Northeastern University Department of Chemical Engineering December Newsletter
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Letter from the Chair

Happy Holidays! Breaking Records Keeps Us Warm This Winter.

Greetings from cold Boston! One way we have been staying warm is breaking records! In this issue, you will see how we had the highest number of presentations by Chemical Engineering faculty and students at this year's Materials Research Society Annual Fall Conference. We also introduce you to our December capstone teams, who developed gluten free beer and an aquaponics system for carbon dioxide recapture. In case you have not been following, our capstone students now build prototypes of their project, not just develop it theoretically. Lastly, we have been keeping warm by running innovative conferences. For example, in December, to highlight problems with water purity in Flint, Michigan and elsewhere, we held the first ever "Hidden Infrastructure" symposium highlighting how nanotechnology can be used to maintain water purity. So stay warm everyone, and if you are looking for ways to do so, look at all of the events Chemical  Engineering at Northeastern are hosting!


Thomas Webster
Professor and Department Chair, Chemical Engineering
Art Zafiropoulo Chair in Engineering
Faculty Highlight
Sidi Bencherif
Assistant Professor
PhD, Carnegie Mellon University
The primary focus of my research is the design and development of biologically-inspired polymeric materials suitable for various biomedical applications, including drug and cell delivery, tissue engineering, and immunotherapy.

One of my approaches is to engineer injectable three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds fabricated from customizable polymer candidates that possess unique properties for highly specific applications. Precisely, I explore alternatives to invasive biomaterials implantation and understand how biomaterials interact with the host on cellular, tissue, organ and systemic levels.

One exciting application is biomaterial design for cancer immunotherapy. My strategy is based on developing personalized prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine systems where an immunologically active macroporous 3D scaffold is used to unleash the body’s natural defense system to fight off cancer. This technology was initially designed to target cancerous cells in skin, but might have application to an array of cancers, where patients’ own cancer cells could be used for cancer treatment.
Upcoming Events and 
Dr. Sumner Barenberg Seminar
January 12, 2017
Curry Room 333

Dr. Ramin Sadeghian Seminar
January 24, 2017
Curry 433

Chemical Engineering Day 2017
February 22, 2017
Northeastern University
Raytheon and 440 Egan
Stay tuned for more details!

Chemical Engineering Leads the Way at MRS with Record Number of Presentations


Last week, over 5,000 attendees visited Boston for the 2016 MRS Fall Meeting and Exhibit. The Materials Research Society (MRS) is an organization of materials researchers worldwide that promotes communication for the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research and technology to improve the quality of life.

The Department of Chemical Engineering had 49 presentations from students, faculty, and postdocs. One of the most memorable parts of the conference was the Science as Art Competition, where attendees submitted dynamic and beautiful images obtained using modeling and simulation as well as other material imaging techniques.

"This was my first time at MRS, and my second time at a conference ever. The conference was overall very impressive, with lots of exciting research presented from an eclectic group of talented individuals,” remarks Andrew Spencer, President of the Graduate Student Council.

Chemical Engineering Hosts The Hidden Infrastructure Symposium


On December 8th, Chemical Engineering hosted The Hidden Infrastructure in Raytheon Amphitheater. This one-day symposium featured inspiring speakers from Northeastern, Yale, MIT, Vexti Corporation, and American Water.

The symposium discussed the technology and applications of various nano surfacing techniques to such areas as remediation of potable water distribution systems, remediation of sewer systems, facilitation of biofilm reduction in desalination plants, and other similar areas of applications.

Professor and Chair Thomas Webster delivered a talk titled “Nano Technology and Bio Controls”, which explained his research on preventing deadly bacteria in pipes.

Team Sorgholi Develops Gluten Free Beer for Capstone Project

Chemical Engineering students Mike Flaherty, Eric Gilmore, Nancy Ho and Nicholas Woodward developed Sorgholi, a 100% gluten-free beer company using greener energy practices. The capstone project was impressive for being locally sourced and environmentally conscious.

Team Sorgholi successfully developed a primary novel trade secret formulation that utilized all gluten-free ingredients (to be later refined for optimized flavor profiles). Sustainability initiatives included designing the plant's electricity needs to be fully met with onsite solar, implementing a CO2 recovery system, and utilizing a boiler heat recovery system. Their economic analysis predicted a positive net present value after four years. The toughest challenges the group faced involved developing a tasty gluten-free beer formulation, and including the company's green energy practices into the process flow diagram.

The team name “Sorgholi” was inspired by the sorghum plant genus, the extract of which is a key component of their gluten-free beer recipes. Inspiration for the project idea came to the team over the summer, when they all agreed that gluten free beer would be a powerful project idea.

GroUp Creates Functional Aquaponics System with Vertical Farming 

Today, consistent population growth and ongoing urbanization pose sustainability needs for increasingly congested metropolitan areas across America. Food supply, above all, is a major concern for these communities. Providing a food source in urban areas with minimal available space while also using sustainable practices is harder still. In efforts to meet this need, GroUp has designed a novel vertical aquaponics system which utilizes heat recapture from its own LED light sources and consumes CO2 produced from fermentation processes.

Their model system is capable of providing 2,000 sq. ft. of cultivation space, farming over 1,000 tilapia fish annually, and consuming 2/3 of the CO2 generated by a local brewery in one year--more than 30,000 kg of CO2--all in an entirely contained system occupying 1,000 sq. ft. of floor space. While current aquaponics systems burn fossil fuels to generate CO2, this technology takes advantage of anaerobic respiration, such as that occurring in the brewing of beers or ciders. During fermentation, CO2 is produced at a 1:1 ratio with ethanol, requiring breweries to meet severe costs for the emission, storage, or treatment of the environmentally hazardous byproduct onsite. In a novel design and venture, the GroUp Vertical Aquaponics System would source CO2 onsite directly from the brewery’s CO2 store.

In addition designing this commercial-scale model, the group designed and built a small-scale prototype, currently housed in a team member’s bedroom.
Recent Publications
Extending Reaction Mechanism Generator to Silicon Hydride Chemistry
By: Belinda L. Slakman, Harsono Simka, Harinath Reddy, and Richard H. West
Volume: 55   Issue: 49   Pages: 12507-12515   NOV 2016

Coupled, Simultaneous Displacement and Dealloying Reactions into Fe–Ni–Co Nanowires for Thinning Nanowire Segments
By: Xiaohua Geng and Elizabeth J. Podlaha
Volume: 16   Issue: 12   Pages: 7439–7445   NOV 2016

In Situ Sensor Advancements for Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment
By: Liu, Luting; Webster, Thomas J.
Volume: 14   Issue: 6   Pages: 386-395   DEC 2016

Bio-based polyurethane for tissue engineering applications: How hydroxyapatite nanoparticles influence the structure, thermal and biological behavior of polyurethane composites
By: Laís P. Gabriel, Maria Elizabeth M. dos Santos, André L. Jardini, Gilmara N.T. Bastos, Carmen G.B.T. Dias, Thomas J. Webster, Rubens Maciel Filho
Volume: 13   Issue: 1   Pages: 201–208   JAN 2017

Superparamagnetic iron oxide-encapsulating polymersome nanocarriers for biofilm eradication
By: Benjamin M. Geilicha, Ilia Gelfat, Srinivas Sridhar, Anne L. van de Ven, Thomas J. Webster
Available Online   DEC 2016
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