UNT Research, Volume 16, 2006 Page: 31
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"We apply what we know about materials science and physics
to make solar cells more efficient, so the cost of electricity comes
down," says Gorman.
He finds current research into fuel cells particularly exciting.
"What better way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,"
he asks, "than to run a fuel cell off landfill gas?"
While the most common fuel cells these days are polymer
cells, which conduct hydrogen, Gorman is concentrating on oxide
fuel cells. Here, power is produced by the chemical difference
between having oxygen on one side of a ceramic fuel cell and a fuel
such as trash-produced methane on the other.
He uses the microscopes to examine the interactions between
the different layers of the fuel cell and to help determine what
metals might serve as the best catalysts to enhance these interac-
tions. His goal is to make fuel cells mainstream. Widespread use by
individual homeowners is probably not in the immediate future,
Gorman says, but electricity could be generated at local landfills to
supply power to the electrical grid.
"Composting trash would offset individual users' power con-
sumption," he says, "similar to the way wind and solar generators
currently feed power from the home back onto the grid."
In the medical realm, Gorman describes a recent undertaking
on behalf of Chris Gilpin and fellow researchers at the University
of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
"The folks at UT Southwestern wanted to find out where the
waste goes in the glomerulus," he explains. Each human kidney
contains about a million glomeruli - small, ball-shaped structures
that make up the nephron, the functional unit of the kidney. The
glomerulus is composed of capillary blood vessels that filter the
blood to form urine.
"We used the FIB to cut open a section of a glomerulus,"
explains Gorman, "and then we used the SEM to make a map
of it. We can help figure out how the kidney functions and how
disease occurs. We have even taken a single red blood cell and cut
Not surprisingly, reservations to use the microscopes book
quickly, Gorman says.
"Our LEAP system is one of only eight in the world and the
only one at a public university in the U.S.," he explains, "so there's
a lot of interest by people wanting to use it."
The lab will not only attract more corporation
and federal r
UINT,, it will also bring in more graduate student"
Another "huge area for us," says Gorman, is computer chips.
He and his fellow researchers can use the FIB to pull out a single
transistor from a chip. (A transistor is a small electronic device that
contains a semiconductor. An Intel Pentium chip has approximately
one billion transistors.) The researchers then put the transistor into
the HRTEM and take high-resolution images to learn about the
chemistry of the transistor's I0-atom-thick layer.
"We want to find out where every atom is in this transistor,"
Gorman says. "If we can show the depth of atoms within a device,
the thickness of insulators and the width of the electrical contacts,
we can design our device processing to get the most out of the
"There's no way to get this information except by what we're
doing," says Gorman. "Thanks to the advances in microscopy, man-
ufacturers will be able to pack more transistors on a chip, allowing
for more calculations to be done more quickly, using less power."
Fortunately, Gorman's collaborators in the UNT computer
science department have written an online system that makes
"It's a very nice program and a fine example of interdepart-
mental cooperation," says Gorman.
The establishment of the microscopy laboratory is sure to
boost the already growing reputation of UNT as a research insti-
tution. The lab will not only attract more corporations and federal
research facilities to join with UNT, it will also bring in more
graduate students to the university's master's and doctoral pro-
grams in materials science and engineering.
"Having a university that can attract students to engineering
and science is key to making us a top research institution," says
"I feel blessed to have all these high-tech tools at our
disposal," he says. "We're doing things that nobody else in the
world is doing -- not even close:"
UNT RESEARCH Z06h 3"
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University of North Texas. UNT Research, Volume 16, 2006, periodical, 2006; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc29777/m1/31/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.