The College of Engineering -- University of Wisconsin-MadisonAnnual Report 1998

Big Letterow does genetic information turn a fertilized egg into a multi-cellular organism? That's a question Associate Professor John Yin is trying to answer. As a starting point, he is studying how genetic information in viruses, among the world's simplest organisms, helps them grow. This knowledge could have a great impact on the field of chemical engineering, which is built on the concept of unit operations. "Industries as varied as petroleum, plastics, pharmaceuticals and food depend on common processing units such as
Virus growing
reactors, distillers, extractors and heat exchangers," explains Yin. Similarly, he says, viruses, cows, worms and humans share common biochemical operations in processing their genetic information. Since these operations sustain life, they tend to be both chemically complex and robust. "By understanding the chemical and physical prin-ciples behind genetic operations in viruses, one may gain insights for process designs that impact a variety of industries," says Yin. "Over the long term, our studies should also provide tools and perspectives for understanding the design of more complex living systems." Below, Yin and postdoctoral researcher Karen Duca prepare to grow viruses in their lab.

The `shrinking' world of microelectronics

As the microelectronics industry grows bigger and bigger, the subject of Assistant Professor Paul Nealey's research becomes smaller and smaller. That's because Nealey is working on functional nanostructures, tiny circuits that power such technology as computers, watches and games. It's estimated that by the year 2007, these circuits will have reached the scale of 100 nanometers (or 1/10 of a millimeter)--less than half the size of today's smallest circuits.

In his effort to produce denser, faster and more powerful circuits, Nealey is investigating the use of self-assembled monolayers, extreme UV and X-ray lithography, and the ordering of thin films of block co-polymers at chemically heterogeneous interfaces. He is seeing success in developing photoresists (light-sensitive coatings applied to a substrate and developed prior to chemical etching) for use with synchrotron radiation. This work is in conjunction with the Center for NanoTechnology.

In a second area, Nealey's team is investigating the effects of nanostructured surfaces, independent of surface chemistry, on the behavior of cells. "This may lead to the development of improved cell culture systems," says Nealey.

Research projects focus on solving problems for paper production industry

Associate Professor Daniel Klingenberg, through his work with the Rheology Research Center, is helping the papermaking industry solve some of its biggest problems: how to control flocculation and produce uniform paper properties; how to fractionate fibers of different lengths; and how to deal with the large amounts of waste produced by paper mills. Each of these dilemmas pertains to the relationships between fiber interactions, the non-equilibrium structure, and the rheology of flexible fiber suspensions, explains Klingenberg.

Through the use of microscopic modeling, computer simulations and various experimental techniques, Klingenberg's group hopes to better understand the relationship between fiber properties and interactions, suspension structure, and the rheological properties of flexible fiber suspensions. In particular, the group is examining the role of fiber flexibility and inter-particle forces on the entanglement and flocculation of fibers, the rheological response of entangled networks, and the evolution of anisotropy in these suspensions. "Our ultimate goal," says Klingenberg, "is to understand the underlying chemistry and physics in order to improve processes and material properties."

James A. Dumesic, Chair

James A. Dumesic
2014 Engineering Hall
1415 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1691

Tel: 608/262-1092
Fax: 608/262-5434

Copyright 1998 University System Board of Regents

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1998 Annual Report Contents