Grad student wins PPG-MRL assistantship
MechSE PhD candidate Hyeongyun Cha was awarded a PPG-MRL Graduate Research Assistantship to pursue cutting-edge research broadly related to the areas of interest to PPG.
The Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) at Illinois fosters interdisciplinary research in materials science in a highly collaborative environment.
PPG develops paints, coatings, and materials for the construction, industrial, transportation, and consumer products markets. By investing in educational opportunities, the company and foundation help grow a skilled workforce and develop innovators in fields related to coatings and manufacturing.
“My research focuses on identifying fundamental degradation mechanisms, giving them a clear physical interpretation, showing that they are measurable, and connecting them with high heat flux technologies for high and low surface tension working fluids,” Cha says. “Water vapor condensation is a ubiquitous phenomenon observed in nature and industry such as steam condensers in power generation, water desalination, and vapor condensers in heat pipes. Furthermore, condensation on hydrophobic surfaces has received much attention due to its ability to enhance heat transfer, anti-icing, self-cleaning, and energy harvesting. However, the successful widespread use of functional coatings for thermal management applications has been fraught with many challenges.”
Exploring solutions to these challenges will be an integral part of Cha’s research at MRL. His advisor, Assistant Professor Nenad Miljkovic, agreed.
“Hydrophobic polymers have wide application in heat transfer systems, however their lack of durability is an issue which prevents them from being utilized. I am extremely excited about Cha’s work as part of the PPG fellowship because it has the potential to unlock the key to understanding of why these coatings degrade, and provide molecular design guidelines for future, more robust, coating development.”
“The biggest challenge to successful implementation has been the lack of mechanical, chemical, and thermal robustness,” Cha said. “With the proliferation of micro/nanotechnology has come the ability to characterize mechanical, thermal, electrical, and chemical properties at nanoscale resolutions and at a variety of fluid interfaces (liquid/solid, liquid/liquid, liquid/air). One of the most promising characterization platforms is scanning probe microscopy (SPM), in particular the combination of AFM with a variety of nanomechanical sensing techniques to be able to characterize local properties. During my doctoral degree, I have been utilizing novel SPM techniques to quantify the fundamental degradation mechanisms of functional coatings under a variety of degradation conditions.”
Cha earned his bachelor’s degree in 2014 and master’s degree in 2016, both in mechanical engineering, from the University of Illinois.
Photo by Caitlin McCoy, MRL.