The College of Arts, Sciences, and Business (CASB) initiated a Best-in-Class Pilot Study Program in February 2015 to allow faculty to develop innovative research activities related to any one of the four best-in-class signature research areas: Advanced Manufacturing; Advanced Materials for Sustainable Infrastructure; Enabling Materials for Extreme Environments; and Smart Living. Funding was limited to CASB tenured/tenure-track faculty and non-tenure track (NTT) research faculty, but applicants were strongly encouraged to work collaboratively with on- or off-campus partners. The following five proposals have been funded with a total of $80,000:

3D Printing of Bone Using Bioactive Glass and Mesenchymal Stem Cells

PI: Julie Semon (Biological Sciences)

Co-PIs: Ming Leu (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering); Delbert Day (Materials Science and Engineering)

Project Summary: This proposal presents a novel method to bioprint bone tissue using three printer “inks”: bioactive glass, a polymer, and adult stem cells. This interdisciplinary study will combine the expertise of the Additive Manufacturing group in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, the renowned bioactive glass research in the Materials Science and Engineering Department, and the newly established Regenerative Medicine Laboratory in the Biological Sciences Department.  By crossing the bridge between engineering and biomedical sciences, this proposal will allow S&T to be in a unique position to have a strong impact in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.  As there are many causes for bone defects, such as trauma, cancer, arthritis, infection, and congenital skeletal abnormalities, the results from this study will have a wide impact clinically and scientifically, as well as have multiple venues for future support.

Economic Analysis of the S&T Solar Village and Some Policy Recommendations

PIMahelet G. Fikru (Department of Economics)

Co-PIs: Gregory Gelles (Department of Economics); Ana M. Ichim (Department of Economics); Jonathan Kimball (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering); Joseph Smith (Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering); Maciej Jan Zawodniok (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Project Summary: The proposed study will conduct an economic analysis on the S&T Solar Village and use findings to forward appropriate policy recommendations. The significance of the study is to provide a much needed economic framework that goes beyond the economics of a photovoltaic house (PV). This is achieved by developing an economic model that evaluates the economic efficiency and cost-effectiveness of living in a shared system of energy flow with smart grids, embedded sensors and intelligent systems. The study will identify strengths (e.g. specific technology, smart materials) and opportunities (e.g. policy environment, market conditions) as well as any challenges (e.g. uncertainties, unexpected shocks) related to the scalability of smart living demonstrated by the S&T Solar Village. Furthermore, given Missouri’s rising interest in renewable energy and the state’s sensitivity to environmental regulations, economic studies on solar generated power would be of interest to policy makers. The proposed research will enhance the signature research area of Smart Living by contributing to S&T Solar Village research and development efforts and connecting faculty engaged in energy research. 

Synthesis and Applications of Nanostructured Ceramics under Extreme Environments

PI: Manashi Nath (Chemistry)

Co-PIs: Amitava Choudury (Chemistry); Pericles Stavropoulos (Chemistry)

Project Summary: The objective of this collaborative proposal is to synthesize nanostructured composite and assembly of borides and carbides of Ti, Zr, Hf, and W for applications under extreme environments. Synthetic protocols proposed involve single-source precursors processable at significantly low temperatures through an understanding of their molecular, solid-state and materials chemistry. Successful execution of this proposed research will enable a plethora of applications, which are currently not possible due to high temperature processing of the borides and carbides. These applications include trivial daily usage materials such as wear and corrosion resistant shoe soles, vehicle tires, as well as technologically advanced consumables such as smart fabrics, and extend to improving upon already existing applications in coating of cutting tools. Moreover, this research may aid to reduce sintering temperature in the densification of ZrB2 and HfB2, which are the structural materials of hypersonic aerospace vehicles, through the composite formation using their nanostructured forms. This proposal is well-aligned with the Enabling Materials for Extreme Environments signature area since the target materials are highly refractory, corrosion resistant, and superhard.

Going with the Flow? Adapting to New Cultures and Technologies in Guatemala

PI: Audra Merfeld-Langston (Arts, Languages, & Philosophy)

Co-PIs: Andrew C. Elmore (Geological Engineering); Joe Guggenberger (Geological Engineering)

Project Summary: Guatemala boasts an abundance of water, yet lack of regulations and lack of education among the country’s poorer populations (more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line) means that water pollution presents a serious health threat. Ceramic pot filters (CPFs) are one means used to provide clean drinking water in rural Guatemala. Students enrolled in S&T’s two-semester Introduction to International Engineering and Design course study the use and efficacy of such CPFs in laboratories at S&T as well as in the field during a three-week trip to Guatemala. Our interdisciplinary study “Going with the Flow?” combines intercultural communication, cultural studies, linguistics, and engineering to address two main questions related to S&T’s Smart Living signature area. First, how do people in rural Guatemala view the use of ceramic pot filters (CPFs) in their communities? Second, how does participating in this international engineering project change the sensitivity of S&T students toward other cultures? 

Statistical Tools for Developing & Testing Advanced Materials for Infrastructure and Extreme Environments

PI: V.A. Samaranayake (Mathematics & Statistics)

Project Summary: The proposed project will develop statistical tools that will support and enhance the research efforts of the Advanced Materials for Sustainable Infrastructure and the Enabling Materials for Extreme Environments best-in-class signature research area groups. The main focus areas would be developing experimental designs that are tailored to the needs of the researchers investigating the efficient estimation of quantitative structure-property relationships for targeted materials using modern data-driven approaches, and deriving novel accelerated and partially accelerated life and degradation testing methods to estimate the life-spans of highly durable materials.