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Dr. Chang-Hwan Choi Wins Instrumentation Grant from the Office of Naval Research

Low-friction, anti-corrosive research at Stevens promises durability and improved hydrodynamics.

Hoboken, NJ, September 26, 2012 --( In recent years, materials scientists and engineers have taken inspiration from naturally water-repellent surfaces and sought to understand and develop superhydrophobicity for use in marine vessels and military vehicles that are susceptible to the long-term effects of exposure to water. Dr. Chang-Hwan Choi of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology was previously awarded a Young Investigator Award grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop superhydrophobic (extremely water-repellent) surfaces that avoid corrosion, and he has recently been awarded a Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) grant from the ONR to expand his research, maximizing the long-term stability of the surface air layer entrapped on superhydrophobic surfaces, which will significantly enhance the hydrodynamic and anti-corrosive efficiency of marine vessel surfaces.

“This grant affirms the expanding role of Stevens in engineering next-generation nanoscale surfaces,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer School of Engineering and Science. “Dr. Choi’s work is transforming our understanding of the potential applications of nano-engineered surfaces, and maximizing the practical benefit of that knowledge to US naval capabilities.”

Dr. Choi’s latest innovation involves surfaces patterned at the nanoscale to emit and hold air bubbles, creating a layer of gas that reduces the friction of the surface in the same way that air holes on an air-hockey table allow the puck to move freely. Previous efforts to implement this idea have shown that the air bubbles gradually dissolve or dissipate due to the flow of water against the surface. Researchers have attempted to use microscale patterning and bubbles, which are relatively easy to develop and analyze using common apparatus, such as a microscope. However, Dr. Choi discovered that x-ray spectroscopy can visualize the shape, morphology and surface dynamics of air bubbles at the nanoscale, preventing the loss of air bubbles in water. The DURIP grant will allow Stevens to acquire small-angle x-ray spectroscopic equipment in order to develop a stable and robust superhydrophobic surface that retains a low-friction gas layer with great durability and robustness, allowing a vessel to move more efficiently through water.

In addition to providing low friction, Dr. Choi’s breakthrough surfaces will allow marine vessels to avoid excessive contact with seawater, which contains chlorine ions that corrode the aluminum-based surfaces of modern naval vessels. The US Navy currently spends 10-12 billion dollars on corrosion protection annually, meaning that surfaces that avoid or slow corrosive processes in a more cost-effective manner would have a substantial financial impact. Dr. Choi will also assess the potential benefits of the gas layer in terms of the dynamics of temperature and pressure, thus establishing multiple facets of advantage for the technology.

“As Dr. Choi broadens our understanding of the mechanisms behind superhydrophobicity and enables more intelligent engineering of these surfaces, he is remarkably widening the already vast scope of applications of the technology,” says Dr. Constantin Chassapis, Deputy Dean of the School of Engineering and Science, and Director of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Choi is an expert on superhydrophobicity and its applications, having conducted pioneering research and published significant journal articles on the subject. His work also encompasses nanopatterning and nanostructure fabrication, where the aim is to develop simple but efficient methods of nanofabrication that display superior pattern regularity, size, and shape over a large area. In the field of Biomaterials, his well-defined nanostructured surfaces elucidate many aspects of the nanobiology of a cell, leading to novel applications in bioengineering such as biomedical implants, tissue engineering, and anti-biofouling surfaces. He is currently PI/Co-PI on grants from the Office of Naval Research and NSF. He is currently a director of Nano and Microfluidics Laboratory at Stevens.

About the Department of Mechanical Engineering
The Department of Mechanical Engineering confidently addresses the challenges facing engineering now and into the future, yet remains true to the vision of the founders of Stevens Institute in 1870 as one of the first engineering schools in the nation. The department mission is to produce graduates with a broad-based foundation in fundamental engineering principles and liberal arts together with the depth of disciplinary knowledge needed to succeed in a career in mechanical engineering or a related field, including a wide variety of advanced technological and management careers.

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Stevens Institute of Technology
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