2016 RU RET-E Projects

Figure 1: Underground waste tanks at Hanford site

Figure 1: Underground waste tanks at Hanford site

~55 million gallon of high level radioactive waste has been stored in 177 underground steel tanks at Hanford site in Washington State. The proposed technology to immobilize this waste is through vitrification.

Project #1: Reprocessing and confinement of the nuclear waste in a glass ceramic material

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ashutosh Goel

Post-doctoral Associate Mentor: Dr. Antoine Bréhault


Project Description: The US Department of Energy is currently evaluating a new way to store high-level waste (HLW) in a glass-ceramic material. In the nuclear fuel cycle, part of the fission products generated during burn-up in a nuclear reactor are non-fissionable, and once separated from the fissionable material must be immobilized in stable waste forms. 


These HLW are proposed to be immobilized in a glass matrix through the vitrification process. In order to increase the waste loading, a glass ceramic material is being explored for a long- term geologic storage.


For this development, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Rutgers University is studying the thermochemistry of molybdenum containing nuclear waste glasses and glass-ceramics.

Figure 2: UAV system.

Project #2: System Identification of Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle



Faculty Mentor: Dr. Xiaoli Bai

Graduate Student Mentor: Liyang Wang


Project Description: Our lab is developing advanced modeling, navigation, and control algorithms for UAVs systems.  This RU RET-E project will focus on the following two research topics where RU RET E fellows will:



1. Conduct system identification experiments to obtain all the parameters required of an UAV in the lab such that a high-fidelity computer model of the UAV can be developed.


2. Experiment with the developed computer model of the UAV to assist flight controls of the real system.

Project #3: Improving water quality during wet weather flows


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nicole Fahrenfeld

Graduate Student Mentor: Alessia Eramo


Project Description:  Combined sewer systems collect and carry both run-off from storm events and wastewater. Combined sewer overflows result in the release of 23 billion gallons of untreated wastewater in New Jersey each year. Upgrading sewer systems in New Jersey is an $8 billion problem. The aims of this work are to understand how the concentration and character of chemical and microbial contaminants vary during wet weather flows in order to improve the design of treatment technologies.  The research will take place in the field and laboratory to answer these questions.

Project #4: Percolative Dielectric Materials for Energy Storage Applications


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kimberly Cook-Chennault

Graduate Student Mentors: Udhay Sundar and Wanlin Du

Project Description:  Electrical energy storage plays a key role in electronics, stationary power systems, hybrid electric vehicles and pulse-power applications. Traditionally, bulk ceramic dielectric oxides have been used for these applications, though they suffer from inherently low breakdown field strength, which limits the available energy per unit mass (energy density) and increases the dielectric loss. On the other hand, polymers have high break down field strengths, low dielectric losses and can be readily processed into thin films, but suffer from relatively low dielectric permittivity, and thus low energy densities. This project focuses on the development of materials that can be applied to sub-micrometer scale commercial and industrial devices such as, high-density DRAM (dynamic access memory), non-volatile memory (NRAM) and capacitors. It is well known that coupling polymer and a dielectric constant material into a composite may address some of the aforementioned challenges, though the mechanisms that lead to higher dielectric constants and minimal dielectric losses are not well understood. Hence students will fabricate and analyze composite dielectric materials with the aim of understanding the mechanisms that lead to higher dielectric constants and higher breakdown field strengths.


[1] Multi-Walled Carbon-Nanotube Based Flexible Piezoelectric Films with Graphene MonolayersS Banerjee, R Kappera, KA Cook-Chennault, M ChhowallaEnergy and Environment Focus 2 (3), 195-202

Figure 4: Composite thick films comprised of PZT-epoxy and multiwalled carbon nanotubes.

Figure 5: Assembled device with electrical contacts.

Figure 5: Solar array of Gratzel cells that were constructed using Titanium Dioxide.

Figure 6: Scanned electron micrograph of nanosized titania powder.

Project #5: Solar Cells and Surface Area


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lisa Klein


Project Description: Solar technology is gaining wide popularity because it is an alternative source of energy.  Teachers will learn how to prepare dye sensitized Gratzel solar cells that incorporate Titanium Dioxide (TiO2). In Figure 3, a solar array comprised of Gratzel cells is presented.  These cells are made from a layer of TiO2 nanoparticles. 


TiO2 is a semiconductor and ubiquitous in commercial products. It provides whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, coatings, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and most toothpaste. TiO2 is also used in sunscreens to block harmful UV B radiation from the sun. 


In this project, a paste of nanometer TiO2 particles and viscous organic compounds is spread onto transparent conductive glass (F-doped SnO2).  A dye is used to absorb the photons. A scanned electron micrograph of nano-sized titania powder is as shown in Figure 4. In Figure 5, an assembled device with electrical contacts.

Figure 7: Assembled device with electrical contacts.

Project #6: The interaction between different parameters in primary and secondary continuous manufacturing of pharmaceutical products


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alberto Cuitino

Post Doctorate Mentor: Dr. Nastaran Ghazi


Project Description: Create a model to predict the required properties of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient(API) based on the desired behavior of the drug Product. In this work, the effect of different API crystal parameters such as different crystal variables size, agglomeration and habit on the final tablet is investigated. This investigation includes using direct compaction to make tablets and measure strength, to ascertain the level of tablatability and dissolution rates for the final product.


Project #7: Aerodynamic Simulations and Wind-Tunnel Testing in the Emil Buehler Supersonic Wind Tunnel

Faculty Mentor: Drs. Doyle Knight and Jerry Shan 

Graduate Student Mentor: Nadia Kianvashrad


Project Description: Participants will learn to use state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics to simulate both incompressible and compressible flows. They will then compare simulation result with experiments. Models will be built with facilities (3D printing) available within the MAE department at Rutgers. Experimental tests will be conducted on the models in either a low-speed subsonic wind tunnel or the Emil Buehler Supersonic Wind Tunnel.