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Discovery Through Research

Research doesn’t always meet expectations. On rare occasions it can, however, exceed them. The members of Dr. Ramki Kalyanaraman’s Joint Directed Research Development (JDRD) team are experiencing that very phenomenon as they move forward with their research. Currently in its second year, Kalyanaraman’s project has yielded not only his expected outcome, but an unforeseen discovery.

Kalyanaraman’s team began their JDRD project by attempting to improve the materials used for optical sensor applications. Optical sensors are finding their way into a variety of modern technologies, including motion sensing, medical and even chemical detecting technology.

Edited Kalyanaraman 1When Kalyanaraman began his research, the most effective element for these sensors was silver, which unfortunately degrades rapidly once exposed to air, sometimes within a matter of hours. Over the course of the first year his JDRD team found a way to mitigate this degradation and, simultaneously, discovered a new material. Since then, Kalyanaraman’s team has published two papers and is moving forward with their discovery.

“We filed an invention disclosure last year and now Oak Ridge National Lab is getting ready to file a full patent. It will be a joint Oak Ridge-UT patent,” said Kalyanaraman. “We are quite excited that it could lead to some real licensing rights down the line, in the near future actually.”

In the meantime, Kalyanaraman’s team has accomplished exactly what his project proposed. By combining silver with cobalt, they have improved the rate of degradation by more than 250%. As a result of that work, Kalyanaraman published a paper in January of 2016 in the journal Scientific Reports, and plans to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the fall.

Edited Kalyanaraman 12His research has also led to further supportfor a graduate student via NSF, who is being supervised by Kalyanaraman’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) partner, Dr. Raphael Pooser. Additionally, new collaborations have been formed with ORNL scientist Dr. Benjamin Lawrie, who was recently named a joint faculty member in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering.