A West Virginia University physics professor is examining how lighter materials like lithium could be used to take the place of heavier materials.

Aldo Romero, associate professor of physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will continue this research with a Petroleum Research Funding grant from the American Chemical Society.

The grant, worth $100,000 for two years, will be used to support Romero’s research on the structure of chemical compositions, a project that he has been working on for nearly a year.

Romero’s goal of the project is to synthesize materials that are lightweight, but are still hard enough to be used in heavy-duty situations. Currently, he is focused on lithium, one of the lightest elements that can be used in this manner.

“The main (use) right now would be in airplanes and cars. There are many components that can reduce the weight and can get a much better performance,” Romero said.

For example, by making cars out of a lighter material that is still hard enough to protect a driver in an accident, this car could get much better gas mileage than a car made out of a much heavier metal.

The materials, Romero said, also can be used in other areas such as oil research.

“We don’t know yet if those materials are going to be chemically reactive or not, but if they happen to be unreactive, then they can be used in oil research. When they are searching for oil and digging in the ground, they need hard material to do so. The lightest material is going to be the best result,” Romero said.

Throughout his research, Romero will occasionally find new materials in places where he wouldn’t have expected to find them.

“Science works in weird ways. Every time that we use this methodology that we have created for the last two years, we always find new structures— a structure that has not been recorded previously,” Romero said.

“That’s very exciting because that means that the methodology we are using is very accurate.”

Romero came to WVU a year ago, and this grant was the first proposal he submitted. It was also his first accepted.

“It’s a very good starting point,” Romero said.

The project is ongoing and is expected to continue for the next five years.

“We have many doors to knock right now. It’s an exciting time of being in this field,” Romero said.

For more information, contact Aldo Romero at 304-293-6317 or Aldo.Romero@mail.wvu.edu



CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Director of Communication and Marketing, Eberly College
304-293-6867, Devon.Copeland@mail.wvu.edu

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