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Process invented in college wins R&D 100 Award

Conrad talks to Clinton

Engineering Physics Professor John R. Conrad, right, explains PSII to President Clinton during a visit to a PSII research site at Los Alamos National Laboratories in 1993. (large image)

Plasma Source Ion Implantation (PSII), a process invented by UW-Madison Engineering Physics Professor John R. Conrad, has received an R&D 100 Award as one of the most technologically significant products of the year.

The award was given to the team of UW-Madison, Los Alamos National Laboratory, General Motors Corporation, Empire Hard Chrome and North Star Research Corp. This national laboratory, industry and university partnership has been developing applications of PSII to fulfill commercial and defense needs.

Conrad by vacuum chamber

Professor John R. Conrad, engineering physics, is pictured here in front of a vacuum chamber used for Plasma Source Ion Implantation. (large image)

PSII is a process that implants ions into surfaces to improve hardness and wear. The ions can be imbedded into materials such as metals, plastics, ceramics and semiconductors; modifying the physical and chemical properties of the near-surface layer. It can extend the lifetime of some products as much as a hundredfold. PSII offers strategic advantages over conventional ion implantation for industrial use because the target is placed in a plasma source and ions bombard it from all sides. This reduces the cost and complexity of the process and enables implantation to be done as a batch process.

The awards, sponsored by R&D Magazine, are in their 35th year. Winners are chosen for their revolutionary capabilities. Past winners include the digital wristwatch, antilock brakes, the fax machine and the touch-sensitive screen. The contest is judged by experts from industry, government, national laboratories and universities.

The PSII development team also received prominent mention in a recent report to Congress by the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy. The report, titled "Science and Technology Shaping the Twenty-First Century," praises the partnership and shows a picture of President Clinton peering into a PSII chamber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.