With research that will make an impact ranging from solar-cell technology to new and improved packaging materials, one University of Houston professor is leading the way in a nanocoatings conference that will bring academia, government and industry research into one venue.
Rigoberto Advincula, an associate professor of chemistry and adjunct associate professor of chemical engineering at UH, will lead a workshop at "The Future of Nanocoatings and Ultra-thin Films" conference May 16-18 in Miami. The coatings industry includes a large segment of industries, such as those dealing with paints, printing and packaging. Other coatings of high value are related to biomedical, sensing, military and lighting applications. This conference addresses how to move from lab to market, bringing together experts from across the supply and user chain to explore and demonstrate routes to commercial success with the use of nanotechnology.
"Much of these are everyday things we sometimes don't pay attention to, but they are produced on an industrial scale and involve a lot of science and engineering to develop," Advincula said. "Most are based on resin, polymer and adhesive technologies that have not been largely influenced by nanotechnology. This symposium is aimed toward advancing the use of nanotechnology."
In addition to giving a lecture - "Nanostructured Ultra-thin Films and Coatings Based on Conjugated Polymer Network Precursors" - at 3:15 p.m., Thursday, May 18 at the close of the three-day event, Advincula will co-present a pre-conference workshop - "An Introduction to Nanotechnology for the Coatings Industry" - from 1 to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 16. His co-presenter will be Lloyd Tran, president of the International Association of Nanotechnology, a non-profit association with the aim of fostering research and business development in nanotechnology.
In his lectures, Advincula will cover what nanocoating technology is, how it can work for those who use it and the main issues toward incorporation in coatings research and development. The result of adding nanotechnology to the coatings industry will result in new applications and improved performance. Some examples include the use of clay nanoparticles in improving thermal and barrier properties, resulting in longer shelf-life of products, better packaging and high thermal applications of traditional coatings. Others include the use of silica and titania nanoparticles, resulting in improved scratch resistance or resistance to UV-degradation.
"The main issue is that industry, academia and government need to partner in introducing new technologies into commercial and military applications," Advincula said. "Funding needs to be targeted, and new developments in academic laboratories have to be broadcast. Government - in particular the Department of Defense - is interested in smart coatings that have chemical sensing and photovoltaic (or solar cell) applications. From the consumer perspective, we need to look at what the demands and economic costs are, aesthetics versus performance and what any toxicological issues might be."
Graduating in 1994 with his Ph.D. from the University of Florida, Advincula has published more than 200 academic papers and is a frequent speaker at various conferences and symposia. He was also a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in 1995 and a research fellow in the chemical engineering department at Stanford University in 1996. He joined UH's chemistry department in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in 2002 and became an adjunct associate professor in the chemical engineering department of the Cullen College of Engineering.
In addition to his research and teaching at UH, Advincula is a consultant for several companies, such as Dow Corning, Agilent, Maxtek, Lintec and Fuji. Working with these other companies, as well as with his fellow researchers at UH, his current work has applications for solar cells and light-emitting displays, in improving display device efficiency and viewing performance, bio-implant coatings, and in the preparation of new packaging materials with improved thermal and mechanical properties.