DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Annabel Wang and Sivabalan Manivasagam, two Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science students at the University of North Texas, have been named 2014 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars.
Goldwaters are considered to be among the country's most prestigious scholarships awarded to students planning careers in mathematics, science and engineering. All college sophomores and juniors are eligible to compete for the scholarships, which provide up to $7,500 for tuition, fees, books and room and board.
"These awards demonstrate that undergraduate research at UNT is on a level with the best research universities in the nation," said TAMS Dean Richard Sinclair.
Wang conducts research on thermoelectric generators with Haley Lobland, UNT research associate, and Witold Brostow, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in UNT's College of Engineering. Lobland also is an alumnus of TAMS and UNT, and is previous winner of a Goldwater Scholarship.
Thermoelectric generators use temperature differences to generate electricity and have potential to help the products people use every day, such as freezers, become more environmentally friendly.
"Freezers use the chemical compound Freon, which bonds with oxygen molecules in the atmosphere and are a main cause of ozone depletion," Wang said. "If we can replace those ozone destroying components with a thermoelectric device, we will help the environment by creating alternative energy sources as well as reducing ozone depleting compounds."
Transition metals are found in the central block of the periodic table, and include iron, chromium and copper, among other metals. Transition metals are used in nearly every industrial sector, including medical, food production, transportation and energy.
One of the most important aspects of transition metals is their potential for use as catalysts in chemical reactions, Manivasagam said.
"Scientists want to know at what temperature these compounds work best, how easily can we produce these as catalysts, and how efficient are they with reactant molecules," he said. "Understanding their thermochemical properties is important for us to understand how they can be used."
Manivasagam's work has resulted in a set of information outlining thermochemical properties of some transition metals that can be used by other scientists researching potential catalysts for wide-ranging applications, such as organic synthesis and pharmaceuticals.
TAMS is a two-year residential program at UNT that allows exceptionally talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while receiving the equivalent of high school diplomas. Students enroll in the academy following their sophomore year of high school, live in a UNT residence hall and attend UNT classes with college students. After two years, they enroll at UNT or another university to finish their bachelor's degrees.