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Dr. Ritesh Sachan

CEAT professor receives NSF Early CAREER Award to conduct first-of-its-kind research

Friday, May 26, 2023

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An assistant professor and researcher from the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT) has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct first-of-its-kind research in the area of high entropy alloy nanoparticles.

Dr. Ritesh Sachan will receive more than  $500,000 over the next five years to further his research proposal, “Leading to Accelerated Discoveries in High-Throughput Ultrafast Laser-Driven Processing of High Entropy Alloy Nanoparticles,” an area that is mostly undiscovered territory.

“I am honored to get this award,” said Sachan, an assistant professor in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. “It is very prestigious and highly regarded among our academic and research peers. It creates a lot of visibility for myself and my research which allows for further funding opportunities and the opportunity for collaboration with others in the field.”

We use alloys every day, steel, brass and bronze are all materials primarily comprised of two or three dominant materials. Sachan’s research is focused on the formation and composition of high entropy alloys that contain a minimum of five different elements or materials in various percentages. These high entropy alloys could be found to have the same or better characteristics than some of their pure or traditional alloy counterparts.

These nanoparticles are created by firing a laser through a thin film of each composite material which causes the film to break, shrivel and eventually create nanoparticles that can be tested.

The predominant application of these materials is catalysis for energy production. These processes tend to use expensive or scarce materials, whereas this research could find a new material that is just as effective but composed of more cost effective and abundant elements.

“Long-term, cost effectiveness is the biggest benefit,” Sachan said. “Right now, the most popular catalyst is platinum, which is very expensive. However, if you can replace that with new materials made of nickel, cobalt, etc. you may still be able to yield the effectiveness of platinum, but at a much lower cost.”

However, the end product may not be the only groundbreaking aspect of Sachan’s research. While using laser-driven production methods is not a new concept, the adaptation of that method to the production of high entropy nanoparticles will require new approaches and methodologies based on well-founded production methods.

“We are performing foundational research,” Sachan said. “New materials may not be the only product of this research, but the methods and procedures we use along the way could be transformational to this area of research.”

Sachan will be conducting fundamental research in the area of novel nanoparticle composition and its benefits, as well as, using new methods to review and understand the microstructure of these nanoparticles. For example, he will be utilizing 4D STEM (4D scanning transmission electron microscopy) technique coupled with machine learning to identify and understand the structural properties of these nanoparticles.

“This research is super exciting,” Sachan said. “The NSF labeled this proposal ‘high risk, high reward” because we are the one of the first to venture into this particular area of research. It is both exciting and intimidating because of the unknowns.”

While the outcome of the research is unknown, the researcher remains unfazed by the challenges that lie ahead.

“It is exciting because we have a pathway forward,” Sachan said. “We know the steps we are going to take. Whether it is successful or not remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting journey.”

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