The Hitachi High-Tech Electron Microscopy Annual Fellowship provides $25,000 each year to support a graduate student using the Clemson University Electron Microscopy Facility to conduct research as part of their doctoral studies. Hitachi has been a long-time supporter of the Electron Microscopy Facility, helping to create the high-tech lab in the mid-1990s and establishing the fellowship in 2014. Nominations for the Fellowship are accepted each Fall.
2022 Hitachi Fellowship Recipient
2022 Hitachi Fellow: Zehua Jin
Advisor: Ming Yang
Clemson University Ph.D. student Zehua Jin is conducting research on the development of advanced catalytic materials to convert carbon dioxide into value-added chemicals.
The research aims to support the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and production of renewable fuel. Jin is studying electrocatalytic carbon dioxide reduction, a process by which catalysts are added to solids or liquids to induce beneficial chemical reactions. In this case, Jin would selectivity disperse platinum-group metals (PGM) as isolated atoms on copper nanoparticles.
The idea is like adding sugar to coffee, said Ming Yang, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and Jin’s faculty advisor. PGM is the sugar. The copper is the coffee. “Sugar easily dissolves to sweeten our coffee, but the exercise is challenging for the design and development of catalytic materials that enable net-zero carbon emissions,” he said. Too much PGM could lead to the formation of extended PGM crystal surfaces, just like sugar crystals, Yang said. Such structures will adversely suppress the targeted carbon dioxide reduction but catalyze side reactions to produce hydrogen instead. Our research focuses on engineering the PGM as atomically dispersed species on shape-controlled copper surfaces to accelerate the formation of methane or ethylene from CO2.
Electron microscopy allows Jin to analyze these interactions and fine-tune the catalysts to achieve the desired results. Jin has published nine peer-reviewed research papers, including four as first author. He has co-authored three book chapters and been named on two patents. He began his studies at Clemson in 2020 after graduating from Inner Mongolia University in China, where he also served as a research assistant. Additionally, Jin serves as a student research mentor with Clemson’s Creative Inquiry program, where multiple undergraduate researchers Jin guided had received awards from the university and external sponsors.
Past Hitachi Fellowship Recipients
- 2021 Recipient: Hongkui Zheng
Materials Science and Engineering
Advisor: Kai He
Zheng is working to develop and implement transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques that will allow for the investigation of materials used in batteries. Most battery materials contain lithium, which is highly reactive with air. Zheng is working on a method to safely transfer material into the vacuum within the microscope without exposure. He also is working to cycle the battery within the microscope to mimic its working condition in a real battery cell. Then, he can watch the real-time evolution of the structures and chemical reactions.
- 2020 Recipient: Saheem Absar
Advisor: Hongseok Choi
Ph.D. student Saheem Absar is using advanced electron microscopy techniques to analyze the effect of nanoparticles on the behavior of gas bubbles during the solidification of molten metal. Knowledge gained through Absar’s experiments could be useful for controlling the pore formation during the manufacture of metal foams. Metal foams are lightweight, energy absorbing materials that are desirable in automotive and aerospace applications.
- 2019 Recipient: Allison Domhoff
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Advisor: Eric Davis
Domhoff, a chemical and biomolecular engineering student, is working to develop nanocomposite materials for batteries that support energy generation at large wind and solar farms. The technology could reduce the cost of renewable energies, thus making them more prevalent in utility portfolios. Electron microscopy allows Domhoff to research nanometer-sized particles in the battery’s membrane so she can manipulate its surface chemistries to improve battery life and performance.
- 2018 Recipient: Kathryn Peruski
Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences
Advisor: Brian Powell
Using Hitachi’s super-magnifying microscopes, Peruski has captured the miniscule fragmenting of neptunium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear power generation that is stored underground. Through her research, Peruski hopes to better understand what causes neptunium to break so engineers can design effective storage methods for nuclear waste. She analyzed several neptunium samples exposed to environmental variables and documented their changes over time.
- 2017 Recipient: Brandt Ruszkiewicz
Advisor: Laine Mears
Ruszkiewicz used Hitachi electron microscopes at Clemson to examine how a super-strong type of aluminum reacts to electricity. His research could lead to new ways of forming and joining together automotive parts. This work could help make cars lighter and more fuel efficient.
- 2016 Recipient: Monsur Islam
Advisor: Rodrigo Martinez
Islam was using renewable resources instead of coal and petroleum to create carbides that are important for products ranging from surgical tools and jewelry to hot-gas filters and shock absorbers. Using the Hitachi microscopes. Islam was able to examine the properties of the carbides he creates. He can see critical elements that are invisible to the naked eye, such as porosity, composition and grain size. Islam can then make adjustments to the mix of raw materials that go into the carbide.
- 2015 Recipient: Zhaoxi Chen
Materials Science and Engineering
Advisor: Fei Peng
Chen's research was based on the development of coatings for high-speed jets and protection for electrical equipment in harsh environments. The lab’s electron beam microscopes allow researchers to magnify specimens at a much higher resolution than optical light microscopes. One of the lab’s microscopes - the H-9500 Transmission Electron Microscope - is so powerful it can make individual atoms visible.
- 2014 Recipient: Yunsong Zhao
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Advisor: Lin Zhu
Zhao’s work was focused on making semiconductor lasers powerful while maintaining good beam quality for use in research and industry. The microscopes use electrons to magnify specimens at a much higher resolution than optical microscopes. The super-magnification has a wide range of uses in research and industry. For example, electron microscopes are used for quality control, computer-chip manufacturing and analyzing viruses.