My research career began in physical chemistry, studying quantum-state resolved, molecular photodissociation dynamics. In post-doctoral work, my research expanded into linear and non-linear laser-based optical diagnostic development and then broadened at NASA-Glenn to include the synthesis, characterization and applications of carbon and metal oxide semiconductor nanomaterials. Current research interests include CVD and flame synthesis of carbon nanomaterials, their application as conducting thin films, fundamentals of graphene bonding, carbon graphitization kinetics, carbon material characterization by high-resolution electron microscopy, HRTEM with image quantification for nanostructure, electron spectroscopic techniques, XPS, and EELs for bonding detail, and carbon materials’ oxidation reactivity dependence on nanostructure. The optical, electrical and thermal properties of graphene and other graphitic carbon forms produced by pulsed laser heating is presently under study, as is the fabrication of advanced carbon-carbon composites based on these. Related study includes biochar production.
A second research thrust focusses upon the formation, control and impacts of combustion produced soot in relation to human health and climate I coined the term “nanostructure” to identify the nano-scale structure formed by the atomic layer planes (carbon lamellae) comprising soot. Recognition of this structural scale permitted physical metrics to be assigned for statistical comparison. Uniquely these spatial metrics were extracted by our custom algorithms; these being developed expressly for quantification of HRTEM images – where nanostructure is observed. Additional research thrusts and related publications are listed below.
My research and teaching is centered within the fuels, energy and water nexus. I seek to inspire and motivate students while challenging them to foster critical thinking. My operating philosophy is diversity of ideas complemented by wide-ranging skills. My students strive for excellence; their notable accomplishments include the 2015 AIChE Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Environmental Division best paper award, FAA Center of Excellence Student of the Year (SOY) Award (2015), Joseph A. Hartman award (student paper competition for best technical paper), C. C. Wright award (EME) for excellence in graduate studies, the Robert and Leslie Griffin Award in Fuel Science, Charles B. Darrow Award, and the Vastola Graduate Scholarship.
A visal representation of my research can be found here:
- RVW Group Research Overview
- A Detailed TEM Study of Carbon Nano-Onions’ Structure
- HRTEM and XPS Analyses of Soot: Microscopic and Spectroscopic Observations
- Energy Transformation by Interfacial Reactions
- Spectroscopic Characterization of Nanomaterials
- Methanation catalyst development using Graphene and CNT supported Ru for ISRU applications
- Sensing hydrocarbons using a micro-hollow glow discharge plasma under ambient conditions
- Characterization of Jet engine exhaust using HRTEM and XPS
Flame Synthesis of Carbon and Oxide Materials
- Formation science
- Microscopic structure
- Chemical composition
Vander Wal, R. L. (2013). Flame Synthesis of Carbon Nanotubes: Premixed and Diffusion Flame Configurations Illustrating Roles of Gas Composition and Catalyst. MRS Online Proceedings Library Archive, 1506. https://doi.org/10.1557/opl.2013.1051
Vander Wal, R. L., & Hall, L. J. (2003). Carbon nanotube synthesis upon stainless steel meshes. Carbon, 41(4), 659-672.https://doi.org/10.1016/S0008-6223(02)00369-X
Vander Wal, R. L., Hall, L. J., & Berger, G. M. (2002). Optimization of flame synthesis for carbon nanotubes using supported catalyst. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 106(51), 13122-13132. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jp020614l
Vander Wal, R. L., & Hall, L. J. (2001). Flame synthesis of Fe catalyzed single-walled carbon nanotubes and Ni catalyzed nanofibers: growth mechanisms and consequences. Chemical physics letters, 349(3-4), 178-184. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0009-2614(01)01198-8
- Electron microscopic and spectroscopic characterization
- Applications (e.g. catalysts, composites, sensors)
Hunter, G., Vander Wal, R., Evans, L., Xu, J., Berger, G., Kullis, M., & Biaggi-Labiosa, A. (2012). Nanostructured material sensor processing using microfabrication techniques. Sensor Review, 32(2), 106-117.
Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/02602281211209392
Vander Wal, R. L., & Hall, L. J. (2004). Demonstration of carbon nanotube coated metals reinforcing polymer matrix composites. Advanced Engineering Materials, 6(1‐2), 48-52. https://doi.org/10.1002/adem.200300514
Street, K. W., Miyoshi, K., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2007). Application of carbon based nano-materials to aeronautics and space lubrication. In Superlubricity (pp. 311-340). https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-044452772-1/50050-0
- Plasma processing
- Catalyst testing
- Spectroscopic reaction diagnostics
- Product chemical characterization
Singh, M., Zeller, K., S., Skoptsov, G., and Vander Wal, R. L., Effect of Hydrogen Concentration on Graphene Synthesis Using Microwave-driven Plasma-mediated Methane Cracking. (in press 2018).
