SPC awarded grant to Establish the Center for Microplasma Science & Technology

Jersey City, N.J. – The Saint Peter’s College Department of Applied Science and Technology has been awarded $2 million in federal funding from the United States Department of Defense to establish a National Center of Excellence known as the Center for Microplasma Science and Technology (CMST) on the College’s Jersey City campus. The center will serve as the first and only topical scientific and educational center devoted entirely to the emerging field of microplasma research in the United States.

“Locating the Center for Microplasma Science and Technology within a higher education context will stimulate educational outreach to young researchers pursuing careers in science,” said Dr. Eugene J. Cornacchia, president of Saint Peter’s College.  “We are optimistic about the rewards of a partnership such as this.”

Plasma is often referred to as the fourth state of matter.  Natural examples include the sun and stars, but plasma is also generated for technological applications; this includes fluorescent lamps, ignition sparkplugs and plasma televisions.  Within the past decade, microplasmas have proved to possess remarkable physical, electrical and optical properties applicable to multiple technologies such as water purification, triggering a worldwide effort to research their phenomena.

The microplasma research that has been conducted at Saint Peter’s College by Drs. Jose L. Lopez and Wei-Dong Zhu, assistant professors of physics, along with Dr. Alfred Freilich, visiting research professor of physics, has yielded improved methods to create more ozone for large-scale ozone generators for industrial or public utilities applications.

The professors’ collaboration with Degrémont Technologies – Ozonia (DTO) has resulted in various patented processes and new technologies, including DTO’s newest large-scale ozone generators, the Intelligent Gap System (IGS), which uses microplasma to create large quantities of ozone. This IGS technology has been incorporated into the latest state-of-the-art, large-scale ozone generators that are used in modern water purification systems, which create clean water for millions of people.

The purpose of establishing the CMST at Saint Peter’s is to create a hub for all laboratories across the country currently studying microplasmas, organize their research efforts and host scientific meetings, workshops and conferences to help the national scientific research effort move forward.

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, a 1976 Saint Peter’s College graduate, who supported the Defense Appropriations Bill, commented, “Our state is known for scientific breakthroughs, and the new center will help keep us at the forefront. Making Saint Peter’s, my alma mater, the national hub for research in this advanced field is a boon to New Jersey’s high-tech sector and our economy. I am proud to have helped secure federal funding to make this a reality.”

Research conducted at the CMST will also enable the Department of Defense to refine their use of microplasmas for defense-related applications, as well as support other key national interests such as aerospace research.  “The center will also exist to merge efforts between microplasma research and other scientific fields of defense-related research that will greatly benefit our nation,” said Dr. Lopez.

New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman was also in support of the funding request, commenting, “This $2 million will help Saint Peter’s College build on the impressive work they have already done in the field of microplasma technology. Furthermore, applying this technology to water purification needs right here in New Jersey is tremendously exciting.”  New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires, Saint Peter’s College, class of 1974, was an additional supporter of the Defense Appropriations Bill.

Saint Peter’s has also received more than $600,000 of additional funding from NASA, The American Chemical Society and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) for the College’s Department of Applied Science and Technology. “New Jersey has a long and impressive history of innovation and this grant will help provide the continued training our future scientists need to keep that momentum going,” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, another supporter, said.

Under the Department of Applied Science and Technology, Saint Peter’s has also established a science teacher training institute, the PARSE Institute or Practical Application of Research in Science Education (PARSE) Institute that will launch in January 2009.  Funded by a $450,000 grant from Edison Venture Fund, this program will offer science teachers throughout New Jersey the opportunity to learn by doing scientific research – not just teach it.

The objective of the College’s Department of Applied Science and Technology is to educate students so that they may work in the field of applied science and technology for positions in industry, clinical laboratory testing and health professions, as well as biomedical, chemical and physics research settings. This department also prepares graduates to enter the many fields of applied science and technology research with training at the baccalaureate degree level, as well as prepare them for graduate study within the scientific discipline and other health-related fields.