Research Communications

University receives $1.4 million for microscope that will advance energy, electronics research 

ATHENS, Ohio (Dec. 12, 2011) – Ohio University has received $1.4 million in federal and state funding to purchase a transmission electron microscope that will allow scientists and engineers to study new materials that could have applications in energy, alternative fuels, superconductors and environmental remediation.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.16 million, and the Ohio Board of Regents has provided $250,000 from the Technology Action Fund. The Ohio University Vice President for Research is contributing an additional $250,000, for a total project budget of $1.67 million.

Project leader Gerardine Botte.

The transmission electron microscope will allow researchers to characterize new nanoscale materials that could be used for a variety of energy and environmental applications. The equipment, which will be located in Stocker Center, will be used by faculty and students in the departments of chemical and biomolecular engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, physics and astronomy and chemistry and biochemistry, as well as the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

Project leader Gerardine Botte, Russ Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, will use the new equipment to study how graphene, a promising new material for electronics, could be synthesized from coal for use in lithium batteries. The microscope also will be used to develop electrocatalysts that can convert wastewater to hydrogen energy, as well as research that examines how hydrogen could be extracted from coal.

Ohio University scientists and engineers can customize the new equipment for specific applications, such as in situ electro chemical analysis.

“We will be one of the few groups in the world doing this work,” Botte said.

The four faculty members who are co-investigators on the grant will use the equipment for a variety of research projects on nanoscale materials, Botte said.

Sunggyu Lee, Russ Ohio Research Scholar and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, plans to use the equipment to develop an efficient catalytic system that converts carbon dioxide-rich gas into methanol. He also will study nanocomposites of polymers and polymer blends to support his efforts to enhance biodegradable polymers.

Savas Kaya, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, will employ the microscope to develop nanowires and nanosensors that could be used in the creation of novel electronic devices.

Saw-Wai Hla, professor of physics and astronomy, will use the equipment to design self-assembled molecular films for electronics, spintronics and energy harvesting applications.

Greg Van Patten, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, will study semiconductor nanocrystals that have potential applications for biomedical imaging probes and novel solar cells.

The acquisition of the microscope will advance the work of these and other scientists and engineers, which can lead to publications in highly competitive academic journals such as Science and Nature and will help faculty members leverage additional external funding, Botte said. The equipment also will aid efforts to advance new technologies that can be patented and developed into new products for the marketplace.

In addition, the equipment will help recruit outstanding graduate students and will provide new educational opportunities for undergraduate students.

“The equipment inspires them to do better research,” Botte said.

The research team is in the process of purchasing the microscope, which will be installed by September, and hiring a technician to manage and maintain the equipment.

Gerardine Botte, (740) 593-9670,; Director of Research Communications Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166,