2021 Institute for Materials + BASF Graduate Student Fellows Announced

Georgia Tech’s Institute for Materials (IMat), with generous support from BASF, is pleased to announce the 2021 IMat Graduate Student Fellows (IGSF). The 4 awardees will receive a $3K direct funding grant to supplement their existing monthly stipends during the award year. The winners were selected based on their projects’ view to materials sustainability regarding raw materials, carbon or energy efficiency, or waste and recyclability.

Krista Bullard

Utilizing Cyclodextrin to Compatibilize the Polymer and CNC Interface for Lightweight Material

Advisors: Will Gutekuhst; Professor, School of Chemistry and Mohan Srinivasarao; Professor, School of Materials Science & Engineering

As a renewable resource, cyclodextrin-modified CNCs have the potential to produce a new class of lightweight, high-strength composites for a wide-range of applications, including materials in the automotive and aerospace fields. The research this award will support involves using my recently developed surface modification technique to covalently anchor cyclodextrin rings onto cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) particles and study the physical threading of polymers through the cyclodextrin cavity

Receiving the IMat Graduate Fellowship is incredibly exciting and a great motivator as I am working on a challenging section of my project while working with lab restrictions. I am grateful to BASF for these funds, and I am excited to share my progress later in the year.
- Krista Bullard

Krista received her B.S. in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. While at Pitt, she conducted computational research on silyl ketene polymerization and CO2 absorption in ionic liquids with Dr. Daniel Lambrecht. During the summer of 2016, Krista received the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship through the Department of Energy at the National Energy Technology Lab in Pittsburgh, where she did computational research of the electrochemistry of CO2 with gold nanoparticles. In the summer of 2017, Krista worked in polymer R&D at Sherwin-Williams. She is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a recipient of the Renewable Bioproducts Institute fellowship.

Karoline Hebisch

Mechanocatalytic Ammonia Synthesis over Transition Metal Nitrides in Transient Microenvironments

Advisor: Carsten Sievers; Associate Professor, School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Hebisch and team aim to provide an alternative to the current way to produce fertilizers based on ammonia, which is currently highly industrialized and only viable at large scale, to enable increasing agricultural yields in developing regions. Their mechanocatalytic approach offers a promising alternative to industry use standards, as it can operate with renewable energy sources and features a simple, modular design.

The award of this fellowship shows that industry leaders also see a potential for our research to play a role in a more sustainable future and the funding provided will help to continue our pioneering work on this important topic.
- Karoline Hebisch

Karoline L. Hebisch is a second-year Ph.D. student in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. She is advised by Dr. Carsten Sievers in the field of heterogeneous catalysis.

Karoline received her B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry from the Technical University of Darmstadt in 2016 and 2019. During her master’s she spent a semester abroad to study Plastics Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. In her master’s thesis with Dr. Sievers, she studied mechanochemical ammonia synthesis as a sustainable, distributed approach for fertilizer production.

Emily Klein

Developing and Understanding Liquid Metal Interfaces for Solid-State Batteries

Advisor: Matthew McDowell; Associate Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science & Engineering

To make renewable energy possible for our society, progress needs to be made to improve energy storage devices. Fundamentally understanding the effects of liquid metals at solid- solid electrochemical interfaces will be an important step toward making solid-state batteries a competitive energy storage option. Our team aims to produce research results that help drive the development of batteries with higher energy density and specific energy that can be produced at scale for wide adoption.

​Due to recent environmental disasters such as fires and hurricanes, climate change is again at the forefront of public discussion. New battery technologies will be critical for enabling longer- range electric vehicles and for the engineering of largescale energy storage technologies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions for our society.
- Emily Klein

Emily Klein is a first-year graduate student in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, working in Prof. Matthew McDowell’s group and leading a research project focused on interfacial engineering of solid-state batteries. She has extensive prior research experience on investigating battery safety during her co-op experience at the Naval Research Lab, and is excited to be working to enable the creation of next generation solid-state batteries.

Sai Saravanan Ambi Venkataramanan

High-Throughput Screening of Cathode-Electrolyte Systems for Stable Lithium-Air Battery (LAB) Design using Machine-Learning (ML) and Density Functional Theory (DFT) Simulations

Advisor: Seung Soon Jang; Professor, School of Materials Science and Engineering

Machine Learning advances are aiding the development of reliable computational screening models for new energy storage devices. Unlike (de)intercalation in Lithium-ion batteries, Lithium-Air batteries requires an understanding of various competitive reactions taking place at both the cathode surface and solvated electrolyte. Training a machine learning model using data from molecular simulations can help us to predict battery performance for a wide array of substrates.

​US Department of Energy aims to reduce price of batteries to about $80-100/kwh. There is an uprising need to develop cheap, energy dense, and compact devices. I am fortunate to study on fundamental mechanism of Lithium-air batteries, at this right hour. I am grateful to my advisor, Institute for Materials, and BASF for believing in and funding this project.
- Sai Saravanan Ambi Venkataramanan

Sai Saravanan Ambi Venkataramanan received his B.S in Chemical Engineering, with an emphasis on ASPEN and molecular simulations in studying the extraction efficiency of ionic liquids. He received the Indian Science Academies Summer Research Fellowship in 2018 and attended the CCP5-CECAM Summer Program in ‘Molecular Simulations of Condensed Phases’ at Lancaster University, UK. Sai is currently pursuing his M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech working under Prof. Seung Soon Jang in developing principal cathode and electrolyte specific features to predict Lithium-Air Battery performance.

The awardees will present their research to BASF representatives at BASF’s campus recruiting visit during October 2021. Fellows’ presentations will detail the aspects explored, new capabilities developed, and how their research impacts them personally and professionally, including benefits to their group, academic unit, Georgia Tech Community, and the larger society.

Founded in 2012 as one of Georgia Tech’s 11 interdisciplinary research institutes, the Institute for Materials at Georgia Tech seeks to enable and support Georgia Tech’s internationally recognized materials research and innovation ecosystem; establishing and supporting large- scale industry and government partnerships, developing opportunities for Georgia Tech researchers to catalyze new ideas, and establishing Georgia Tech as an internationally recognized hub for core materials research facilities, infrastructure and knowledge. Learn more at: https://research.gatech.edu/materials

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion dollars in research annually for government, industry, and society. For more on Georgia Tech research visit: https://research.gatech.edu/

BASF Corporation, headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, is the North American affiliate of BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany. BASF has approximately 17,000 employees in North America and had sales of $18.7 billion in 2020. For more information about BASF’s North American operations, visit basf.com.

BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. We combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. More than 110,000 employees in the Group contribute to the success of our customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world. Our portfolio is organized into six segments: Chemicals, Materials, Industrial Solutions, Surface Technologies, Nutrition & Care and Agricultural Solutions.BASF generated sales of €59 billion in 2020. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchange in Frankfurt (BAS) and as American Depositary Receipts in the U.S. Further information at basf.com.

- Christa M. Ernst - Interdisciplinary Research Communications Program Manager
  Materials | Nanotechnology | Robotics
  Georgia Institute of Technology| christa.ernst@research.gatech.edu