A Day at CAMP


Click to EnlargePete Singer

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit the Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP) at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. The Center is largely focused on the synthesis and processing of advanced materials. This includes colloidal dispersions and processing; nanosystems; particle transport, deposition and removal; chemical-mechanical planarization; particle synthesis and properties; and thin films and coatings.

I talked to quite a few of the professors about their research projects: Cetin Cetinkaya, Richard Partch, Suresh Dhaniyala, Ratneshwar Jha, Devon Shipp, Evgeny Katz, Igor Sokolov, and Sitaraman Krishnan, as well as CAMP Director S.V. Babu ,and the Dean of Engineering, Goodarz Ahmadi. The video recorder was running and the interviews are posted one our website,, in various topic centers.

Ahmadi, who has been at Clarkson for 30 years and the dean for the last five years, said he was mostly focused on particleebgtransport, deposition and removal, including computer modeling and experimental work. "We look at how particles are transported in various environments, such as in a room or in human respiratory systems," he said. " Also, we look a lot of industrial applications. I've done work with IBM, Xerox, Kodak, Corning and other companies, looking at issues that they had with particulate transport in various applications from copier machines to contamination of chip manufacturing systems," Ahmadi said. "We've also done work for the NSF, NASA and the DoE related to energy issues."

S.V. Babu (also at Clarkson for nearly 30 years) talked primarily about his work in CMP, which he has been focused on for the last 15 years. "We have leveraged the expertise of CAMP in colloidal science and thin film processing," he said. "A lot of our students who have graduated are now running the CMP operations at IBM, Intel and Micron."

Professor Katz explained that, in the biotechnology lab, they are working on a new research area that he calls biocomputing. "We are trying to process by chemical means different biochemical signals. It's similar to biosensing but we are processing multiple signals to make logical conclusions, not using computers but biochemical reactions," he said. This could be very useful for monitoring health conditions. One research project presently underway, funded by the DoD, has a goal of giving wounded soldiers immediate assistance. "It might be possible in the near future to analyze biomedical conditions with our system and give a signal to a chemical actuator to process and inject the appropriate drug," he said. Senior Professor Partch also talked about the medicinal chemistry aspect of their work, which is focused on making micro-emulsions that can bind to commonly overdosed drugs so that can be quickly inactivated.

Professor Jha explained how, in the Smart Structures laboratory, they are using a scanning laser vibrometer and a synthetic jet actuator — which has a very small (10-30 mm) piezoelectric membrane – to develop new techniques for active flow control. "That kind of active flow control can energize flow, reduce drag and increase lift which could be really useful for airplanes," he said. Other work involves carbon fiber plates. "We are looking into finding defects in that plate based on the propagation of lamb waves (detected by laser vibrometer)," he said.

Assistant Professor Krishnan talked about his work on nano-structured polymer thin films, including membranes for solar cells and fuel cells. Janice Lebga, a grad student, explained: "The current membranes have a number of problems. Some of them allow the electrolytes to go through. For example, in a methanol fuel cell, they allow methanol to crossover. Also, they cannot operate at high temperatures because they work mostly in a humidified conditions," she said. "The membranes we're working on can operate at high temperatures and non-humidified conditions."

The visit was arranged by Tim Dunn, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development, Mohawk Valley EDGE and the Marcy NanoCenter in Rome, NY, and Mike Novakowski, Director of Business Development, CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity, NY's Creative Core in Syracuse, NY. This was part of a tour of various prestigious universities in upstate New York, with an eye on how they could help businesses that decide to locate there. In addition to Clarkson, I visited Cornell University, Syracuse University and Binghamton University, as well the Syracuse Center of Excellence – all very impressive. Thanks to all for an informative week.

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