developed unique synthesis processes and applications where the unique and tunable optical, thermal and gas absorption properties, in particular, of these fluids (US patents pending) are used in novel applications such as CO2 sequestration, solar energy harvesting and optical therapeutics (e.g. cancer treatment and imaging). There is an increased need for new nanofluid chemistries and functionalities driven by our collaborative work with researchers in medicine and the private sector. Under the direct supervision of two PhD candidates, you will learn how to grow carbon nanotubes and alter their surface chemistry using dry and wet processes, as well as how to characterize their thermal, solutal and optical transport properties. Ideally, you are a senior UG student from Chemical Engineering or Chemistry with a strong interest to pursue graduate studies.

TASKS: Quickly learn and master the MWCNT nanofluid synthesis process. Assist PhD candidates in the development of new wet chemical functionalization protocols. Survey literature, gather data and report in biweekly meetings.

DELIVER: Provide significant technical support to two PhD candidates with a maximum of autonomy. Conduct enough experiments and analyses to prepare and deliver a poster during the SURE poster event (Summer 2014) and the Chemical Engineering Research Day (Nov. 2014).

Positions Available: 1

CHEM-014: Removal of Contaminants of Concern and Residual Toxicity

Professor: Viviane Yargeau
Email: viviane [dot] yargeau [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Website: http://yargeau3Cs.lab.mcgill.ca
Tel.: 514-398-2273

Research Area: Environment Engineering & Ecotoxicology


DESCRIPTION: Municipal sewage treatment plants (“STP”s) have been identified as point sources of a broad suite of substances (including any potential transformation products) such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine disrupting compounds (“contaminants”) to receiving water streams at concentrations high enough that they may have the potential to elicit an effect on aquatic organisms. One objective of this project is to demonstrate that combining chemical analysis (for quantification of known targeted chemicals) with bioanalytical tools provides capability to assess the combined toxicity of mixtures of known and unknown substances. During this project, the student will : 1) Learn/Develop, , with the help of other members of the research group, the sample preparation protocols, analytical techniques and/or bioassays required by the project; 2) Participate in the sampling campaign; 3) Perform experimental work; 4) Analyze results obtained.

TASKS: The student will work in the lab to learn the various techniques, will perform the experiments previously describes, will participate to weekly research meetings, and will have discussion with his supervisor on a regular basis.

DELIVER: 1. Detailed report including background information, methodology, results, discussion and recommendations. 2. Oral presentation of the results.

Positions Available: 2