ChemE Briefs

Welcome to ChemE Briefs, a place to find quick notes and posts from the faculty, students, staff and alumni of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Virginia.

    ChemE Undergrad Anna Harris to Present Membrane Manufacturing Research at Society’s Annual Meeting

    March 16, 2023


    Anna Harris, a third-year chemical engineering major, has won an Undergraduate Student Travel Supplement to attend NAMS 2023, the North American Membrane Society’s annual meeting.

    Harris is an undergraduate researcher working with associate professor of chemical engineering Geoff Geise, who also has a courtesy appointment in materials science and engineering. Geise’s research group specializes in the design of polymeric materials for membrane-based liquid separations and energy applications.

    Harris earned the award to present a poster on her research project, “Analysis of Manufacturing Methods of Ion-Exchange Membranes for Desalination,” at the meeting.

    Harris’ research focuses on the characterization of polymer membranes that can be used for water purification through electrodialysis — a process used to remove salt ions from water streams through alternating cation and anion exchange membranes. She is comparing the properties associated with membranes she creates in the lab and those made using an emerging electrospray technology in additive manufacturing by her collaborators at the University of Connecticut.

    “We are hoping to show that the fine-tuning capabilities of electrospray technology allow for more material control, which leads to more efficient ion transport and increased membrane selectivity. This manufacturing method decreases material and energy costs to effectively manufacture more sustainable materials in an effort of green engineering,” said Harris, who is an A. James Clark Scholar.

    Charles Leroux Earns Travel Award to Present Research at NAMS 2023

    February 24, 2023

    Chemical engineering Ph.D. student Charles Leroux has been selected for an Elias Klein Founders’ Travel Supplement, which is given by the North American Membrane Society.

    The award will reimburse Leroux up to $500 for travel expenses to attend NAMS 2023, the society’s annual meeting, to present his research, “Transport Property Modulation Via Solvent-Specific Behavior in Crosslinked Non-Aqueous Membranes.”

    Leroux is investigating the effects of non-aqueous electrolyte solutions on the functional properties of crosslinked polymer membranes used in flow battery systems. The membranes are critical to the safety and efficiency of non-aqueous redox flow battery systems, which potentially offer a more cost-effective, safer and sustainable alternative to lithium-ion batteries for large-scale energy storage.

    Leroux works with associate professors Geoff Geise, whose lab focuses on polymer membranes, and Gary Koenig, who specializes in materials for batteries and other storage applications.

    ChemE’s Lexi Cuomo and Fellow Cavalier Swimmers Reset Records to Win Fourth-Straight ACC Title

    February 22, 2023

    Fourth-year chemical engineering major Lexi Cuomo just broke two NCAA, US Open and American relay records – in the 200 medley and 200 free – with her teammates as the women Cavaliers swam to their fourth-straight ACC Championship title in swimming and diving.

    Cuomo swam on three of the relay teams, which swept all five relay events, and she was among the Hoos’ top individual scorers with 63 points.

    Virginia reset their own NCAA and US Open records in the 200 medley relay, 400 medley relay, 200 free relay and 400 free relay, and became the first women’s team to score more than 1,500 total points in an ACC Championship. The team finished with 1,536, blowing past the previous ACC record of 1,492.5, which the Cavaliers set in 2020 – Cuomos first year on the team.

    Congrats to Lexi and her fellow Hoos – and now on to the NCAA championship!

    See more results here.


    Peer-Reviewed Article Utilizing NMCF Instrumentation Makes Top-10!

    December 26, 2022


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    Solvothermal synthesis procedures to obtain films of NU-901 and NU-100 with parallel orientation and perpendicular orientation (Verma et al. 2020)

    Out of hundreds of papers, Prince K. Verma, a doctoral student in UVa's Department of Chemical Engineering, had his publication selected as one of the Top-Ten scientific peer-reviewed articles submitted for the Malvern Panalytical Scientific Award 2022. Verma's publication, "Controlling Polymorphism and Orientation of NU-901/NU-1000 Metal-Organic Framework Thin Films," was published in Chemistry of Materials in December 2020 (Chem. Mater. 202, 32, 24, 10556-10565). In this work, Verma's team investigates NU-1000, a zirconium (Zr)-based metal-organics frameswork (MOF), that is a promising candidate for heterogeneous catalysis, gas storage, electrocatalysis, and drug-delivery applications due to its large pore size and mesoporous structure.

