Particle Technology Laboratory - Research and Facilities

Research and Facilities at the Particle Technology Laboratory

The Particle Technology Laboratory is one of the leading centers of small particle research in the U.S.  It was founded in the 1950's by the late Professor K. T. Whitby.  The immediate past director is Regents’ Professor Emeritus Benjamin Liu.  It has grown to its present size of six faculty members, four technical and support staff, and approximately 25 graduate students working on various research projects and degree programs.  The Laboratory has published approximately 1,450 papers and reports, and produced approximately 150 Ph.D.'s and 400 Master level students. PTL is well-known for its instrumentation development activities. Instruments for particle generation, measurement, sampling and analysis in the range of 0.002 to 100 µm have been developed. Research has been incorporated into codes and standards by NIST, ASTM, ASHRAE, EPA, and ISO, etc.   

The research programs of the Laboratory are broadly divided into the following six major areas:

  • Air, Gas and Liquid Filtration--research on filter media and filtration systems.  The research has been supported by an industrial consortium, the Center for Filtration Research (CFR) consisting of 10 current member companies, namely, 3M, Boeing, Cummins, Donaldson, DuPont, Entegris, W.L. Gore, Samsung Electronics, Shigematsu, TSI with estimated annual sales of $10 billion filtration products.  NIOSH is an affiliated member of the CFR.
  • Ventilation and Bioaerosols Studies--research on characterizing, modeling and controlling of bioaerosols in ventilation systems of residential, commercial and hospital buildings.  A current project investigates effluents from various cooking appliances and optimum design of kitchen ventilation.  Another NIOSH/NIH grant investigates measurement of particle sizes associated with airborne viruses.
  • Cleanrooms and Microcontamination Control--research on clean manufacturing technologies of Extreme-UV Lithography (EUVL) System.  The research has been supported by Intel and Sematech.  An industrial consortium was set up during 1985-2000 consisting of 17 member companies.  It has graduated 35 graduate students including 25 Ph.D.s; 75% of them are working in microelectronics companies as engineering directors, chief design engineers, and senior managers.
  • Air Pollution and Environmental Studies--research on atmospheric pollution, visibility impairment, and global climatic change.  The research has contributed to our understanding of smog formation in Los Angeles, the sources of pollutant haze at the Grand Canyon, and the formation of new particles in the remote locations, including the Arctic Ocean, Mauna Loa, Colorado Rockies and Tasmania.
  • Basic Aerosol Research and Instrumentation--research on properties and behavior of small airborne particles and methods for their characterization and analysis.  Faculty members have developed thirty plus aerosol instruments which are commercialized and widely used by researchers around the world.
  • Nanoparticle Technology-- The Laboratory is well-known for its instrumentation development activities.  Recently developments include a Nanometer Differential Mobility Analyzer for size distribution measurements in the 3 nm to 100 nm diameter range, an Electrospray Aerosol Generator for producing monodisperse nanoparticles larger than 2 nm, and aerosol generators for producing polydisperse and monodisperse silver and sulfuric acid nanoparticles. A Nanoparticle Surface Area Monitor for monitoring nanoparticle surface area deposited in different regions of human lung.

Major facilities of the Laboratory include 15,000 square feet of general laboratory space, and 500 sq. ft. of class 100 cleanroom space; wind tunnel, filter testing, and vacuum facilities; instruments for particle generation, measurement, sampling and analysis in the 0.002 to 100 µm diameter range; and microscopes, electron microbalances, gas analyzers, anemometry and other laboratory instruments.  The estimated value of the laboratory instrumentation is in excess of $3 Million.

Other Particle Interest Groups at the Mechanical Engineering Department

The Center for Diesel Research (Director: Professor David B. Kittelson) specializes in measuring engine emissions with a focus on nontraditional particulate emissions measurements. These measurements include metrics such as the particle number concentration, size distribution and surface area. Past research topics have included the effect of dilution systems, fuels, lube oils and aftertreatment systems of particulate emissions. Current research topics are focused on advanced particle measurements, alternative fuels, and advanced engine combustion characterization. Specific projects include: real-time ash measurement, an alternative fuel micro-turbine demonstration, HCCI engines, hydrogen fueled engine, and reducing knock in a CNG engine. 

The High Temperature and Plasma Laboratory was founded in the late 1950s by Ernst Eckert, and was led for three decades by now-Emeritus Professor Emil Pfender.  The HTPL is currently comprised of Professors Steven Girshick, Director, Joachim Heberlein and Uwe Kortshagen, over 20 graduate student research assistants, and several postdocs and visiting scientists.  Current research is focused primarily on plasma synthesis and processing of nanoparticles, for applications that include photovoltaics, wear-resistant coatings, medical therapies, optoelectronics and others.  Strong collaborations exist between the HTPL and the PTL, and use of PTL-developed instruments is routine in the HTPL.

The Computational Transport Phenomena Laboratory (Director: Professor Sean Garrick) specializes in the use of numerical simulation to answer fundamental questions in the fluid and thermal sciences. Our research in the areas of transport phenomena encompasses physical, analytical, and numerical modeling. We currently focus on the modeling and simulation of turbulent reacting flows, particle formation and growth dynamics, multi-scale modeling, and multi-phase heat, mass and momentum interactions. In these endeavors our goal is two-fold: (1) To utilize the latest mathematical and numerical tools to investigate and elucidate the underlying physico-chemical processes, and (2) to develop models and numerical algorithms which accurately represent the phenomena in a computationally-affordable manner, facilitating their use in solving problems of interest to industry and society.