Texas Engineers Nicolas Espinoza and Delia Milliron
Texas Engineers Nicolas Espinoza and Delia Milliron.

A pair of Texas Engineers are teaming up with scientists from France as part of a six-year-old collaborative research program.

Delia Milliron and D. Nicolas Espinoza were among the 2023 awardees of the Dr. Cécile DeWitt-Morette France-UT Endowed Excellence Fund. The program is a partnership between The University of Texas at Austin and the Office for Science and Technology at the Embassy of France in the United States.

Milliron, department chair and professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, will work with the Institut de Chimie de la Matière Condensée de Bordeaux and French National Centre for Scientific Research on a research project entitled, “Mixed tungsten-niobium oxides as novel plasmonic electrochromic nanomaterials for smart windows applications.”  

Milliron has done extensive research on “smart windows” that flip from letting more light in to blocking it out to reduce energy demands for heating and cooling buildings. In this project, Milliron and her colleagues will investigate mixed tungsten-niobium Oxides, which will act as advanced electrochromic materials bearing plasmonic properties. That could allow for a more selective, dual-band control of light (visible) and heat (near-infrared) fluxes going through the windows.

Espinoza, associate professor in the Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering was funded for his proposal, “Crystallization-Driven Fractures in Porous Media,” in partnership with the Université Grenoble Alpes. 

Established in 2017 with an initial investment of $100,000, the fund carries a dual mission: to support research collaborations between faculty at UT Austin and institutions in France, and to facilitate awareness and connections across the UT Austin community for French culture, workforce and education. 

"In the spirit of collaborative intellectual pursuits and exploration, UT Austin and the Embassy of France share the vision to propel forward discovery for the benefit of society,” said Sonia Feigenbaum, UT Austin’s senior vice provost for global engagement and chief international officer. “The Cécile DeWitt-Morette France-UT Endowed Excellence Fund supports new and innovative research, linking UT faculty with esteemed institutions across France and forging a global alliance dedicated to advancing the frontiers of discovery."  

The endowment is named for Cécile DeWitt-Morette, a French mathematician, physicist and former faculty member of the College of Natural Sciences. Her storied career, efforts to advance global collaboration among the scientific community and reputation as a determined innovator inspire the spirit of the excellence fund. To date, the endowment has supported 10 joint research projects between faculty at UT Austin and French institutions.