UALR Particulate Science Research

1. Efficient Production of Hydrogen utilizing Photovoltaics Cells

Project Summary

Production of hydrogen can be accomplished via electrolysis or high- temperature heat, water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen and the hydrogen then used in engines or fuel cells.  Our approach will be to improve conversion efficiency and purity of hydrogen produced in the thermo chemical conversion processes that are the backbone of many US industries for producing hydrogen.


Two methods of conversion of hydrogen utilizing solar energy that are promising and have been identified in the DOE Hydrogen Multi-year RD&D Plan are (1) Photoelectrochemical Conversion (PEC) of water, (2) Renewable Electrolysis Integrated System that draw its power from solar (PV). Our major effort under this task will be concentrated on the PEC process and its commercialization. However, in order to expand our research towards an integrated effort and to utilize multidisciplinary resources available in the state in the areas of hydrogen production, a significant amount of effort will be given in the area of electrolyzers. The emphasis here  will be on the engineering systems for integration of the two-step process of PV technology and electrolysis into an integrated system for an optimal process control, improvement of efficiency of the electrolyzer, elimination of redundant steps and on the enhanced durability of the electrolyzer interface


The specific objectives related to the advancement of PEC technology will be on (1) Photoelectrode materials, (a) nitrogen doped TiO2, and  (b) GaPN/Si tandem cells with nitrogen composition less than 5 percent, focused on reducing the band gap less than 2 eV, (2) Improved durability and corrosion resistance by using transparent catalytic coatings using materials such as Silicon Nitride, and (3) Optimization of cell performance with the applications of nanotechnology and surface engineering. Our experimental plans include use of (a) atmospheric plasma treatments of electrodes with nitrogen and on the applications of nanostructured materials for improved photochemical energy conversion and corrosion resistance and (b) electrodeposition of low-cost, scalable thin film materials with large surface areas for promoting commercialization. Application of solar energy concentrators for improved coupling of solar radiation using Fresnel lens systems will be incorporated for improving efficiency.


2. Development of an analyzer for size and charge characterization of nanoparticles for research and education

Project Summary

Our goal is to develop a laser based instrument for research and education in the area of transport and deposition of airborne nanoparticles. This instrument will be used for several interdisciplinary research projects including: (1) electrostatic self assembly: nanoparticles of different composition suspended in the air, will be coagulated to form nanoclusters to serve multiple functions, (2) electrospray and nano-coating: nanoparticles (or droplets) produced by electrospray will be characterized and monitored and will be used to coat different surfaces, for space and medical applications, (3) transport and deposition of nanoparticles in respiratory airways; (a) transport and deposition of ultrafine pollutants(one of the major concerns of EPA) in the lung and (b) delivery of drug particles that may include conventional b-agonist such as albuterol sulfate or those that are newly being developed, such as proteins and peptides, for treatment for asthma, cystic fibrosis, and lung cancer; (4) destruction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), (5) laser ablation of solids for mass spectrometric detection of metals, (6) electrospray coating, and (7) characterization of nanoparticles and interaction of nanoparticles with biological cells.

The project is supported by National Science Foundation.


ESPART Analyzer


3. Development of Engineered Particles for Drug Delivery For Oral Dosage and Respiratory Drug Delivery


A.The goal of this project will be to develop a process to engineer both Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and the excipient powders to have the optimal physical properties needed to meet the requirements of (a) the involved drug delivery process (oral or respiratory) and (b) the manufacturing specifications.


B.Electrodynamic Blending: A new blending process using a layer-by-layer powder deposition process for mixing API and excipient powders will be achieved by utilizing electrostatic and van der Waals forces. The powder mixing will be done by electrostatically charging them with opposite polarities and depositing them on the surface of a rotating stainless steel drum using a powder coating process. Powder coating processes are now widely used worldwide in many industrial and automotive applications. The process can be readily modified with commercially available equipment for forming ordered mixtures with desired uniformity. Unlike the fluidized bed mixing process, the powder coating process is relatively immune to particle segregation and is likely to produce homogeneous blends with precision mass flow rate control of the two or more powders, with continuous feeding and harvesting of the mixture.


C.Respiratory Drug Delivery: There are two major mechanistic problems in respiratory drug delivery using dry powder inhalers: (1) inefficient dispersion of active pharmaceutical ingredients, and (2) weak impaction, gravitational, and diffusion mechanisms for fine particle deposition in distal airways. The drug delivery efficiency is often less than 15%, the remaining 85% being wasted, creating a systemic burden for the body. However, by controlling van der Waals, capillary and electrostatic inter-particle adhesion forces, the dispersion efficiency can be substantially enhanced. Similarly, the electrostatic image forces can be utilized for deposition in distal airways if the drug particles have a symmetrical bipolar charge distribution. These solutions require a fundamental approach in designing drug particles that exhibit size, surface structure, and surface energy and work function distributions optimizing: 1. Uniform ordered mixture of excipient and pharmaceutical ingredients for efficient breath-actuated dispersion, 2. Symmetrical bipolar charge distribution of aerosol particles that enhances image forces for pulmonary deposition with minimal tracheobronchial space charge losses. And 3. Methods for producing bioengineered particles with appropriate surface asperities and nanostructural compositions to achieve the desired aerosolization with electrostatic charges are considered. Development of a physical lung model and an idealized computational method for studying site-specific lung deposition with well characterized test aerosols are presented.  Experimental data on the deposition of particles for drug delivery will be studied for applications ranging from pediatric healthcare to human space explorations.




Respiratory Drug Delivery


4. Development of an Electrodynamic Screen for Dust Particle Removal from Solar Panels on Mars

Project Summary

The primary objective of this proposal is to develop Techniques for Low Cost Missions related to exploration of the Moon and Mars utilizing Solar Power Technologies. In particular, devices that prevent dust accumulation and deposition onto equipment under Martian environmental conditions are required for the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The atmosphere of Mars contains significant amounts of suspended dust and especially during Martian dust storms.  Because of the possibility of high electrostatic charge of the dust and its strong adhesive properties, deposition of dust on support equipment could damage or hinder correct operation of the equipment such as solar cells, spacecraft and lenses, reducing the lifetime of a mission. Therefore, systems that remove dust and keep surfaces clean under Martian conditions are highly sought.

We have recently performed tests on the development of an Electrodynamic Screen system for self-cleaning solar panels. This system uses alternating electric fields acting through a grid that dislodges, carries, and deposits dust particles off and away from surfaces. Since current solar cells contain transparent films that are electrically conducting, we will investigate the possibility of utilizing this technology for developing transparent Electrodynamic Screens. The design of such a system could be used for spacecraft applications although much work is needed if it is expected to be ready for the 2009 Mars Smart Lander.

We are working with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Kennedy Space Center on the development of Self Cleaning Solar panels. UALR has a patent on this development and there are opportunities for developing this technology for many othe applications in the industrial and biomedical fields.

Externally Funded Projects in the last five years

 Proposal Title

Funding Agency



An integrated approach for Hydrogen production and storage in complex hydrides of transitional elements and carbon-based nanostructured materials


Dept. of Energy


Lunar dust hazard mitigation



Development of Dust Particle analyzer



Development of an Electrodynamic screen for dust mitigation



Development of an analyzer for size and charge characterization of nanoparticles for research and education



High Temperature Ion Transport Membrane

Dept. of Energy


Electrostatic Effects in Respiratory Drug Delivery

Pfizer Inc.


Development of an Electro-photographic development analyzer

Ricoh, Japan


Development of an experimental method for coating defect determination in Cardiovascular Stents

Boston Scientific Inc