Marine Animals and Engineering at the Museum

Engineering professor will bring marine animals and high-tech materials for free event May 18 at Riverside Metropolitan Museum

Students stand on steps in front of Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

Students who took part in last year’s event at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — A University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering associate professor and his students will be bringing some of their marine animals and high-tech materials to the Riverside Metropolitan Museum on Saturday, May 18 to talk about how nature inspires the next generation of engineering materials.

David Kisailus, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering, and undergraduate students from his lab are teaming up with Mira Loma Middle School students to present and discuss research from Kisailus’ Biomimetics and Nanostructured Materials lab and provide demonstrations that describe what the research means to the public.

The event is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum, 3580 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside. It is free and open to the public. Advance registration is not required.

Students doing hands-on activity to learn about engineering.

Students taking part in the 2012 event at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

Various biological specimens from deep sea sponges to hard teeth from snails will be on display. In addition, the now famous smashing mantis shrimp will also be present. Topics of discussion include: “The Boxing Shrimp: Fighting for Soldiers;” “Using Snails with Tough Glowing Shells for Deep Space Expeditions;” and “From cells to cell phones: Charging your phone once a month?”

The event is the culmination of two months of work by  undergraduate students from Kisailus’ lab and eighth grade students from Mary Ward’s classroom at Mira Loma Middle School in Jurupa Valley.

Nine groups of students will make presentations. Museum personnel and selected members of the public will judge them, based on technical merit as well as clarity and quality of presentation, and the winner will present at the Riverside Long Night of the Arts & Innovation on October 10.

The following is a list of the presentations scheduled for Saturday, May 18:

(1) From cells to cell phones: charging your phone once a month?

Students: Akhila Denduluri, Joseph Fiore, Eduardo Barboza, Natalie Layman and Jianxin Zhu.

Abstract: Lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous in our daily life. They power most portable electronic devices – cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, digital cameras, etc. Inspired from structures found in nature, we control the particle size and shape of battery materials to increase the battery lifetime.

(2) Teeth harder than steel

Students: Allen Muntean, Alexander Logan, Brian Weden and Lessa Grunenfelder.

Abstract: The chiton is a marine mollusk, found on the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean. This amazing animal uses its teeth to scrape rocks to eat algae. The teeth, therefore, must be harder than the rocks. We found that these wear-resistant teeth are not only three times harder than a human tooth, but also harder than steel! Because of these properties, chiton teeth can provide inspiration for the development of new materials for many applications, including oil drilling, tooling, and precision cutting.

(3) The boxing shrimp: fighting for soldiers

Students: Chien Huang, Dale Deininger, Max Vangkt, Steven Herrera and Lessa Grunenfelder.

Abstract: With hammer-like clubs that accelerate at speeds exceeding that of a .22 caliber bullet, the stomatopod (also known as “mantis shrimp”, “boxing shrimp” or “smashing shrimp”) smashes its prey with devastating impacts. Its strike is so fast it boils the water around it and creates an undersea shock wave. It can do this tens of thousands of times without being damaged itself. Studying its structure is key to making tough and impact resistant materials for armor as well as light-weight panels for aircraft and automobiles.

(4) Inspiration from sea shells to make nanosized materials to clean water

Students: Pablo Cortez, Jonathan Reyes, Michael Trejo, Jezebell Ramirez, Nataly Dakak and Nichola Kinsinger.

Abstract: Due to the rapidly growing industry, new chemicals are being discharged into our wastewater treatment systems, which are becoming a concern for the health and safety of humans and wildlife. Some possible effects from these chemicals are rats and fish becoming feminized. With the help of nature, we are developing nanomaterials such as titanium dioxide (also found in household items such as paint and toothpaste) to construct filters to degrade these harmful chemicals and give us clean drinking water.

(5) Water bears go where no man has gone before

Students: Steven Herrera, Ashley Carrillo, Irma Gonzalez and Tayler Halverson

Abstract: Water bears possess a talent for survival.  They can live in the vacuum of space, resist the pressure of deepest ocean trench six times over, and bear temperatures from one degree above absolute zero to 300°F.  Researchers at UC Riverside unravel the secrets of this microscopic lumberer.

(6) Using snails with tough glowing shells for deep space expeditions

Students: Jessica Hernandez, Leslie Martinez, Jessica Richardson and Chris Salinas.

Abstract: Mollusks have evolved a wide range of calcified shells to survive in a variety of habitats. Certain mollusks (gastropods) have a shell with an architecture that makes it tough. Here, we study a very unique gastropod, which is tough and also has evolved to allow green light to penetrate through its thick shell. Investigation of the structure of this shell could lead to development of fracture resistant windows that control intensity and wavelength of light, which would be used for growing plants for food on deep space missions.

(7) How can a shell allow you to drive farther in your electric car?

Students: Joseph Fiore, Eduardo Barboza, Natalie Layman, Kevin Yoo, Abraar Khan, Enoch Li, Parawee Pumwongpitak and Jianxin Zhu.

Abstract: Electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular because of rising gasoline prices. Yet, electric vehicles still have problems like long charge times and short driving distances. Inspired by biology, we are producing environmentally friendly nanosized battery materials that have unique shapes and sizes for the next generation of highly efficient electric cars.

(8) Making the next generation of solar cells from biologically inspired sunscreens?

Students: Louis Lancaster, Jennifer Cedillo, Alejandra Julian, Is’haq Al Kindi, Wei Tan and Wenting Hou.

Abstract: With soaring oil prices and environmental pollution, there is an increasing attention on clean and cheap renewable energy, such as solar cells. Using processes inspired from biological systems, we are taking materials found in sunscreen and shrinking them down to the nanoscale to make the next generation of solar cells.

(9) What snails teach us about making armor

Students: Ziran Wang, Josue Castellanos, Fabian Gutierrez, Ramon Magana and Chris Salinas.

Abstract: Through the long course of evolution, marine snails (mollusks) such as the abalone have perfected the structure of their shells at the nanoscale, all for the single purpose of survival. With a brick and mortar structure, their shield is 3,000 times stronger than its building material – chalk. How can we learn from their “engineering” and apply our knowledge and resources to produce better armor?

The research presented was funded by the National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office and Winston Chung Global Energy.

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