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Environmentally Friendly Fluid (Image 6)

Researchers who engineereed a new, environmentally friendly fluid

The researchers responsible for engineering a new, environmentally friendly fluid used in ceramic polishing: Donald Zipperian, Pace Technologies, Tucson, Ariz. (left); John Lombardi, principal investigator, Ventana Research Company, Tucson, Ariz. (center); and Professor Srini Raghavan, University of Arizona, materials science and engineering department, Tucson, Ariz. (right). The fluid was derived in part from green tea. The chemical is part of a slurry that polishes ceramics (made from aluminum oxide and titanium carbide) used in computer hard-drive, read-write heads.

Lombardi was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant (DMI 03-19794) to develop high-performance, environmentally benign lapping fluids for hard-drive manufacturing applications. [Image 6 of 6 related images. Back to Image 1.]

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The new, biodegradable machining compound for computer hard-drive manufacturing is three- to four-times more effective than toxic counterparts, and is part of a family of machining fluids that bind to polishing debris and rapidly remove tiny particles from the polishing surface. The fluids are critical because imperfections in read-write heads must be less than 10 angstroms high--larger defects can cause the head to crash into the disk, causing data loss. Ventana formulates its fluid using a combination of synthetic proteins derived from common commercial chemicals and compounds extracted from green tea and other plants. The plant chemicals in the new fluid (the same ones that form stains in coffee pots and drinking mugs) are abundant and easily extractable, and they give the new fluid its ability to bind to the particle debris formed while polishing read-write heads.

Lombardi hopes the fluid's possible biocompatibility and high affinity for ceramics and metals may lead to applications in wastewater treatment (to remove heavy-metal contaminants) and medicine (the compound may have advantages in delivering certain cancer treatments).

NSF awards SBIR grants to small businesses for risky, novel research with a potential for commercialization. Through SBIR and the related Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, NSF encourages partnerships between the small business and the academic sectors to develop a technology base for commercialization.

This excerpt was taken from NSF Press Release PR 04-053, released April 19, 2004. The complete release is available Here. (Year of image: 2003)

Credit: Erica von Koerber, Evon Photography (Tucson, Arizona)

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