The primary objective of this Project Readiness Package (PRP) is to describe the proposed project by documenting requirements (customer needs and expectations, specifications, deliverables, anticipated budget, skills and resources needed, and people/ organizations affiliated with the project.  This PRP will be utilized by faculty to evaluate project suitability in terms of challenge, depth, scope, skills, budget, and student / faculty resources needed. It will also serve as an important source of information for students during the planning phase to develop a project plan and schedule.


In this document, italicized text provides explanatory information regarding the desired content.  If a particular item or aspect of a section is not applicable for a given project, enter N/A (not applicable).  For questions, contact Mark Smith at 475-7102,


Administrative Information:


·         Project Name (tentative):

Titania Nanotube Research Reactor


·         Project Number, if known:



·         Preferred Start/End Quarter in Senior Design:    






·         Faculty Champion: (technical mentor: supports proposal development, anticipated technical mentor during project execution; may also be Sponsor)






Christiaan Richter




       For assistance identifying a Champion: B. Debartolo (ME), G. Slack (EE), J. Kaemmerlen (ISE), R. Melton (CE)


·         Other Support, if known: (faculty or others willing to provide expertise in areas outside the domain of the Faculty Champion)















·         Project “Guide” if known: (project mentor: guides team through Senior Design process and grades students; may also be Faculty Champion)


·         Primary Customer, if known (name, phone, email): (actual or representative user of project output; articulates needs/requirements)


·         Sponsor(s): (provider(s) of financial support)



Contact Info.

Type & Amount of Support Committed

Christiaan Richter/ChemE

Financial, lab support







Project Overview: 

Background and motivation. In 2001 Craig Grimes and co-workers from Penn State discovered that ordered arrays of titania nanotubes (see figure 1) can be synthesized very cost effectively by anodizing titanium foil in suitable electrolytes. These nanotubes have potential commercial applications in a number of areas including solar cells, catalysts, batteries, super-capacitors and membranes and separation media. The research of your customer here at RIT is aimed at gaining an understanding of the mechanism by which these nanotubes form and to optimize and scale up the synthesis to make commercial production viable. When synthesized in the lab researchers normally simply use open beakers to contain the electrolyte and a lab clamp and stand to position the two electrodes; a foil on which the nanotubes grow and a counter-electrode. However, recent research by our laboratory confirmed that the water concentration within the electrolyte is a critical parameter for controlling the rate of nanotube growth and nanotube properties. This insight, and the fact that the solvents used for nanotube growth are highly hygroscopic, led us to the conclusion that we need a reactor that is sealed from the ambient humidity. Initial trials with sealed reaction chambers showed that the growth process generate significant heat. If the heat generated is not removed the electrolyte temperature rises resulting in the boil-off of water, again impeding nanotube growth.


Problem to be solved.  A next generation of electrochemical reactor for nanotube synthesis needs to be designed and built wherein the temperature of the liquid electrolyte can be controlled and kept at a fixed temperature chosen by the operator. The reactor also needs to be designed so that the ambient humidity, or any other external factors, do not change the water concentration of the reactor electrolyte.    


Detailed Project Description:

The goal of this section is provide enough detail for faculty to assess whether the proposed project scope and required skills are appropriate for 5th year engineering students working over two quarters.  The sequence of the steps listed below may depend on your project, and the process is usually iterative, so feel free to customize. Emphasis is on the “whats” (qualitative and quantitative), not the “hows” (solutions), except for the section on “potential concepts,” which is necessary to assess the appropriateness of required skills and project scope.  Not all of the information in this section may be shared with students.  (Attach extra documentation as needed).


·         Customer Needs and Objectives: Comprehensive list of what the customer/user wants or needs to be able to do in the “voice of the customer,” not in terms of how it might be done; desired attributes of the solution.







Customer Need #





Ability to vary spacing between electrodes: 1-5cm



Ability to fabricate two simultaneous nanotube samples per reactor in the range 1x3cm to 3x4 cm.



Ability to control synthesis time



Operates unattended for up to 4 days



Ability to (automatically) control electrolyte temp between 0-70 deg C, within 0.5 deg C of target



Maintain a well mixed electrolyte.



Ability to (automatically) control voltage between 0-100V, and maintain within 0.05 V of target



Ability to operate at currents between 100 µA - 5A



Measure and display temperature, voltage, current



Ability to maintain relative humidity below 15%



Ability to maintain hydrogen concentration below flammability limit



Low/no corrosion on clamps that hold electrodes



Non-corrosive electrolyte container



Operates safely (hydrogen generation, corrosiveness, fire, electrical shock)



Automatically shuts off under alarm conditions for temp, current, (hydrogen?)