Vander Wal, R. L., Sengupta, A., Musselman, E., and Skoptsov, G., Microwave-driven, plasma mediated methane cracking: Product carbon characterization. C Journal of Carbon Research (in press 2018).
Fujiyama-Novak, J. H., Gaddam, C. K., Das, D., Vander Wal, R. L., & Ward, B. (2013). Detection of explosives by plasma optical emission spectroscopy. Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 176, 985-993. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.snb.2012.08.063
Vander Wal, R. L., Fujiyama-Novak, J. H., Gaddam, C. K., Das, D., Hariharan, A., & Ward, B. (2011). Atmospheric Microplasma Jet: Spectroscopic Database Development and Analytical Results. Applied spectroscopy, 65(9), 1073-1082. https://doi.org/10.1366/10-06219
Vander Wal, R. L., Gaddam, C. K., & Kulis, M. J. (2014). An investigation of micro-hollow cathode glow discharge generated optical emission spectroscopy for hydrocarbon detection and differentiation. Applied spectroscopy, 68(6), 649-656. https://doi.org/10.1366/13-07160
Vander Wal, R. L., Gaddam, C. K., & Kulis, M. J. (2014). Spectroscopic characterization and comparison between biologics, organics and mineral compounds using pulsed micro-hollow glow discharge. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 29(10), 1791-1798. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2014/ja/c4ja00187g
Advanced Carbon Materials
- Carbon-carbon composites
- Laser processing
Abrahamson, J., Jain, A., van Duin, A., & Vander Wal, R. (2018). Trajectories of Graphitizable Anthracene Coke and Non-Graphitizable Sucrose Char during the Earliest Stages of Annealing by Rapid CO2 Laser Heating. C, 4(2), 36. https://doi.org/10.3390/c4020036
Abrahamson, J. P., Rajagopalan, R., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2018). Porous (Swiss-Cheese) Graphite. https://doi.org/10.3390/c4020027
Abrahamson, J. P., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2018). Carbon Nanostructure Curvature Induced from the Rapid Release of Sulfur upon Laser Heating. C, 4(2), 33. https://doi.org/10.3390/c4020033
Singh, M., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2018, January). Effect of Filler Size in a Graphene-anthracene Carbon-carbon Composite. In 11th Annual TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo, Held Jointly with the 20th Annual Nanotech Conference and Expo, the 2018 SBIR/STTR Spring Innovation Conference, and the Defense TechConnect DTC Spring Conference (pp. 9-11). TechConnect.
Singh, M., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2018, January). Interfacial Nanostructure Dictates Macro-structural Properties of Carbon-carbon Composites. In 11th Annual TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo, Held Jointly with the 20th Annual Nanotech Conference and Expo, the 2018 SBIR/STTR Spring Innovation Conference, and the Defense TechConnect DTC Spring Conference (pp. 156-158). TechConnect.
Abrahamson, J. P., Singh, M., Mathews, J. P., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2017). Pulsed laser annealing of carbon black. Carbon, 124, 380-390. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbon.2017.08.080
Combustion Produced Particles
- Physical-chemical characterization
- Health effects
Vander Wal, R. L., Bryg, V. M., & Huang, C. H. (2014). Aircraft engine particulate matter: macro-micro-and nanostructure by HRTEM and chemistry by XPS. Combustion and Flame, 161(2), 602-611. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.combustflame.2013.09.003
Gullett, B. K., Hays, M. D., Tabor, D., & Vander Wal, R. (2016). Characterization of the particulate emissions from the BP Deepwater Horizon surface oil burns. Marine pollution bulletin, 107(1), 216-223. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.03.069
Vander Wal, R. L. (2005). Soot nanostructure: Definition, quantification and implications (No. 2005-01-0964). SAE Technical Paper.
