Zhengdong Cheng, associate professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, was awarded a grant from NASA for his research in nanoplate technology.
Chengs proposal, Liquid Crystals of Nanoplates, was submitted in response to NASAs Research Announcement, Research Opportunities in Complex Fluids and Macromolecular Biophysics (pdf).
The objectives of the proposal are to investigate the dynamics of phase transitions, including the formation of liquid crystals, as well as the equilibrium gel or empty liquid state, of highly anisotropic colloidal disks, says Cheng.
SEM image of a ZrP crystal before exfoliation.
Understanding the structure and properties of colloidal disks are important to soil science and space exploration(e.g., Mars), as well as the fundamental investigation and development of discotic liquid crystals. The research could impact various industries including oil recovery, the delivery of pharmaceuticals, nutrition, and cosmetics.
Cheng says, We plan to use the ACE microscope in microgravity environment to observe the kinetics of liquid crystal nucleation and growth, plus the kinetics of gelation phase separation.
The grant is for 5 years and totals $747,000.
Cheng has worked with NASA in the past. In 1997 he received recognition for a successful hard sphere experiment aboard the Orbiter Columbia, and then again for his contribution to the colloidal disorder-order experiments aboard the STS-95 mission.
Source: Texas A&M University
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