Since Man forged the first plow and stuck it into the earth, rust has been an enemy. But to Ram Gupta, an assistant professor and research scientist at PSU, rust, or iron oxide, may be one of the keys to a world powered by inexpensive, abundant and environmentally friendly energy.
Gupta, who came to PSU in 2013 as part of the university’s Polymer Chemistry Initiative, teaches undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Chemistry and conducts research in labs located in the Kansas Polymer Research Center at PSU. One focus of his research is on green energy production and storage using bio-waste, nanomaterials and 2D layer structured materials.
“I grew up in India in an area in which we got just four or five hours of electricity a day,” Gupta said. “That’s one of the reasons for my interest in energy.”
Petar Dvornic, chair of the Department of Chemistry, said Pittsburg State has built a state-of-the-art lab for advanced research in “electrically interesting” polymers with an emphasis on their use in batteries and photovoltaics.
That kind of research interests the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which is why Gupta spent part of this past summer in Los Alamos, N.M., doing research in a DOE Visiting Faculty Program.
Gupta’s research interests are varied and include everything from optoelectronics and photovoltaics (solar cell) devices, high capacity energy storage devices, polymers and composites, and bio-based polymers, to biocompatible nanofibers for tissue regeneration, scaffold and antibacterial applications, bio-degradable metallic implants, dilute magnetic semiconductors, ferromagnetic materials and multiferroic materials for sensor and data storage applications.
That range of research possibilities keeps Gupta’s five graduate and two undergraduate students hopping. He loves teaching, he said, as much as he loves research. For the students, it’s a rare opportunity to do research with some pretty hefty practical possibilities.
Gupta said the unusual combination of a strong academic Department of Chemistry with polymer chemistry degree programs, a research facility like the Kansas Polymer Research Center, and the Kansas Technology Center’s production and manufacturing laboratories made Pittsburg State the ideal location for him to
continue his research.
“I don’t think there is any other place that has this unique combination,” Gupta said.