CBE Research Facilities

State-of-the-art laboratories serving the research groups of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering are housed in the Towne Building, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and Skirkanich Hall.

Advanced Chemical Technologies Laboratory, The Unit Operations and Biotechnology Laboratory (Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory)

Director: John C. Crocker
Location: 1st Floor, Towne Building

The Unit Operations and Biotechnology Laboratory is housed within the Advanced Chemical Technologies Lab which was designed to create new knowledge and applications in emerging technologies. It provides a flexible facility where students gain hands-on experience with state-of-the-art instrumentation and experimental techniques in an environment that encourages interaction and collaboration between the faculty and graduate student research enterprise and our undergraduate students.

In the Unit Operations section of the laboratory, undergraduate students conduct experiments about kinetics, reaction engineering, humidification operations, fluid flow, separations processes, and heat transfer. Here, students learn how to conduct experiments using automated processes and digital data acquisition.

In the Biotechnology section of this laboratory, undergraduates conduct bench-scale experiments involving the growth and genetic manipulation of cells; measurements on proteins and DNA; manipulation of biomolecules such as cutting, joining and amplifying DNA, linking biomolecules to solid surfaces, and separating and purifying them.

Catalysis and Fuel Cell Research Laboratory 

Directors: Raymond J. Gorte and John M. Vohs
Location: 5th Floor, Vagelos Labs

The catalysis and fuel cell research groups of Profs. Gorte and Vohs at the University of Pennsylvania share equipment housed in a state of the art research facility that includes a wide range of equipment (listed below) for materials characterization, kinetic analysis of catalytic reactions, fuel cell testing rigs, and surface and interface analysis.  Profs. Gorte and Vohs also have a ceramics processing facility that is equipped for synthesis of ceramic materials, tape casting of components for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), and high temperature furnaces required for SOFC fabrication. In addition to the facilities in the PI’s labs, the students have access to the equipment in Penn’s Regional Nanotechnology Facility which includes scanning probe microscopes, electron microscopes and an ion scattering spectrometer.  Students also have access to Penn’s material characterization facility which contains a range of x-ray diffractometers.
Specific equipment includes the following:

  • Vohs and Gorte Labs: multiple fuel cell testing rigs, 4 impedance spectrometers, ball mill, tape caster, uniaxial press, optical microscopes, 2 BET surface area analysis systems, multiple high temperature furnaces, gas chromatographs, mass spectrometers, a GC mass spec, FTIR, several micro-reactors for catalyst testing, 2 TPD/TGA systems, an XPS spectrometer, an Auger electron spectrometer, and an atomic force microscope.
  • Penn Regional Nanotechnology Facility: multiple scanning electron microscopes, multiple transmission electron microscopes, a general purpose atomic force microscope, multiple scanning electron microscopes, and ion scattering facility for RBS.
  • Materials Characterization Facility:  several powder x-ray diffractometers and a single crystal x-ray diffractometer.

The Nabil Farhat Laboratory, home of The Biophysical Engineering & NanoPolymers Research Group

Director: Dennis E. Discher
Location: 1st Floor, Towne Building

We study and develop technology with or for: Stem Cells, Differentiation & Matrix; Polymersomes & Filomicelles, chemical physics and use in Drug/Oligo Delivery and Virus Morphology Fundamentals; Molecular Mechanics and Protein Folding in Adhesion, Cytoskeleton, & Nuclear Rheology;  Blood Cell Adhesion, Mechanics & Immunocompatability. Methods developed or used range from molecular biology and single molecule AFM to micro-patterned hydrogels, ‘Cys Shotgun’ Mass Spectrometry, and fluorescence ultra-microscopy. Modeling efforts range from statistical physics and continuum mechanics to computation-intensive Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics schemes. More information about Dr. Discher’s lab can be found here.

Soft Nanomaterials Laboratory

Director: Daeyeon Lee
Location: Towne M52

Advanced Research Facilities in the Lee laboratory include a Delsa Nano C Particle Analyzer, Ellipsometer, Carl Zeiss HMS Series Slide Stainer, NanoStrata NanoSequenceVI, Quartz Crystal Microbalance, Carl Zeiss Axio Plan II, Nikon Diaphot 300 Inverted Microscope, and Harvard Apparatus PHD Ultra Syringe Pump.  More information about the Lee lab and its equipment may be found here.

