Rutgers professor Ashutosh Goel invents way to contain radioactive iodine
How do you handle nuclear waste that will be radioactive for millions of years, keeping it from harming people and the environment?
It isn’t easy, but Rutgers researcher Ashutosh Goel has discovered ways to immobilize such waste – the offshoot of decades of nuclear weapons production – in glass and ceramics.
Goel, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is the primary inventor of a new method to immobilize radioactive iodine in ceramics at room temperature. He’s also the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI for six glass-related research projects totaling $6.34 million in federal and private funding, with $3.335 million going to Rutgers.
“Glass is a perfect material for immobilizing the radioactive wastes with excellent chemical durability,” said Goel, who works in the School of Engineering. Developing ways to immobilize iodine-129, which is especially troublesome, is crucial for its safe storage and disposal in underground geological formations.
The half-life of iodine-129 is 15.7 million years, and it can disperse rapidly in air and water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If it’s released into the environment, iodine will linger for millions of years. Iodine targets the thyroid gland and can increase the chances of getting cancer.
Among Goel’s major funders is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees one of the world’s largest nuclear cleanups following 45 years of producing nuclear weapons. The national weapons complex once had 16 major facilities that covered vast swaths of Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington state, according to the DOE.
The agency says the Hanford site in southeastern Washington, which manufactured more than 20 million pieces of uranium metal fuel for nine nuclear reactors near the Columbia River, is its biggest cleanup challenge.
Hanford plants processed 110,000 tons of fuel from the reactors. Some 56 million gallons of radioactive waste – enough to fill more than 1 million bathtubs – went to 177 large underground tanks. As many as 67 tanks – more than one third – are thought to have leaked, the DOE says. The liquids have been pumped out of the 67 tanks, leaving mostly dried solids.
The Hanford cleanup mission commenced in 1989, and construction of a waste treatment plant for the liquid radioactive waste in tanks was launched a decade later and is more than three-fifths finished.
“What we’re talking about here is highly complex, multicomponent radioactive waste which contains almost everything in the periodic table,” Goel said. “What we’re focusing on is underground and has to be immobilized.”
Goel, a native of Punjab state in northern India, earned a doctorate in glasses and glass-ceramics from the University of Aveiro in Portugal in 2009 and was a postdoctoral researcher there. He worked as a “glass scientist” at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 2011 and 2012, and then as a senior scientist at Sterlite Technologies Ltd. in India before joining the Rutgers faculty in January 2014.
The six projects he’s leading or co-leading are funded by the DOE Office of River Protection, National Science Foundation and Corning Inc., with collaborators from Washington State University, University of North Texas and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
One of his inventions involves mass producing chemically durable apatite minerals, or glasses, to immobilize iodine without using high temperatures. A second innovation deploys synthesizing apatite minerals from silver iodide particles. He’s also studying how to immobilize sodium and alumina in high-level radioactive waste in borosilicate glasses that resist crystallization.
At the Hanford site, creating glass with radioactive waste is expected to start in around 2022 or 2023, Goel said, and “the implications of our research will be much more visible by that time.”
“It depends on its composition, how complex it is and what it contains,” Goel said. “If we know the chemical composition of the nuclear waste coming out from those plants, we can definitely work on it.”
Washington State University researchers have developed a low-cost, portable laboratory on a smartphone that can analyze several samples at once to catch a cancer biomarker, producing lab quality results.
The research team, led by Lei Li, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, recently published the work in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956566316308983).
At a time when patients and medical professionals expect always faster results, researchers are trying to translate biodetection technologies used in laboratories to the field and clinic, so patients can get nearly instant diagnoses in a physician’s office, an ambulance or the emergency room.
The WSU research team created an eight channel smartphone spectrometer that can detect human interleukin-6 (IL-6), a known biomarker for lung, prostate, liver, breast and epithelial cancers. A spectrometer analyzes the amount and type of chemicals in a sample by measuring the light spectrum.
Although smartphone spectrometers exist, they only monitor or measure a single sample at a time, making them inefficient for real world applications. Li’s multichannel spectrometer can measure up to eight different samples at once using a common test called ELISA, or colorimetric test enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, that identifies antibodies and color change as disease markers.
Although Li’s group has only used the smartphone spectrometer with standard lab-controlled samples, their device has been up to 99 percent accurate. The researchers are now applying their portable spectrometer in real world situations.
“With our eight channel spectrometer, we can put eight different samples to do the same test, or one sample in eight different wells to do eight different tests. This increases our device’s efficiency,” said Li, who has filed a provisional patent for the work.
“The spectrometer would be especially useful in clinics and hospitals that have a large number of samples without on-site labs, or for doctors who practice abroad or in remote areas,” he said. “They can’t carry a whole lab with them. They need a portable and efficient device.”
Li’s design works with an iPhone 5. He is creating an adjustable design that will be compatible with any smartphone.
Washington State University biologist Mechthild Tegeder has developed a way to dramatically increase the yield and quality of soybeans.
Her greenhouse-grown soybean plants fix twice as much nitrogen from the atmosphere as their natural counterparts, grow larger and produce up to 36 percent more seeds.
Tegeder designed a novel way to increase the flow of nitrogen, an essential nutrient, from specialized bacteria in soybean root nodules to the seed-producing organs. She and Amanda Carter, a biological sciences graduate student, found the increased rate of nitrogen transport kicked the plants into overdrive.
Their work, published recently in Current Biology, is a major breakthrough in the science of improving crop yields. It could eventually help address society’s critical challenge of feeding a growing human population while protecting the environment. See the paper athttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982216306157.
“The biggest implication of our research is that by ramping up the natural nitrogen allocation process we can increase the amount of food we produce without contributing to further agricultural pollution,” Tegeder said. “Eventually we would like to transfer what we have learned to other legumes and plants that humans grow for food.”
Improving grain yields
Legumes account for around 30 percent of the world’s agricultural production. They consist of plants like soybeans, alfalfa, peas, beans and lentils, among others.
Unlike crops that rely on naturally occurring and artificially made nitrogen from the soil, legumes contain rhizobia bacterioids in their root nodules that have the unique capability of converting or “fixing” nitrogen gas from the atmosphere.
For years, scientists have tried to increase the rate of nitrogen fixation in legumes by altering rhizobia bacterioid function or interactions that take place between the bacterioid and the root nodule cells.
Tegeder took a different approach: She increased the number of proteins that help move nitrogen from the rhizobia bacteria to the plant’s leaves, seed-producing organs and other areas where it is needed.
The additional transport proteins sped up the overall export of nitrogen from the root nodules. This initiated a feedback loop that caused the rhizobia to start fixing more atmospheric nitrogen, which the plant then used to produce more seeds.
“They are bigger, grow faster and generally look better than natural soybean plants,” Tegeder said. “Some evidence we have suggests they might also be highly efficient under stressful conditions like drought.”
Protecting the environment
Nitrogen is a macronutrient essential for plant growth. Large amounts of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer are applied around the world to ensure high plant productivity.
Application is an environmental issue in industrialized countries like the United States because of high energy input, increased greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and other adverse effects on ecosystems and human health.
In developing countries, where nitrogen fertilizer is scarce, insufficient plant nitrogen results in low crop yields and limited food supplies.
Tegeder thinks her soybean-focused research can eventually be applied to varieties of legumes suited for a diverse array of climates. One major benefit of growing legumes such as chickpeas, common beans, peas and soybeans is that they not only can use atmospheric nitrogen for their own growth but also leave residual nitrogen in the soil for subsequent crops.
Hence, increasing nitrogen fixation could improve overall plant productivity for farmers who grow legumes in both industrial and developing countries while diminishing or eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizers.
“Legumes with higher yields have huge implications for agriculture and food production around the world,” Tegeder said. “Our research also has the potential to be transferred to other crop plants that don’t fix nitrogen from the atmosphere but would benefit from being able to uptake nitrogen more efficiently from the soil.”
Technology rises to efficiency challenge
A Washington State University research team has designed a tiny, wireless data center that someday could be as small as a hand-held device and dramatically reduce the energy needed to run such centers.
Their idea is a paradigm shift in the management of big data, said Partha Pratim Pande, a computer engineering professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Pande, who is collaborating with WSU professor Deuk Heo and a team from Carnegie Mellon University, presented the preliminary design for a data-center-on-a-chip this week at the Embedded Systems Week conference in Pittsburgh. The researchers recently received a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to further develop their transformative idea.
Data centers and high performance computing clusters are energy hogs, requiring enormous amounts of power and space. Often requiring air conditioners to cool their many processors, data centers consumed about 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in the U.S. in 2013, which is equivalent to the output of 34 large, coal-fired power plants, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
Large data farms run by companies like Facebook have made significant energy efficiency improvements, but many data servers at small businesses around the country still consume significant resources. Sustainable computing has become of increasing interest to researchers, industry leaders and the public.
“We have reached our power limit already,” said Pande. “To address our energy efficiency challenges, this architecture and technology need to be adopted by the community.”
3D chip three times more efficient
Unlike portable devices that have gone wireless, data farms that provide instant availability to text messages, video downloads and more still use conventional metal wires on computer chips, which are wasteful for relatively long-range data exchange.
