|Vol. 17, No. 31||May 14, 1998|
A major three-year grant, the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) prize- awarded jointly in 1995 to the departments of Physics and Astronomy and Chemical Engineering as well as the DuPont Co. and the National Institute of Science and Technology's (NIST) Cold Neutron Facility-has been extended through the year 2001.
Awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, the original GAANN prize provided $690,000, matched by $172,500 from UD, to support eight graduate students annually, or a total of 24 students between 1996 and 1998, physics and astronomy chairperson Henry Glyde said. The latest GAANN award, valued at $303,000, and matched by $115,000 from UD, will provide fellowships for an additional 15 graduate students over the next three years.
Principal investigators on the award are Glyde and Jerold M. Schultz, C. Ernest Birchenall Professor of Chemical Engineering
Working closely with faculty mentors and collaborating scientists at the DuPont Co. and NIST, the UD graduate students help boost U.S. competitiveness in a key area of national need: advanced materials and processing.
For example, graduate student Daniel C. Guerin, physics and astronomy, is contributing to a research project that may ultimately yield improved materials for prosthetic joints, as well as new flat-panel display systems for ultra-light portable computers and other electronic devices.
Guerin spends much of his time at the DuPont Co., working with Senior Research Scientist Ismat Shah, an adjunct physics and astronomy faculty member at UD. Like other fellowship recipients, Shah said, Guerin conducts multidisciplinary, cutting-edge industrial research with immediate practical applications. In fact, UD, DuPont and NIST have signed a memorandum of understanding to support cooperative science and technology initiatives, Glyde reported.
Toward that end, Guerin deposits thin diamond films on various substrates, then analyzes the resulting material.
To do this, Shah said, Guerin had to master a suite of highly precise laboratory techniques, including the analysis of diffraction patterns emitted by X-rays directed toward a material sample, and plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition, which involves "growing" thin films, atom by atom, inside a high-pressure chamber.
"Our immediate goals," Guerin said, "are to speed up the deposition process, make it more cost-effective, improve the adhesion of these thin films to the substrate and develop materials with better electronic and mechanical properties."
Some other GAANN research projects include the fabrication of magnetic thin films and nanoparticles to support new magnetic recording technologies; investigations of high-silica zeolites, the "molecular sieves" used to capture molecules of certain sizes and facilitate chemical reactions; modeling Bose-Einstein condensation events as a first step toward developing new atom lasers; and studies of interfaces between solid polymers.