Randy Vander Wal's research career began in physical chemistry, studying quantum-state resolved, molecular photodissociation dynamics. In post-doctoral work, Vander Wal's 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. The related study includes biochar production.
A second research thrust focuses on the formation, control, and impacts of combustion-produced soot in relation to human health and climate. Vander Wal 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.
Vander Wal's research and teaching centers on the fuels, energy, and water nexus. Vander Wal seeks to inspire and motivate students while challenging them to foster critical thinking with an operating philosophy on the diversity of ideas complemented by wide-ranging skills. Vander Wal's 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 visual representation of my group's 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
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.
RVW Group Research Areas and Recent Publications
- Advanced Composites
- Singh M. Carbon Composites—Graphene-Oxide-Catalyzed Sugar Graphitization. C-Journal of Carbon Research. 2022 February 01; 8(1):15. DOI: doi.org/10.3390/c8010015
- Singh M, Vander Wal RL. Carbon-carbon composites: Effect of graphene size upon the nano- micro-structure and material properties. Carbon Trends. 2021 July; 4:1000061. DOI:doi.org/10.1016/j.cartre.2021.100061
- Heim, James and Vander Wal, R. L., Prototype Fabrication, Mechanical Testing, and Material Characterization of Coal-Based Bricks & Blocks (CBBs). Session 6: Value-Added Products from Coal. Thirty-Ninth International Pittsburgh Coal Conference. Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh PA September 19 – 22, 2022.
- Carbon Materials Science
- Gharpure, A., & Vander Wal, R. (2023). Improving graphenic quality by oxidative liberation of crosslinks in non-graphitizable carbons. Carbon, 209, 118010.
- Singh, M., Gharpure, A., Vander Wal, R. L., Kollar, J., & Herd, C. R. (2022). Effect of Fuel Composition on Carbon Black Formation Pathways. Applied Sciences, 12(5), 2569.
- Singh M. Effect of Fuel Composition on Carbon Black Formation Pathways. Applied Sciences (Basel, Switzerland). 2022 February 01; 12(5):2569. DOI: doi.org/10.3390/app12052569
- Singh, M., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2022). Carbon Composites—Graphene-Oxide-Catalyzed Sugar Graphitization. C, 8(1), 15.
- 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 JP., Jain A, van Duin AC., Vander Wal RL.. Carbon structure and resulting graphitizability upon oxygen evolution. Carbon. 2018 August; 135:171-179. DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2018.04.055
- Kumal, R. R., Gharpure, A., Viswanathan, V., Mantri, A., Skoptsov, G., & Vander Wal, R. (2020). Microwave plasma formation of nanographene and graphitic carbon black. C, 6(4), 70.
- Apicella B, Pré P, Rouzaud JN., Abrahamson JP., Vander Wal RL., Ciajolo A, Russo C. Laser induced structural modifications of differently aged soot investigated by HRTEM. Combustion and Flame. 2019 June; 204:13-22. DOI: 10.1016/j.combustflame.2019.02.026
- Gokulakrishnan P, Joklik R, Fuller C, Abrahamson JP, Vander Wal RL. Experimental and modeling investigation of pyrolytic carbon deposition relevant to fuel film cooling in rocket engines. 55th AIAA Aerospace Sciences. 2017 January 05; 55:1787. DOI: 10.2514/6.2017-1787
- Wang AC., Huddle T, Huang CH., Zhu W, Vander Wal RL., Lester EH., Mathews JP. Improved quantification of curvature in high-resolution transmission electron microscopy lattice fringe micrographs of soots. Carbon. 2017 June; 117:174-181. DOI:10.1016/j.carbon.2017.02.059
- Critical Minerals and Rare Earths
- Nkiawete, M. and Vander Wal, R. L. Rare Earth Elements: Sector Allocations and Supply Chain. (submitted)
- Heim II, J. and Vander Wal, R. L. NdFeB Permanent Magnets: Uses, Projected Growth Rates and Nd plus Dy Demands. (in progress)
- Nkiawete, M. and Vander Wal, R. L., Thermo-catalytic Decomposition of Methane to Produce Hydrogen Fuel Using Carbon as Catalyst. Session 8: Clean Hydrogen. Thirty-Ninth International Pittsburgh Coal Conference. Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh PA September 19 – 22, 2022.
- Nkiawete, M. and Vander Wal, R. L., Thermo-catalytic Decomposition of Methane: Focus on Nanostructure. Colloquium: Novel Energy Conversion Techniques. Paper ID: 149NEC-0118. The 2022 Spring Technical Meeting of the Eastern States Section of The Combustion Institute. Orlando FL March 6-9, 2022.
- Vander Wal RL., Makiesse Nkiawete M. Carbons as Catalysts in Thermo-Catalytic Hydrocarbon Decomposition: A Review. C - Journal of Carbon Research. 2020; 6(2):23. DOI: 10.3390/c6020023
- Environmental and Human Health
- Vander Wal, R., Singh, M., Gharpure, A., Choi, C., Lobo, P., & Smallwood, G. (2022). Turbulence impacts upon nvPM primary particle size. Aerosol Science and Technology, 56(10), 893-905.
- Kumal, R. R., Liu, J., Gharpure, A., Vander Wal, R. L., Kinsey, J. S., Giannelli, B., ... & Swanson, J. J. (2020). Impact of biofuel blends on black carbon emissions from a gas turbine engine. Energy & Fuels, 34(4), 4958-4966.
- Gharpure, A., Heim, J. W., & Vander Wal, R. L. (2021). Characterization and Hazard Identification of Respirable Cement and Concrete Dust from Construction Activities. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(19), 10126.
- Singh M, Vander Wal RL.. Nanostructure Quantification of Carbon Blacks. C-Journal of Carbon Research. 2019; 5(1):2. DOI: 10.3390/c5010002
- Gharpure, A., and Vander Wal2, R. L. Upgrading Plastic Waste into Graphitic Carbons by Graphene Oxide Addition: Experimental Results and Reaxff Simulations. (in progress)