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Student Profile: Aaron Sakulich

"I cannot imagine a project I could be more enthusiastic about," says Aaron Sakulich, a recent graduate of Drexel University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Aaron Sakulich

Sakulich, who received his B.S. in materials engineering this past June, has transitioned to pursuing his doctorate with materials science and engineering professor Dr. Michel Barsoum. The two are working to create synthetically manufactured granite.

The process they are using to engineer this granite is based on an uncommon theory of how the pyramids in Egypt may have been constructed. Barsoum and Sakulich are part of a minority of scientists trying to prove that the stones used to build the Great Pyramids of Giza were not carved out of the surrounding landscape and hauled into place, but were mixed together from basic minerals and mud and poured into a mold.

Why is this historic mystery important to materials engineers?

"If we can create a better modern version of the chemical process used to form the blocks for the pyramids, we will have discovered an indestructible and cheap new building material," Sakulich says.

Barsoum and Sakulich’s research work on geopolymers, as the custom-made stones are called, uses granite powder to produce solid granite. The popularity of granite in countertops and building materials makes this research appealing from an economic standpoint. Currently, when a custom ordered granite countertop is cut, a good portion of the granite that is cut away is discarded. This is not only wasteful, but costly, particularly if a piece breaks in the process and has to be re-cut. Sakulich points out that if this new process he and Barsoum are researching reaches commercialization, it will be cheaper, less wasteful, and easier to use to custom make everything from building materials to jewelry to tombstones.

Sakulich became interested in geopolymer research after hearing Dr. Barsoum discuss the pyramids and geopolymer science in his Ceramics I class. To Sakulich, this new theory about how the pyramids may have been constructed sounded plausible. A fan of seeking out the truth, Sakulich has a regular column in Drexel University’s student newspaper, The Triangle, in which he regularly debunks myths ranging from UFOs to other supernatural wonders, using hard science and facts. For Sakulich, getting to the bottom of the mystery of the pyramids may not be too far off.

In the future, Sakulich hopes to use his research on manufacturing geopolymers to alleviate homelessness in third world countries. The potential cost-effectiveness of the process and ability to use local ground stone keeps his goal within reach.

For now, he will continue to solve the world’s mysteries through good scientific research.

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Last updated Friday, June 6, 2008