Paper, granite, water and crystals may seem unrelated to one another, however, they do share one commonality: they were among numerous topics discussed by 1,500 scientists who attended the 13th International Conference on Surface and Colloid Science and the 83rd Colloid and Surface Science Symposium held at Columbia from June 14-19.
Colloid science involves the study of chemical mixtures in liquids, gases or solids, how they are formed and how they function in diverse systems including the environment and the human body. It is therefore integral to a number of scientific disciplines, including biology, physics and engineering. Examples of commonly known colloids include blood, smoke, and jelly. Colloid science’s close counterpart, surface science, is the analysis of phenomena that occur at the interface of two phases, including solid-liquid and solid-gas, among others. Together, these areas of study have broad applications in a range of industries, including water treatment, oil recovery, mineral processing, papermaking, medicine, and energy, to name a few.
“The conference, which is held every three years, brings together experts interested in topics that fall under the umbrella of surface and colloid science, which, put simply, looks at particles, cells, bubbles and droplets, and the application of this knowledge to a host of industries,” said Ponisseril Somasundaran
, an engineering professor who served as the general chairman of the international conference. “Surface and colloid science plays a critical role in processes and products that are familiar or are encountered in everyday life or are familiar, from Alzheimer’s disease to road construction.”
Nearly 1500 scientists representing 40 countries took part in the meeting, hosted by the Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
. “Participants discussed a variety of areas, including emerging technologies, including biotechnologies, pharmaceuticals and green energy—all of which have the potential to make a positive impact on society as well as the economy,” said Somasundaran, the LaVon Duddleson Krumb Professor of Mineral Engineering in the department of earth and environmental engineering, whose research interests include waste treatment and nanotechnology, among others.
Earlier this year, Somasundaran was also instrumental in bringing former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam, a trained engineer, to campus to receive the Hoover Medal on April 28, 2009. The award is given by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for “great, unselfish, non-technical services to humanity.” Somasundaran, vice chair of the Hoover Medal Board, called Kalam “a tireless champion of young people” as well as a “gifted engineer, a true visionary and humble humanitarian."