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Coe receives $144,450 NSF grant to fund new instrument

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2009-08-10 12:05:25 - General

Coe College has received a $144,450 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase a new instrument that will allow for glass making using a levitation/laser method. The grant was awarded to the Coe physics department, which is known worldwide for its groundbreaking glass research.

The proposal, written by Coe physics professors Mario Affatigato and Steve Feller, was funded through the Major Research Instrumentation Program of the Division of Materials Research. The equipment will be built by a company headed by Dr. Richard Weber of the Argonne National Laboratory, and will also expand opportunities for Coe students to visit and do research work at the Argonne Lab.

Specifically, the instrument levitates a pellet of powder using argon gas, which is then hit (while floating) by a powerful laser beam. The light melts the pellet, allowing Coe researchers to make glass without a container.

According to Affatigato, the new instrument will allow for several advantages versus the traditional method of making glass in a container.

"The new instrument will allow us to achieve higher temperatures than our traditional furnace, up to about 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit," said Affatigato. "We will be able to attain higher sample purities, as the sample does not come into contact with any container, and it will permit us to make glasses that simply cannot be made the usual way by inhibiting crystallization."

As a result of getting the new technology, Coe students will have unique on-campus research opportunities.

"Most important is the fact that this instrument will expose our students to a rare experience in state-of-the-art manufacturing, giving them training in an area of national relevance," noted Affatigato.

The funding is the latest in a series of external grants received by Coe's science programs over the past two decades, with more than $2 million going to the physics program alone, and over $550,000 this year. Approximately one in six grant applications receives funding, demonstrating the highly competitive nature of the NSF grant process.

Coe is currently one of five small colleges in the U.S. to host a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site, also supported by the NSF, which provides opportunities for students from Coe and other colleges across the country to conduct research in chemistry and physics.