Nanoscale advances | UDaily

Picture by Evan Krape | Illustration by Pleasure Smoker

Priyanka Ketkar, a doctoral researcher performing with Professor Thomas H. Epps, III, in the College of Delaware’s School of Engineering, has been chosen for a prestigious National Academies/Countrywide Analysis Council (NRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Nationwide Institute of Specifications and Technologies (NIST), exactly where she will grow basic investigate on some of the tiniest systems acknowledged now.

Ketkar commenced her doctoral research in the Section of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the drop of 2016, following getting her undergraduate levels in chemical engineering and chemistry from the College of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where by she grew to become interested in polymer investigation. 

As a young, blossoming scientist, she said she thrived on the procedures and orderliness of science and math. A loved ones with a excellent amount of engineers and physicians was also an inspiration to dive deeper into the sciences. By the time she took chemistry, she was hooked.

“I believe most scientists want their get the job done to be impactful,” she stated, noting that she hopes the do the job she’ll do through NIST will pave the way for future developments in polymer and components science.

Polymers are in essence supplies that have qualities as both equally solids and liquids, allowing them to be adaptable, strong and valuable in a assortment of programs. As a researcher in the Epps Exploration Group at UD, Ketkar has worked on assignments relevant to employing polymers as content in batteries in an exertion to make batteries safer, a lot more economical and extended-lasting. That perform piqued her fascination in the fundamentals of polymer physics, she claimed.

“There are a lot of polymer design possibilities you can make, so you have to begin with a basic comprehending of how those possibilities relate to materials homes,” claimed Lisa Corridor, an affiliate professor at Ohio Condition and a single of Ketkar’s numerous investigate collaborators. “That’s the argument for why we require standard science in this article. Priyanka is encouraging us make that relationship.”

Ketkar will take the instruments she’s polished in the course of her time at UD to the NIST NRC application, which is supposed for new postdocs and from time to time potential customers to long term positions within just the national laboratory.

“NRC postdoctoral trainees are a incredibly distinguished group, and numerous recipients have long gone on to guide fantastic research in nationwide labs, sector and in academia (such as many school at Delaware),” said outgoing office chair Eric Furst. “This is a excellent recognition and opportunity for Priyanka. I’m hunting ahead to staying in touch and listening to about her work as it develops.”

Ketkar will commit the up coming two several years less than the advisement of Supplies Study Engineer R. Joseph Kline all through the postdoc method, which is established to start off in early Oct. Ketkar and Kline will be performing with each other on block polymer templates, which will be employed in nano-scale applications in the semiconductor marketplace. More merely, these block polymers can be considered of as stencils that guideline the specific placement of modest elements on semiconductor chips. The smaller sized the options, the extra successfully selected systems, these kinds of as personal computers, smartphones or health care equipment, can with any luck , function. Ketkar’s function will emphasis on the fundamentals of how several block polymer elements assemble, so that she can figure out which layouts are promising for semiconductors.

If a polymer is like a string of beads — and the beads signify tiny molecular units — then a block polymer would be like attaching a string of blue beads to the conclude of a string of crimson beads. Block polymers are critical mainly because they enable experts incorporate houses of distinctive sorts of supplies that would if not want to individual, like oil and drinking water, Ketkar explained.

But rather of the materials staying all red on just one aspect and all blue on the other, it is far more like stripes of red and blue or spheres of blue in a sea of pink in the course of the substance, she mentioned. These features (e.g., the stripes or spheres) are extremely tiny, while, on the scale of nanometers (for instance, a solitary human hair is about 60,000 nanometers thick). The principle of nano-sized block polymer structures isn’t new, but Ketkar and other researchers like her are trying to create new means to use them, thanks to advancing systems.

“One side is designing all those resources. The other is knowledge what’s going on,” she said. X-ray scattering strategies, which Ketkar will use for the duration of the application, can give researchers additional in depth information and facts on how the block polymers assemble, which scientists can then take back to the lab to specifically style the chemistries needed for the adequately carrying out elements. 

To recognize how X-ray scattering performs, Ketkar mentioned to picture seeking to figure out what a motor vehicle appears like without utilizing your eyes. To do that, researchers could throw ping pong balls or inflatable beach volleyballs at the vehicle. “With an knowing of the physics behind how all those balls bounce off the auto and wherever they land, we can mathematically build the condition of the auto these types of as its duration, width, facet perspective mirrors sizing, and so forth.,” she said. “In our analysis, our block polymer samples are like the vehicle, and the X-rays are like the balls.”

Ketkar has a extended road ahead to get to that closing product or service place, however. Part of the staff will do the chemistry-heavy do the job of developing different block polymers and figuring out how to assemble them, no matter whether which is via exposure to heat, solvent vapors or some thing else. A further element of the team will acquire a mix of tactics to understand how these supplies behave.

Innovation, creativeness and elaborate issue-solving in exploration aren’t new principles for Ketkar, who has excelled as a chief of the Epps Research Team in new decades. In particular throughout the COVID-19 restrictions that restricted who could still actively operate in laboratories, Ketkar ensured experiments ongoing safely and securely and correctly even though nonetheless protecting the culture of the research team, stated her adviser, Epps.

“Having somebody like her in the lab has been essential,” Epps said. “While our important skill is accomplishing the experiments, it is similarly as significant to be equipped to communicate the scientific dilemma and the correct effects in approaches that some others can clearly have an understanding of. Priyanka has a knack for concise, but detailed, conversation.”

Epps described Ketkar as a determined researcher with a “practical and systematic approach” that permits her to foresee challenges and issues ahead of they occur.

“She has an fantastic grasp of what she does perfectly and appreciates how to maximize that,” Epps said. “She also understands there are regions exactly where other skills is necessary, and she views that as an chance to collaborate.”

As a former NIST NRC fellow himself, Epps explained collaborations with other scientists, even those people in other disciplines, are essential. As a graduate college student, Priyanka’s skill to direct cross-collegiate partnerships whilst at UD permitted Epps to invest much more time on the science itself, rather than the management of a undertaking.

“Priyanka is really good at understanding the massive picture, but also staying equipped to actually drill down and assess the particulars,” he claimed. “The complex aspects behind her each and every experiment are incredibly sound. She seamlessly combines these expertise with her remarkable ability to consider the initiative and do the job with other individuals.”