Thinkers in Residence enhance IFM expertise

Designing Smarter Technologies

The Institute of Frontier Materials is hosting international experts in fibre and plasma technology.

The 2016 Thinkers In Residence program has introduced two renowned scientists to Deakin’s Institute of Frontier Materials (IFM), Israel’s Professor Yakov Krasik and Professor Gregory Rutledge from the US, who have shared their knowledge about plasma and nanofibre research and how it can be applied to industry.

A world leader in plasma research and application, Professor Krasik, Professor of Physics at Technion in Haifa, Israel has been working with IFM’s Professor Jane Dai and her team on plasma research and possible industrial applications, building on the Institute’s growing reputation in this area.

Originally from Tomsk in Siberia, which he describes as “one of the best of the scientific centres in Russia”, Professor Krasik migrated to Israel 25 years ago. His work has had a large impact on the field of plasma application for a variety of scientific and industrial purposes.

In his time at Deakin, his collaboration with Professor Dai and her team has focussed on the design of more efficient and economic sources of plasma and the applications of plasma-treated wastewater for agricultural purposes, a project of Professor Dai’s already generating interest from the local agricultural industry.

“When we use chemicals to protect our food, we damage our health, and the same with water. It’s not only that chemical treatments are expensive, but that they should be avoided in the future,” Professor Krasik said. ‘‘We can use the liquid plasma research to clean the water of things that are not useful and healthy.”

“Plasma is one of the most common states of matter and a “hot subject” for research “because plasma is the only source of energy, from the Sun or on Earth, that will be used in the future, it’s the only possible solution for the problem of energy for human populations”.”
Professor Krasik
Professor Yakov Krasik Thinker In Residence - IFM

Professor Krasik has also run courses for undergraduate and graduate students, conducted workshops in plasma related research aimed at industrial applications and helped to establish collaboration between Deakin and international organisations.

“I’ve being doing a bit of theoretical work and a bit of experimental work and sharing my ideas about what can be done in the future to develop the research for use on an industrial scale,” he said.

In the Physics Department, Technion, Professor Krasik has one of the largest plasma laboratories in Israel and has been in constant contact with his research group there during his time at Deakin. When he returns to Technion in late April, he will take up his research again, while hoping to continue his collaboration with Professor Dai and her team.

 

Overcoming hurdles to commercialisation

When Professor Gregory Rutledge, the Lammot du Pont Professor in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, goes on sabbatical, he likes to use the space and time to rejuvenate ideas and generate new ones.

During his current sabbatical, this goal has been achieved by becoming a Thinker in Residence with Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials. Known around the world for his achievements in polymer science and engineering, molecular simulation, electrospinning and nanofibres, Professor Rutledge is visiting Deakin for three months at the invitation of IFM’s Director, Professor Xungai Wang, Professor Tong Lin and Doctor Jian Fang.

“Material science generally benefits from collaboration between different groups,” Professor Rutledge said. “Deakin and MIT share an interest in electrospinning to make nanofibres and how to overcome the barriers to commercialisation of the technology.

“One of the hurdles to commercial output is low productivity. The group here at Deakin has done some good work to improve productivity, and this has been a great opportunity to share ideas and knowledge around how to make the technology more commercially viable.”
Professor Rutledge
Professor Gregory Rutledge Thinker In Residence - IFM

Professor Rutledge said the research groups at both Deakin and MIT have been working on nanofibre materials that are superhydrophobic – super water-repellent – or even superomniphobic, materials that can repel any liquid, including oils.

“Chemical treatments that make fibres hydrophobic are already used by the textile industry, for example, for stain repellent fabrics, but superhydrophobic electrospun materials have potential for many other uses, such as membranes and low friction surfaces,” Professor Rutledge explained.

The Deakin group had also been investigating how to develop nanofibres with piezoelectric properties, so that materials in the future would be capable of converting mechanical energy to electrical energy.

“These are promising areas for development, but the technology has broad applications. It’s what I call a ‘platform technology’,” Professor Rutledge said.

Professor Rutledge’s sabbatical continues after he leaves Deakin in May and will give him time to reflect on his interaction with Deakin and how it might influence and create new directions for collaboration between Deakin and MIT, he said.

Institute for Frontier Materials

The Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) at Deakin University was established to address some of the major challenges facing society through innovations in materials design and performance. We make use of the University's strong research capability in materials science to tackle complex problems in the areas of energy, health, environment and manufacturing.