National Academy of Inventors honors faculty
Three members of the UH faculty have been awarded the name of charter fellow by the National Academy of Inventors.
Dan Luss and Benton Baugh are both a part of the Cullen College of Engineering. Luss is a professor of chemical and biomedical and Baugh an adjunct professor of mechanical. Paul Chu is a physics professor and the director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH.
The fellow status is highly sought after, with 101 scientists named, eight of which are Nobel Laureates, according to the NAI website. All three UH charter fellows have received multiple awards and have had their work published numerous times in high-impact journals, said UH press release.
Luss’ work has been centered on making diesel engines more environmentally friendly, in turn making travel more efficient.
“What we have been doing in recent years is reduction of pollution from diesel engines. Everybody thinks now we’re going to start using diesel engines for automobiles. The reasons are that they’re more efficient, you need a smaller amount of fuel than you need for a gasoline-driven car, and also, the engine lasts at least twice as long as a gasoline-driven car,” said Luss.
“There are two problems which are holding back the acceptance of it. One is that you get emission of a large number of nitrogen oxides and they are very deleterious and you need to get rid of them. The other thing is something you probably are aware of: the emission of soot.”
A porous ceramic filter, or monolith, is used to trap nitrogen oxides and soot. Like most filters, these need to be cleaned regularly, Luss said. This regeneration is done automatically, by burning the buildup. Occasionally, if the driver slows down and stops during this process, it may continue for too long.
“The engine essentially works, but there’s no driving and he doesn’t need the power,” Luss said. “That happens to give a very high temperature. That essentially can melt it, give it cracks, holes and so on. It’s highly undesirable to get this phenomenon. Essentially, this is done by running again, inside a monolith, but the walls are no longer porous.
“The only thing that happens is that the walls, each one of the walls, you put a very thin layer. It’s maybe 50 microns, a very thin layer. It contains a catalyst. What happens when the gas blows through is it is essentially converted and decomposes the nitrogen oxide and you have just have nitrogen coming out.”
Chu is also working on groundbreaking research, except in the field of superconductivity. Superconductivity is a phenomenon that certain materials exhibit when cooled to a particular temperature that will allow them to lose all electrical resistance. Scientists in this field are trying to make this process more efficient by raising the temperature, Chu said. Chu’s team at TCSUH currently holds the world record for highest temperature at which superconductivity is displayed.
“It would be even better if we could develop a material that does not even need to cool. That’s the room temperature conductor that my colleague and I are chasing. We hope one day we can get it,” Chu said.
“Based on all the indications, there’s no reason why it can’t be there. I strongly believe that this center plays a prominent role in the world.”
In 1987, Chu said he and his team invented the most promising high temperature superconductor: Yttrium barium copper oxide. Chu said he thinks YBCO will be the most likely candidate when it comes to using superconductivity in technological application.
Both Chu and Luss said they enjoy working at UH with the interdepartmental collaboration that exists between all the schools and research teams.
“The University has really developed a lot. You now have many more colleagues, and the facilities are significantly better. It’s much easier now to do research and have your own analytical tools. When I first came here, you had to find a colleague in some other university,” Luss said.
“You could either work together with him or you fly there and do the experiment. Now we can do a lot more things right here on the campus. The environment is much more conducive here for doing research. It has improved greatly over the years.”
For more information about the NAI, visit www.academyofinventors.org.