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The Art in Science

Product Image Pyrite Reef

Pyrite Reef

Naomi Ramesar, Graduate Student (Kotov Laboratory), Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering

As engineers, our goal is to optimize processes and reduce waste. In this work, we are trying to help alleviate the energy crisis. Paper-making industries produce large amounts of by-products that are difficult to degrade. We have found a way to use iron sulfide-based particles that can break down one of these significant by-products, lignin. Our particles are initially fibrous in structure, but they self-assemble to form spherical agglomerates. This image highlights an intermediate stage, where both fibers and stable spherical assemblies are present. Importantly, the products that result from the association of these spherical iron sulfide particles with lignin can be used as biofuel, effectively turning waste into energy. This image was false colored, to replicate the coral reefs of Trinidad and Tobago where I grew up.