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Award highlights outstanding plastics research

For the fourth time, Quadrant, an international supplier of high-end thermoplastics and composite plastics, awarded its Quadrant Award to recognize outstanding research work being conducted on polymers and plastics. This was the fourth iteration of the international award.

Quadrant's contest was open to university graduates who had written a doctoral thesis in the field of "Materials and processes related to engineering and high-performance plastics and composites" between October 1, 2008, and September 30, 2010. The first prize of €15,000 was won by the Japanese researcher Tadashi Kajiya, who wrote his thesis at The University of Tokyo, Japan, and is now pursuing post-doctoral studies at the Laboratoire Matière et Systèmes Complexes of the Université Paris Diderot, France.

The second prize, worth €7000, went to Swiss scientist Norman Lüchinger, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich). He is currently in charge of materials development at Nanograde, a spin-off company of the ETH which he co-founded while working on his PhD. The company develops and produces high-performance additives for polymer applications, thin films, coatings and others.

The winner of the third prize of €3000 was Michelle Seitz from Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and since January 2011 has been working as a research scientist at DSM in the Netherlands.

Also honored were three Quadrant Award 2011 Finalists: Stephen Anthony and Benjamin Blaiszik, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, and Ayse Asatekin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, MA. The awards ceremony took place last weekend at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland.

The academic jury awarded the first prize to Tadashi Kajiya for his thesis entitled "Dynamics of the Drying Process of Polymer Solution Droplets" in which he tackled the fundamental problem of surface deposition from evaporating microdroplets. The problem, known as the 'coffee ring effect,' results in too much deposition near the rim of evaporating droplets, and has many applications to microprinting onto polymers and other processes requiring uniform deposition of substrate from evaporating films. With his apparatus, Kajiya measured droplet shape and polymer column density, enabling him to accurately model the deposition profiles. This inspired him to apply the Marangoni effect to solve the problem, and create uniform deposition profiles through the addition of surfactants.

The second prize was awarded for Norman Lüchinger's thesis entitled "Metal Nanoparticle Based Composite Materials." According to the jury, "The work presented by Dr. Lüchinger showcases a highly innovative problem solving approach. The problems at hand ranged from the production of plastically formable polymeric materials with powerful magnetic properties, to membranes templated by nanoparticles. In his work he addresses hurdles pragmatically by scientific reasoning and experimental studies. Furthermore, Dr. Lüchinger has shown how good research can be brought to the industrial scale rapidly, being closely involved in the creation of a start-up company based on his thesis work."

Michelle Seitz was awarded a prize for her thesis entitled "Triblock Copolymer Gels - Structure, Fracture Behavior and Application in Ceramic Processing." The jury was impressed with "the outstanding quality of Dr. Seitz' thesis and presentation, which brought together clever experimental design of a model system, elegant structural and rheological characterization, non-linear mechanical tests, and state-of-the-art theory. Her controlled gels with polymer-linked, self-assembled micelles were coupled with beautiful fracture morphology studies. The rigor and depth of the data analysis were exemplary."

The six members of the academic jury are professors on the staff of acclaimed universities or institutions in Germany, the U.S., Japan, Switzerland and Belgium, have many years of experience in the field of materials and plastic sciences and supervise numerous doctoral candidates annually. A total of 43 papers were entered in the competition.

The next Quadrant Award is planned to be conferred in 2013. The award presented was designed by the Swiss artist Beat Zoderer. The base material used for the award was a sheet of Ertacetal C blue 50 plastic produced at Quadrant's plant in Tielt, Belgium.

TAGS: Materials
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