The Gorte Lab

Director: Raymond J. Gorte
Location: 5th Floor, Vagelos Labs

The laboratories of Professor Gorte are well equipped for general synthesis and characterization of materials. Two catalytic reactors capable of on-line GC analysis of products are available, as well as capabilities for temperature programmed oxidation and reduction measurements, with product analysis using a quadrupole residual-gas analyzer. A Mattson FTIR with DRIFTS attachment is available for taking IR spectra of materials in controlled environments. Several autoclaves are present for synthesis of materials, as well as furnaces with a variety of temperature ranges and capabilities for controlled environments. Two vacuum-capable microbalances, two microcalorimeters, and an atomic absorption spectrometer are available for additional characterization.

Ceramics processing instrumentation is available for tape-casting to synthesize model fuel cells and for performance testing of the model cells. Capabilities for impedance spectroscopy measurements are also available.

Environmental Research Laboratory

Director: Wen K. Shieh
Location: Third Floor, Towne Building

The Environmental Research Laboratory is designed to carry out research work related to biodegradation of anthropogenic organic compounds, biological nitrogen removal (BNR) using either suspended or attached-growth bioreactor configurations, and sustainable aquaculture practices. The laboratory houses a number of reactor systems (e.g., biofluidized bed reactors and submerged packed-bed reactors) that are custom-made for specific biodegradation and BNR applications. Three 100-gallon acrylic fish tanks equipped with on-line pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature monitors are available for aquaculture studies. In addition, the laboratory is well-equipped with the analytical instruments commonly found in modern environmental laboratories for physical, chemical, and biological analyses. Notably, the laboratory has a total organic carbon (TOC) analyzer, a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system, two gas chromatography (GC) systems, a nitrogen digestion and distillation system, two UV-VIS spectrophotometers, two electrolysis cell respirometers, two autotitration systems, a cell culture incubator, and a video microscopy system. Common auxiliary equipment includes peristaltic pumps, pH meters, specific ion meters, ORP meters, and dissolved oxygen meters.

The Vohs Lab

Director: John M. Vohs
Location: 5th Floor, Vagelos Labs

The surface characterization laboratories of Professor Vohs are well equipped to carry out fundamental studies of the relationships between the structure and reactivity of both model and high surface area catalysts.  Currently, there are four separate ultra-vacuum-system surface analysis systems in the lab.  Each of these systems is equipped with an ion gun for sputter cleaning of surfaces, evaporative metal deposition sources, a film thickness monitor, and mass spectrometer for performing TPD studies.  One system is set-up to perform X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and is equipped with a Leybold-Hereaus EA-10 electron energy analyzer and a Vacuum Generators dual anode X-ray source.  Two of the systems are equipped with high-resolution electron energy loss spectrometers.  One of these contains a McAllister HREEL spectrometer and a cylindrical mirror analyzer for Auger electron spectroscopy.  The other contains an LK Technologies model 3000 HREEL spectrometer which has an instrumental resolution of 1 meV as measured by the full width at half max of the elastic peak.  This system is also equipped with a retarding field electron energy analyzer that can be used for both LEED and AES.  All of the mass spectrometers and spectroscopic probes on these UHV systems are interfaced to PCs for automated data collection. In addition to the UHV facilities Professor Vohs also has a diffusion-pumped high vacuum TPD-TGA system.  This system is quipped with a Cahn microbalance, oven for sample heating, mass spectrometer for gas analysis, and a gas handling system.  This system is also computer controlled.  Professor Vohs’ labs are also equipped with a Mattson FTIR spectrometer with a Spectratech DRIFTS cell and a home built microcalorimeter.

The Seider Research Offices

Director: Warren D. Seider
Location: 3rd Floor, Towne Building

The Seider research group uses a set of six networked computers, with latest high-end processors, using either Vista or WinXP operating systems. Personal computers are optimized for efficient code compilation and lengthy-run execution. Licensed software available to the group includes the Aspen Engineering Suite 2006.5, Aspen HYSYS, MATLAB 2008a, Superpro Designer, Macromedia Director, Visual C/C++, and Visual Fortran. One workstation is optimized for multimedia development, which includes a Eurorack MX602A mixing board, wind-filtered microphone, and a host of audio and video software for editing and design.

Additional Research Facilities include:

  • Cell Mechanics and Colloidal Self-Assembly Laboratory
    Director: John C. Crocker
    Location: 5th Floor, Vagelos Labs
  • The Diamond Lab in the Institute for Medicine and Engineering
    Director: Scott L. Diamond
    Location: 1st Floor, Vagelos Labs
  • Cell Adhesion and Biophysics Laboratory
    Director: Daniel A. Hammer
    Location: Skirkanich Hall
  • Computational Materials Modeling Laboratory (CMML)
    Director: Talid R. Sinno
    Location: Mezzanine Level, Towne Building and 5th floor Vagelos Labs