The First Rule of Engineering is to “define the problem”. A poorly posed problem is nearly impossible to solve. In materials science, there are a lot of challenges and a few things we would consider to be nearly impossible. My PhD supervisor gave me an interesting problem: make chemical vapor deposited (CVD) high-temperature, thick (50 mm) ceramic coatings on complex-shaped metal parts, like micro gas turbines. As a combustion and energy engineer, I understood why this would be a good thing. But all of the research I could find in the library and speaking with experts was pretty clear – this was impossible! In this seminar I will explain how I changed the problem statement, and changed the probability from impossible to just nearly impossible. I will explain some basics of CVD and industrial ceramic coatings, and the process that I came up with and have been developing in my lab in New Zealand since 2000. I will describe some of the different materials we have worked on and how hard it is to move a laboratory success into industry. Most importantly, as materials researchers, we always need to be considering the scale-up of the technology we are using to make sample coupons.
Our current R&D focus is on anti-microbial (AM) coatings for stainless steel touch surfaces in health-care facilities. The material of interest is TiO2 because of the photocatalytic activity, which can be enhanced and shifted to indoor light wavelengths through doping. The microstructure, surface treatment and deposition conditions affect the cleaning, wear, adhesion and AM activity. Our materials science program includes the modeling of the deposition and crystal growth in order to accelerate the realization of materials with the desired properties. In a parallel research stream we are working on the mechanical engineering of the coating technology for industrial scale-up. I will also describe the problem of hospital-acquired infections and the role of the spinout company in bringing the science and engineering into the industrial application and ultimately manufacturing products to help with a big problem and make a profit.
Date of update April 6, 2015