A new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) project aims to stir up materials research by adapting "lab-on-a-chip" technology to mix and evaluate experimental concoctions at a rapid clip, hastening improvements in products ranging from paints to shampoos to plastics.
Initially, researchers at the NIST Combinatorial Methods Center (NCMC) and several of the NCMCs company members plan to rev up the search for new or better emulsions--often-complex formulations that are the basis for U.S. product markets totaling more than $50 billion. They will start by deciphering interactions at the interfaces (inter-facial tension) between the various components that make up these viscous mixtures and are key to their performance.
Now, efforts to improve paints, shampoos and other emulsions tend to be time-consuming, trial-and-error exercises. But with tiny "lab-on-chip" devices, much of the process can be automated, permitting rapid, systematic testing of new material formulations.
Mark Bello | EurekAlert!
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