    For this research, the team utilized several of the NMCF instruments available to UVa students and researchers, including our Malvern Panalytical Empyrean X-ray Diffractometer for out-of-plane powder X-ray diffraction measurement; the FEI Quanta 650 Field-Emission Secondary Electron Microscope for imaging of the NU-901 & NU-1000 thin films, Au-Pd coated to improve conductivity with the Gatan 682 Precision Etching and Polishing System; and the PHI Versaprobe X-ray Photoelectron Specctrometer for surface concentration analysis.

    NMCF's electron microscopy principal scientist, Helge Heinrich, co-authored this work.

    Congratulations to Prince, Helge, and their co-authors!






    UVA Engineering’s Catalysis Groups Shine at AIChE Meeting

    December 22, 2022

    Students in UVA chemical engineering’s catalysis groups were well represented as award recipients at the 2022 AIChE Annual Meeting, the biggest yearly gathering of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Among those presenting research were Keka Mandal, a Ph.D. student in assistant professor Chris Paolucci’s computational catalysis group, who won a Catalysis and Reaction Engineering Division Travel Award to attend the meeting. The $400 prize was for her oral presentation on “Effect of Reaction Conditions and SO2 Exposure on Cu Speciation in SSZ13 Zeolites.”

    UVA Team Competes in 2022 ChemE Sports Event

    November 27, 2022

    Two teams of undergraduate students from the University of Virginia Department of Chemical Engineering competed in the 2022 ChemE Sports Competition held at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ annual meeting in Phoenix.

    Both teams, coached by assistant professor George Prpich, performed exceptionally well, with one team claiming third place, and the other finishing middle of the pack. Congrats to ChemE majors Ethan Kutner, Avery Baker, Eli Brna and Patrick Salvanera for their commitment and dedication.

    Hava Inc. Keeps Washable Face Masks Moving Toward Market with a Small Business Grant from CDC

    November 17, 2022

    Assistant professor of chemical engineering Gaurav “Gino” Giri’s startup company, Hava Inc., has received a $259,484 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Centers for Disease Control.

    Giri co-founded Hava Inc. with Balashankar Mulloth, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, using metal organic frameworks-based air filtration technology he created in his chemical engineering lab at UVA.

    The company produces fully washable, highly efficient fabric face masks and filters made with the metal organic frameworks material. The team is designing the masks to meet the American Society for Testing and Materials’ specifications for breathability and filtration efficiency for nonmedical face masks.

    Giri has filed a patent on his process to rapidly synthesize the metal organic frameworks material, which can be applied to ordinary fabric using existing manufacturing technology.

    Hava received the CDC grant to continue moving the face masks toward commercialization, which you can learn more about here.


    As Discoverers, Educators and Entrepreneurs, Great Faculty Do a World of Good

    November 17, 2022


    It’s been an exceptional year for UVA chemical engineering faculty, whose innovative research, teaching excellence and entrepreneurship are improving lives through applications in medicine, energy, agriculture and many other areas. 

    We highlight a few here, starting with the ingenuity of associate professors Gary Koenig and Geoffrey Geise and assistant professor Gaurav “Gino” Giri, who have teamed with an industry partner to compete for the U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize. 

    Grad Students Demonstrate Excellence on the Road with Conference Research Prizes

    November 16, 2022

    A busy conference season for chemical engineering Ph.D. students yielded numerous awards, a testament to the students’ excellence and commitment to difference-making research. We rounded up a few examples here.

    Mara Kuenen in assistant professor Rachel Letteri’s polymer biomaterials lab collected two best poster prizes plus a scholarship to attend a short course on sustainable polymers. Her work focuses on designing materials with controlled lifetimes to address challenges such as plastic waste pollution and drug delivery.

    In professor William Epling’s environmental catalysis lab, Silvia Marino earned two competitive travel awards to attend conferences and present research. Both projects investigate catalysts to improve the aftertreatment system of gasoline-engine cars to reduce pollution.

    Environmental Science Geochemistry Students Tour NMCF

    November 01, 2022

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    UVa Environmental Science Students in Prof. Steve Macko's Geochemistry Class ( EVGE 7850 ) tour the X-ray Diffraction and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy laboratories, where NMCF Scientists, DIane Dickie and Helge Heinrich, describe instrumentation and methods.

    Last Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, graduate and undgraduate students in Prof. Steve Macko's Geochemistry (EVE 7850) took a short field trip from the Environmental Science department to the NMCF, where our staff (Diane Dickie and Helge Heinrich) demonstrated X-ray instrumentation. Dr. Dickie ran samples of table salt on the Empyrean X-ray Diffractometer (XRD) to determine the mineral composition, while Dr. Heinrich showed the students around the X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS). Students learned what information can be learned from each instrument's spectra, as well as the types of samples appropriate for each analytical method.