ISSN 0148-7191 https://doi.org/10.4271/2005-01-0964
Yehliu, K., Vander Wal, R. L., & Boehman, A. L. (2011). Development of an HRTEM image analysis method to quantify carbon nanostructure. Combustion and Flame, 158(9), 1837-1851. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.combustflame.2011.01.009
Gaddam, C. K., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2013). Physical and chemical characterization of SIDI engine particulates. Combustion and Flame, 160(11), 2517-2528. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.combustflame.2013.05.025
Jaramillo, I. C., Gaddam, C. K., Vander Wal, R. L., & Lighty, J. S. (2015). Effect of nanostructure, oxidative pressure and extent of oxidation on model carbon reactivity. Combustion and Flame, 162(5), 1848-1856. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.combustflame.2014.12.006
Vander Wal, R. L., Berger, G. M., Ticich, T. M., & Patel, P. D. (2002). Application of laser-induced incandescence to the detection of carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers. Applied optics, 41(27), 5678-5690. https://doi.org/10.1364/AO.41.005678
Vander Wal, R. L., Tomasek, A. J., & Ticich, T. M. (2003). Synthesis, laser processing, and flame purification of nanostructured carbon. Nano Letters, 3(2), 223-229.
Vander Wal, R. L. (2009). Laser-induced incandescence: excitation and detection conditions, material transformations and calibration. Applied Physics B, 96(4), 601-611.
Appl Phys B (2009) 96: 601–611. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/nl020232r
Singh, M., Abrahamson, J. P., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2018). Informing TiRe-LII assumptions for soot nanostructure and optical properties for estimation of soot primary particle diameter. Applied Physics B, 124(7), 130. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00340-018-6994-x
- 2013 Emerald Literati Award for Excellence, Sensor Review paper
- 2012 NASA Group Achievement Award in the Alternative Aviation Fuels EXperiment (AAFEX II)
- 2010 NASA Tech Brief Award, "Nanosclae Metal Oxide Semiconductors for Gas Sensing"
- 2010 NASA Group Achievement Award in the Alternative Aviation Fuels EXperiment (AAFEX I)
- 2008 Paper of the year award (Tribology)
- 2007 Center level milestone for IVHM Program @ NASA-Glenn
- 2007 Paper of the year award (Surface Science)
- 1999-2005 NCMR/NCSER Research Recognition Awards
- 2003 ACS Nomination for RAND Medal; 1998 Laser Focus World Technical Paper Award
- 1996 Nyma Inc., Paper of the year award; 1995 Applied Optics (Cover Recognition of Research Journal Article); 1994 Engineering Excellence Award (Sverdrup).
- 6 NASA Technology Disclosures, 1 Provisional Patent, 2 Patent Application Submissions
- Fall 2012 - Present: Professor, EME, MATSE, Penn State University
- Fall 2008 - June 2012: Associate Professor, Penn State University
- Sept. 1992 - Sept. 2008: Senior research scientist at NASA-Glenn: Adjunct Prof. (CWRU)
- July 1990 - Aug. 1992: Post-doctoral fellow, Sandia National Laboratorie
Other Experience and Professional Memberships
- 1984 - Member, The Combustion Institute
- 1994 - Member, The American Association of Aerosol Research
- 1994 - Member, Society for Applied Spectroscopy
- 1996 - Member, The Society for Applied Spectroscopy
- 1998 - Member, The Materials Research Society
- 2001 - Member, The American Institute of Chemical Engineers
- 2001 - Member, The American Chemical Society
Patents, Inventions and New Technology
1. DuFaux, Douglas P., Randy Vander Wal, Masato Tani, and Toshiki Goto. "Combustion-Assisted Substrate Deposition Method For Producing Carbon Nanosubstances." U.S. Patent Application 12/019,352, filed July 30, 2009.
2. Hunter, Gary W., Jennifer C. Xu, Laura J. Evans, Michael H. Kulis, Gordon M. Berger, and Randall L. Vander Wal. "Processing of nanostructured devices using microfabrication techniques." U.S. Patent 8,877,636, issued November 4, 2014.
Invention and new technology disclosure to NASA in conjunction with Makel Engineering Inc. for “Development of a microplasma for aerosol compositional analysis.” Reference NASA (Prime) Contract, NNX10RA55P Invention Disclosure. NASA case number, LEW-18656-1.
Invention and new technology disclosure to NASA in conjunction with Makel Engineering Inc. for “Hierarchical support for nanocatalysts”. Reference NASA (Prime) Contract, NNXX09CE48P, Subcontract (PSU) 09SUB-MCM01PSU, Invention Disclosure. NASA Tracking Identifier: 5027776. (PSU disclosure in process).
NASA Invention and Disclosure of New Technology
“Processing of Nanostructured Devices Using Microfabrication Techniques”, Reference NASA (as Prime) Invention Disclosure. NASA case number, LEW-18492-1. (now licensed Aug. 2018).
Penn State Invention Disclosure, ID 2018-4777 Engineering Nano/Micro Structure in C-C Composites by Templating for Structural Materials – Submitted May 2018.