Complex Fluids Engineering

By Alan E. Hodel, Internet Columnist

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    Multi-phase mixtures, including slurries, colloids, surfactants and polymers, are examples of complex fluids. Beyond being a buzzword, the phrase "complex fluids" focuses attention on the application and control of nanometer-scale properties for industrial fluids processing.

    What is meant by nanometer-scale properties? An overview from Nanoscience remarks that, rather than working with bulk materials for nanometer scale, one works with individual atoms and molecules. The Collins Group Web page from the University of California, Irvine, adds that the electronic properties of materials can be very unusual at the nanometer scale. The Mirkin Nanoparticle Subgroup at Northwestern University describes using DNA's unique recognition interactions to direct the assembly of nanometer-sized particles.

    "Just as there are limits to growth, there are limits to shrinkage," says Dr. Steven M. Block, Stanford University, in a video lecture "What is Nanotechnology?" You might want to view some of the nanotechnology videos available where this and other lectures are provided (mostly in  RealPlayer format) by NanoXchange.com. The Web site also includes an information portal with an introduction, news and a variety of other nano-links.

    Chemical engineering departments at many universities such as Carnegie Mellon have incorporated complex fluids into their graduate programs. Some have established centers for interdisciplinary research -- such as Carnegie Mellon's Center for Complex Fluid Engineering and the Centre for Complex Fluids Processing at the University of Wales-Swansea. These Web sites describe the facilities, research projects and personnel involved, goals and links with industry.

    Simulation and modeling

    Simulation of complex fluids helps identify weaknesses in current modeling methods and helps develop, test and improve modeling alternatives. A graphic explanation of complex fluid theory provides insight into the properties of these complex fluids. Links relating to biomolecular and soft matter broaden the spectrum and geographical base of the available information pertaining to the research. Common threads that make much of the research possible include:
  • rapidly increasing computing speed and computational techniques described by Clare McCabe, which are in use at the Colorado School of Mines
  • sophisticated characterization methods profiled by Gordon Tiddy and employed at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

    Manufacturers of nanoparticles and nanotextured materials are described and linked at The Sol-Gel Gateway. The gateway menu includes research groups, projects, tutorials and firms commercializing products based on sol-gel technology. (The sol-gel process is a solution process for making ceramic and glass materials. It involves a liquid "sol" (mostly colloidal) and a solid "gel" phase.)

    The Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) Polymer, Polymers + Complex Fluids at Leeds Web site includes a link to poster sessions. The Polymers And Complex Fluids site has additional up-to-date links. There are polymer links that have substantial introductory and processing material about polymers.

    General interest links

    And now for something completely different: some links that should help you on a number of fronts.

    1. Selected Links to Reference Sites brought to you by Instant Knowledge World News includes handy access to reference tools, historical documents and listings from library classics to statistics.

    2. All-Internet Security.com is a comprehensive and useful resource for popup-stoppers, spam-blockers, and firewalls, as well as links to security and networking software.

    3. KarenWare - Home of Karen's Power Tools offers a group of programs available without cost that help to make Windows easier to use.

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