Most data centers are made up of several processing cores. One of their major performance limitations stems from the multi-hop nature of data exchange. That is, data has to move around several cores through wires, slowing down the processor and wasting energy.
Pande’s group in recent years designed a wireless network on a computer chip. Similar to the way a cell phone works, the system includes a tiny, low-power transceiver, on-chip antennas and communication protocols that enable wireless shortcuts.
The new work expands these capabilities for a wireless data-center-on-a-chip. In particular, the researchers are moving from two-dimensional chips to a highly integrated, three-dimensional, wireless chip at the nano- and microscales that can move data more quickly and efficiently.
For instance, the researchers will be able to run big data applications on their wireless system three times more efficiently than the best data center servers.
Personal cloud computing possibilities
As part of their grant, the researchers will evaluate the wireless data center to increase energy efficiency while also maintaining fast, on-chip communications. The tiny chips, consisting of thousands of cores, could run data-intensive applications orders of magnitude more efficiently compared to existing platforms. Their design has the potential to achieve a comparable level of performance as a conventional data center using much less space and power.
It could someday enable personal cloud computing possibilities, said Pande, adding that the effort would require massive integration and significant innovation at multiple levels.
“This is a new direction in networked system design,” he said. “This project is redefining the foundation of on-chip communication.”
Washington State University researchers have developed a novel nanomaterial that could improve the performance and lower the costs of fuel cells by using fewer precious metals like platinum or palladium.
Led by Yuehe Lin, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the researchers used inexpensive metal to make a super low density material, called an aerogel, to reduce the amount of precious metals required for fuel cell reactions. They also sped up the time to make the aerogels, which makes them more viable for large-scale production.
Their work is published in Advanced Materials (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/
Hydrogen fuel cells are a promising green energy solution, producing electricity much more efficiently and cleanly than combustion engines. But they need expensive precious metals to fuel their chemical reactions. This need has limited their acceptance in the marketplace.
Aerogels, which are sometimes also called liquid smoke, are solid materials that are about 92 percent air. Effective insulators, they are used in wet suits, firefighting gear, windows, paints and in fuel cell catalysts. Because metal-based aerogels have large surface areas and are highly porous, they work well for catalyzing in fuel cells.
The WSU team created a series of bimetallic aerogels, incorporating inexpensive copper and using less precious metal than other metal aerogels.
Researchers introduced the copper in the bimetallic system through their new, one-step reduction method to create hydrogel. The hydrogel is the liquid-filled form of aerogel. The liquid component is carefully and completely dried out of the hydrogel to create aerogel. Their method has reduced the manufacturing time of hydrogel from three days to six hours.
“This will be a great advantage for large scale production,” said Chengzhou Zhu, a WSU assistant research professor who created the aerogel.
A discovery by Washington State University scientist Dan Rodgers and collaborator Paul Gregorevic could save millions of people suffering from muscle wasting disease.
The result of the team’s four-year project is a novel gene therapeutic approach. The work was published (http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/348/348ra98) July 20 in Science Translational Medicine, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Chronic disease affects more than half of the world’s population,” said Rodgers, professor of animal sciences (https://ansci.wsu.edu/people/faculty/dan-rodgers/) and director of the Washington Center for Muscle Biology (http://wcmb.wsu.edu/). “Most of those diseases are accompanied by muscle wasting.
“It occurs with chronic infection, muscular dystrophy, malnutrition and old age,” he said. “About half the people who die from cancer are actually dying from muscle wasting and there’s not one single therapy out there that addresses it.
Family history inspires search for treatment
“I have a strong motivation to do something about this, to do more than simply publish results,” said Rodgers, who teamed with Gregorevic of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia (https://www.bakeridi.edu.au/). “My father died from cachexia,” the wasting disease caused by cancer, “and my nephew has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable, fatal disease that could claim his life in his teens.
Washington State University (WSU) is a public research university based in Pullman, in the U.S. state of Washington, in the Palouse region of the Pacific Northwest.
Founded in 1890, WSU (colloquially referred to as Wazzu) is the state’s original and largest land-grant university. The university is well known for its programs in chemical engineering, veterinary medicine, agriculture, animal science, food science, plant science, architecture, neuroscience and communications. It is ranked in the top-ten universities in the US in terms of clean technology and it is one of 96 public and private universities in America with “very high research activity,” as determined by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. WSU is ranked among the top half of national universities at 115th according to U.S. News and World Report. With an undergraduate enrollment of 21,816 and a total student enrollment of 27,008, it is the second largest institution of higher education in Washington state.
