Professor Manoj Chaudhury is a world renown surface scientist -- an expert on the interactions of molecules at free surfaces. Through an NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 2 contract, Manoj will team up with Dr. Giles Dillingham of the Brighton Technologies Group, Inc. on a project entitled SBIR Phase II: Novel Surface Free Energy Sensor.

This collaboration will address the needs engendered by the current environmentally mandated shift from solvent-based adhesives and coatings to water-borne systems, which has made the control of surface treatment extremely critical. Manoj is developing a novel sensor based on ultra rapid determination of the equilibrium shape of a miniscule drop of a probe liquid on the surface in question, a parameter directly related to the Gibbs free energy of the surface. A fundamental understanding of the relationship between ballistic deposition parameters of small liquid drops, the morphology and energetics of a substrate surface, and the equilibrium drop geometry will be developed and utilized to design and construct prototype closed loop control surface processing equipment. This understanding will be developed primarily through high-speed imaging of the interaction of growing droplets with surfaces of various chemical composition and morphology. This knowledge will be incorporated into the design and construction of prototype surface processing equipment that includes closed loop feedback for precise control and verification of surface free energy.

The broader impact and commercial potential of this project will be to allow for more energy efficient surface treatment, more consistency in surface treatment processes, reduced scrap rates in manufacturing and more reliably bonded and coated structures. This in turn will reduce barriers to adoption of these inherently efficient manufacturing methods. Markets that have expressed keen interest in the proposed sensor technology include automotive OEM's and their suppliers, major airframes and their suppliers, and manufacturers of general purpose surface treatment equipment.