Richard Parnas

Joint Appointee, Professor Director

Research Interests

In-situ Membrane Diagnostics for Fuel Cells
Fuel cell durability is limited by membrane degradation. Fiber optic based probes allow us to watch Nafion membranes during normal fuel cell operation. The data illustrate large temporal and spatial fluctuations in membrane water content during macroscopically steady-state operation. This indicates that the membrane is under large dynamic stresses and may point to an important contributor to degradation. The spectroscopic techniques also permit analysis of water partitioning between membrane and vapor at several temperatures, providing fundamental data for transport models necessary for design optimization.

Flow in Porous Media
Rapid measurement equipment to assess the permeability of composite reinforcements has been built. Large data sets indicate that the permeability of multi-layered materials is statistically distributed. However, the statistical distributions appear to depend strongly on the textile weave pattern used to construct the material. For example, the in-plane components of the permeability tensor are uncorrelated in some materials but highly correlated in other materials. This has strong implications for manufacturing reliability since highly correlated statistics lead to highly reproducible flow patterns during resin injection, and poorly correlated permeability statistics may lead to widely variable flow patterns making injection flows difficult to predict.

New Feedstocks for the Commodity Plastics Market
New plastics are being developed from plant protein, a renewable and biodegradable resource. Small quantities of designed molecules are added to the protein to improve the toughness by an order of magnitude without decreasing stiffness. The current challenge is stabilizing the properties of the protein based plastic. Understanding the interactions of moisture with the modified protein structure is expected to help develop the processing and formulation strategy for maximizing property stability.

UConn Biodiesel Consortium
A consortium of faculty from several colleges recently formed the UConn Biodiesel consortium. A small scale production facility has been constructed to convert all UConn waste vegetable oil produced by Dining Services to biodiesel fuel for use in the UConn bus fleet. This effort includes many undergraduate students from the Chemical Engineering and Chemistry Departments, as well as a smaller number of students from Economics and Natural Resources. Byproducts from the biodiesel production process, such as glycerol and partially converted glycerides, are being evaluated as feedstocks for the polymerization of biodegradable materials.

Contact Information
Phone(860) 486-9060
Fax(860) 486-2981
Mailing AddressUniversity of Connecticut
Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
97 N. Eagleville Rd
Unit 3136 Storrs, CT 06269
Office LocationIMS 206