OXFORD, Miss. – A revolutionary aluminum plating process developed at the University of Mississippi has been recognized as one of the most technologically significant products of 2014.
The Portable Aluminum Deposition System, or PADS, invented in the laboratory of UM chemistry chair and professor Charles Hussey, is a winner in R&D Magazine‘s 52nd annual R&D 100 Awards. The international competition recognizes excellence across a wide range of industries, including telecommunications, optics, high-energy physics, materials science chemistry and biotechnology. The award is considered to be the “Oscar” for inventors.
The work in Hussey’s lab is part of a larger project and carried out in collaboration with Sheng Dai and other scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the United Technologies Research Center. At UM, Hussey worked closely with postdoctoral research associate Li-Hsien Chou to develop PADS. This aluminum plating technology is expected to replace hazardous coatings such as cadmium, thereby potentially strengthening the competitiveness of American manufacturing companies worldwide and cutting the cost of aluminum plating by a factor of 50 to 100.
PADS allows manufacturers to safely conduct aluminum deposition in open atmosphere for the first time. Aluminum cannot be plated from water or most other solvents, so a special electrolyte that enables the safe plating is a critical part of the device.
“As basic scientists studying fundamental process and phenomena, so much of what we do is not immediately useful or obvious to society,” Hussey said. “Here, we have made something unique and obviously useful. This is very satisfying.”
Chou, who earned her doctorate under Professor I-Wen Sun at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, is Hussey’s “academic granddaughter” because Sun is one of Hussey’s first doctoral graduates, having earned his Ph.D. at UM in 1989.
Winning the R&D award is a dream come true for Chou.
“Every scientist dreams one day to develop a useful product with their name on it, and we did,” Chou said. “I am so happy we can bring this recognition to Ole Miss.”
Hussey said he is pleased with his Chou’s contributions to the project.
“I am very proud of her and hope this will benefit her career,” he said. “After all, this is really what we do or should be doing in academia, developing people and helping them to be successful in their careers and lives.”
The judges were impressed by the development of a process to use air-sensitive ionic liquids in the open atmosphere to make an air-stable plating system.
“The availability of air-stable plating systems allows the technology to be used in the field, giving PADS a competitive advantage,” said Paul Livingstone, senior editor of R&D Magazine. “The technology’s lower cost of use and prospect for displacing toxic corrosion protection alternatives were additional factors that contributed to the selection of this winning technology.”
Research on the technology was stimulated by a research contract from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense to UM through ORNL. Plated aluminum is a protective coating and offers corrosion protection to any underlying metal.
Hussey has worked on ionic liquid projects for many years, including various U.S. Department of Energy projects involving the development of ionic liquid-based processes for the treatment of spent nuclear fuel.
The 2014 R&D 100 Awards banquet is set for Nov. 7 at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.
For a full list of this year’s winners, visit http://www.rdmag.com/award-winners/2014/07/2014-r-d-100-award-winners. For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, go to http://chemistry.olemiss.edu.