August 26, 2008

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LEWISBURG, Pa. — The National Science Foundation has given a major research instrument grant to the College of Engineering at Bucknell University.

The $281,561 grant will be used in the field of nanotechnology, specifically polymer nanocomposites. The primary investigators are Katsuyuki Wakabayashi, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Michael Malusis, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Polymer nanocomposites are hybrid materials created by dispersing a small quantity of high-performance, nano-scale filler particles in a polymer matrix.

Innovative materials
These innovative materials are receiving considerable attention in both scientific and industrial communities due to the potential for enhanced engineering performance compared to unfilled polymers or conventional polymeric composites.

However, nano-scale fillers are difficult to disperse in many polymers, including common plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene. The research facilitated by this instrument grant will focus on improving filler dispersion for better performance.

The new instrumentation includes a customized extrusion apparatus for fabricating polymer nanocomposites through a process known as solid-state shear pulverization. According to Wakabayashi and Malusis, this technique offers the potential for creating superior hybrid materials tailored for new industrial applications such as automobile tires and waste containment liners.

Second instrument
"This is only the second such instrument installed at any university in the world and will be used to investigate unique and novel applications," Wakabayashi said.

"The instrumentation and associated research projects will expose Bucknell students to innovative nanotechnology and facilitate cross-disciplinary collaborations on and off the Bucknell campus," added Malusis.

Wakabayashi and Malusis envision fruitful collaboration with other universities in the country, including Colorado State University, Northwestern University and Pennsylvania College of Technology.

In addition, the instrumentation may be introduced in several engineering courses and laboratories at Bucknell, as well as the new Bucknell Engineering Summer Camp for local junior high school students.

Contact: Division of Communications


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