A partnership between Kettering University and Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. was recently renewed for another year, bringing the total funds for the four year project to over $500,000. Shin Etsu is a major global chemical and silicones supplier based in Japan that is collaborating with Dr. Mary Gilliam and Dr. Susan Farhat in the Chemical Engineering Department.
Shin Etsu is sponsoring research at Kettering to develop atmospheric plasma technology to advance silicone materials.
“Our overarching goal is to develop new technologies to enable Shin Etsu to expand sales into new markets,” Gilliam said.
The funding has allowed Gilliam and Farhat to acquire cutting-edge equipment and provide opportunities to engage students in industry research.
Gilliam partnered with Shin Etsu when she was a full-time employee with Sabic Innovative Plastics from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, Gilliam and Farhat independently joined Kettering as full-time faculty in the Chemical Engineering Department. Gilliam shares a patent with Shin Etsu and the company was still interested in working with her, despite her shift from industry to academia.
Gilliam met with Shin Etsu in Tokyo in 2011 to discuss the scope of the project. Shin Etsu’s objectives include the development of scratch resistant and UV blocking coatings to grow the applications for its silicone materials.
“Based on the goals and the extent of the work required, I spoke with Susan about working jointly on the project, as I knew she had experience with plasma and materials,” Gilliam said.
The company began sponsoring research at Kettering in April 2012 and has renewed this contract each year. The work will continue through April 2016, and support could continue based on results generated as Kettering researchers attempt to develop and optimize the process.
“It’s been ongoing and each year we have made progress,” Farhat said. “We keep continuing towards the main goal of achieving consistent coatings with superior performance in these applications.”
When the project first started in 2012, the research team outsourced some aspects of sample testing to Michigan State University and University of Michigan. In 2014, Gilliam and Farhat were awarded a grant for over $550K to acquire a X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) through a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant, which enabled the entire project to be conducted on Kettering’s campus.
The funding from this sponsorship by Shin Etsu also allowed Gilliam and Farhat to obtain two atmospheric pressure plasma systems, a prism coupler, a microscope, and other research equipment. This equipment has facilitated several other projects on campus ranging from coatings capable of timed drug release to treating natural fibers for better performance in natural fiber composites.
In total, the sponsorship with Shin-Etsu has directly or indirectly engaged 33 undergraduate students in research projects over the past two years, two of whom completed all their co-op terms alongside Gilliam and Farhat. Other students conducted independent studies or a senior thesis related to the project.
“Each term we get more and more students,” Farhat said. “If we didn’t have those instruments, we wouldn’t be able to consistently engage undergraduates in this type of research experience.”
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