The university also operates campuses across Washington known as WSU Spokane, WSU Tri-Cities, and WSU Vancouver, all founded in 1989. In 2012, WSU launched an Internet-based Global Campus, which includes its online degree program, WSU Online. These campuses award primarily bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Freshmen and sophomores were first admitted to the Vancouver campus in 2006 and to the Tri-Cities campus in 2007. Total enrollment for the four campuses and WSU Online exceeds 25,900 students. In 2009, this included a record 1,447 international students, the highest since 1994 when there were 1,442.
The Latest Updated Research News:
Washington State University research articles from Innovation Toronto
- New catalyst paves way for bio-based plastics, chemicals – December 13, 2015
- Researchers develop antibiotic e-scaffold alternative to treat infections – November 12, 2015
- Researchers create stretchable metal conductors for electronics – September 13, 2015
- SHAPE-SHIFTING PLASTIC – May 25, 2015
- Breakthrough biofuel discovery could soon power jet planes on mould – May 9, 2015
- Researchers use plant oils for novel bio-based plastics Researchers use plant oils for novel bio-based plastics – April 18, 2015
- Study points the way toward producing rubber from lettuce – April 12, 2015
- Quantum compute this — WSU mathematicians build code to take on toughest of cyber attacks – March 27, 2015
- Major study documents benefits of organic farming – July 14, 2014
- WSU researchers develop fuel cells for increased airplane efficiency – June 21, 2014
- Iowa State materials scientist developing materials and electronics that dissolve when triggered | transient electronics
- Knowledge transfer: Computers teach each other Pac-Man
- Accidental discovery dramatically improves conductivity
- Power, transport implications: WSU researchers create superconductor from solvent
- WSU researchers use 3-D printer to make parts from moon rock
- WSU researchers create super lithium-ion battery
- Garlic Compound Fights Source of Food-Borne Illness Better Than Antibiotics
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Could Provide Relief of Chronic Pain
- Gadgets with “Ambient Intelligence” Are Key to Smart Homes and Cities
- World’s first 3D-printed lower jaw implant gives 83-year old patient her bite back
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A Wayne State University researcher understands that the three most important things about real estate also apply to small ground robotic vehicles: location, location, location.
In a paper recently published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, Weisong Shi, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, describes his development of a technique called LOBOT that provides accurate, real-time, 3-D positions in both indoor and outdoor environments. The project was supported in part by the Wayne State Career Development Chair award, which gives Shi an opportunity to explore other areas after receiving tenure at WSU.
Scientists believe small ground robotic vehicles have great potential for use in situations that are either uncomfortable or too tedious for humans. For example, a robot may become part of industrial operations, assist senior citizens or serve as a tour guide for an exhibition center. Keeping a robot as small as possible enables it to move through narrow passageways, such as tunnels.
To complete such missions, a robotic vehicle often must obtain accurate localization in real time. But because frequent calibration or management of external facilities is difficult or impossible, a completely integrated self-positioning system is ideal. In addition, that system should work indoors or outdoors without human calibration or management and cost as little as possible.
In the paper titled “LOBOT: Low-Cost, Self-Contained Localization of Small-Sized Ground Robotic Vehicles,” Shi and lead author Guoxing Zhan, one of his former graduate students, describe their technique, which combines a GPS receiver, local relative positioning based on a 3-D accelerometer, a magnetic field sensor and several motor rotation sensors.
The researchers noted that IEEE Transactions, the leading journal in the field, prominently featured their paper in its April 2013 issue. They are proud that their work was in progress before President Barack Obama’s June 2011 announcement of the National Robotics Initiative, which seeks to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively with, people.
Shi’s technique combines elements of common localization schemes for ground robotic vehicles, noting that each of those schemes has limitations. One scheme, using GPS alone, requires a lot of power. Another, radio-based positioning, requires proper calibration, a friendly environment and a set of external devices to generate or receive radio signals.
A third scheme, the use of vision techniques, relies heavily on recognition of objects or shapes and often has restricted spatial and visual requirements. Additionally, those objects and shapes must be captured and loaded into a computer which, like GPS, requires a lot of power.
A fourth scheme, inertial sensors, is part of the LOBOT design. Inertial sensors often are used to detect movement, but unlike radio- or vision-based techniques, operate independently of external environmental features and need no external reference. However, previous methods of maintaining their accuracy have resulted in high cost and calibration difficulty.
LOBOT uses a hybrid approach that localizes robotic vehicles with infrequent GPS use, a 3-D version of the accelerometer used in other inertial sensor systems and several motor rotation sensors — all installed on the robotic vehicle. All of the components are commercially available, with some costing as little as $20.