Allows visual inspection of reactor chamber



Parts cost <$1500/unit (not including power supply and "chiller")



Build 1 prototype but design for easy replication of up to 4 identical units.



Easy to use: load/unload electrodes (including Pt counter electrode) and electrolyte



Design scales up for larger sample sizes



Power supply and "chiller" are commercial products, not included in budget



Platinum counter electrode provided






·         Functional Decomposition: Functions and sub-functions (verb-noun pairs) that are associated with a system/solution that will satisfy customer needs and objectives.  Focus on “what” has to be achieved and not on “how”it is to be achieved – decompose the system only as far as the (sub) functions are solution independent.  This can be a simple function list or a diagram (functional diagram, FAST (why-how) diagram, function tree). 


See attached Function Tree


·         Specifications (or Engineering/Functional Requirements): Translates “voice of the customer” into “voice of the engineer.” Specifications describe what the system should (shall) do in language that has engineering formality.  Specifications are quantitative and measureable because they must be testable/ verifiable, so they consist of a metric (dimension with units) and a value.  We recommend utilizing the aforementioned functional decomposition to identify specifications at the function/ sub-function levels.  Target values are adequate at this point – final values will likely be set after students develop concepts and make tradeoffs on the basis of chosen concepts.  Consider the following types of specifications:geometry (dimensions, space), kinematics (type & direction of motion), forces, material, signals, safety, ergonomics (comfort, human interface issues), quality, production (waste, factory limitations), assembly, transport/packaging, operations (environmental/noise), maintenance, regulatory (UL, IEEE, FDA, FCC, RIT).




·         Constraints: External factors that, in some way, limit the selection of solution alternatives.  They are usually imposed on the design and are not directly related to the functional objectives of the system but apply across the system (eg. cost and schedule constraints).  Constraints are often included in the specifications list but they often violate the abstractness property by specifying “how”.


·         Project Deliverables: Expected output, what will be “delivered” – be as specific and thorough as possible.


·         Budget Estimate: Major cost items anticipated.


·         Intellectual Property (IP) considerations: Describe any IP concerns or limitations associated with the project.  Is there patent potential? Will confidentiality of any data or information be required?




·         Other Information: Describe potential benefits and liabilities, known project risks, etc.


·         Continuation Project Information, if appropriate: Include prior project(s) information, and how prior project(s) relate to the proposed project.



Student Staffing:


·         Skills Checklist: Complete the “PRP_Checklist” document and include with your submission.


·         Anticipated Staffing Levels by Discipline:



How Many?

Anticipated Skills Needed (concise descriptions)




EE1 (interchangeable with ME3): Analysis of requirements and purchasing of power supply and digital multi-meter (current/volt measurements). Implementation of power supply and measurement, Labview programming and DAQ to supply and measure user defined current or voltage profiles. (Core skills: Instrumentation and advanced Labview programming and DAQ.)




ME1:  Analysis and lead physical design of reactor and sample mounting. CAD drawing. Material choices and parts ordering in consultation with ChemE’s. Machine work and taking the lead in assembly with other team members. (Core skills: 3D CAD and machining. Mechanical design and materials.)

ME2: Analysis and lead design of thermal management. Heat transfer, temperature measurement and fluid delivery and process control. Labview programming and implementation. Assist in reactor assembly and take lead in thermal assembly of thermal management system. (Core skills: Heat transfer and Fluid dynamics. Labview programming. Process control.)

ME3 (interchangeable with ME3): Same as EE1.





ChemE1: Analysis of heat loads generated by electrochemical reactions. Design of thermal control solution together with ME’s. Assist in reactor design to ensure desired thermal control (including physical mixing in reactor) and chemical compatibility of materials. Run necessary tests and trials on existing setup to obtain data for optimal design. Run tests on prototype and final design to confirm the desired thermal control has been achieved. (Core skills: Chemistry, Chemical Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer and Fluids, Reactor Design, ChemE Lab and Experimental Design.)

ChemE2: Analysis and design of humidity control. Design of humidity control strategy together with ME’s. Analysis and certification of chemical safety (ensure H2 levels below LFL), development of SOP protocols. Run necessary tests and trials on existing setup to obtain data for optimal water content control. Run tests on prototype and final design to confirm the desired water content control has been achieved. (Core skills: Chemistry, Chemical Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer and Fluids, Reactor Design, Process Safety, ChemE Lab and Experimental Design.)

ChemE3: TBD











Other Resources Anticipated:

Describe resources needed to support successful development, implementation, and utilization of the project.  This could include specific faculty expertise, laboratory space and equipment, outside services, customer facilities, etc.  Indicate if resources are available, to your knowledge.




Resource Available?




































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