Revolutionary Research Results from International Partnership for Shenkar and UMassLowell
Thanks to the support of the Pernick Fund, faculty and students at UMass Lowell and Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art have joined forces to study and produce new coatings that make surfaces from glass to metal self-cleaning. That research, which is covered by two patents, could revolutionize the aerospace, automotive and building industries, among others.
The coatings developed by faculty and student researchers in plastics engineering make surfaces superhydrophobic and are not only self-cleaning, but also non-adhesive and non-wetting. That, in turn, means they resist corrosion, reducing and friction, which can translate into a wide range of commercial applications that reduce maintenance and pollution. For example, a surface such as the exterior of an aircraft can be treated with a coating that will significantly decrease accumulation of snow and ice, which can lead to the reduction or elimination of the need to use chemical de-icers.
The coatings can be sprayed onto large, new and existing surfaces – such as kitchen appliances and medical devices – and are based on commercially-available materials. A range of other potential applications exist in the construction, agriculture, optical, aerospace and military sectors.
Through the Pernick Fund, Tehila Nahum was able to come to UMass Lowell to earn her Ph.D. in plastics engineering and conduct research in superhydrophobic coatings alongside top faculty from both the university and Shenkar College.
“The importance of the joint research and academic partnership is in the synergy of theoretical know-how and technical infrastructure that the two institutions share,” said Prof. Shmuel Kenig.
The Pernick Fund was founded by David Pernick, who graduated from UMass Lowell (then Lowell Textile Institute) in 1941 with a degree in textile engineering. Before Pernick passed away in 2014, he and his wife Frances celebrated the 60th anniversary of his graduation by establishing the International Program of Graduate Studies in Plastics Engineering. The program endowed by the Pernicks brings doctoral students like Nahum from Shenkar College to UMass Lowell and faculty from Lowell to Israel to conduct research and participate in other academic collaboration.
As she was earning her doctorate at UMass Lowell, Nahum conducted research with the university’s Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing, working with the team that developed novel superhydrophobic coating formulations that offer improved durability in terms of abrasion, erosion and scratch resistance and a process to apply the coatings in a broad range of conditions. Working with Nahum were UMass Lowell Plastics Engineering professors Joey Mead and Carol Barry and Shenkar College professors Hanna Dodiuk and Samuel Kenig.