Two professors in Georgia Tech's School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering won the Association for Iron & Steel Technology’s (AIST) 2018 T.C. Graham Prize, an international award meant to encourage development of new and innovative uses for steel.
Associate Professor Julie Champion and Professor Dennis Hess, who holds the Thomas C. DeLoach Jr. Chair of the School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, received the $20,000 prize for creating nanotexture on stainless steel through electrochemical etching, which decreases the attachment of bacteria and kills bacteria while simultaneously improving corrosion resistance. Adding this nanotexture to stainless steel food and beverage equipment, biomedical devices and a variety of other surfaces to prevent bacteria infection could have a wide application.
Champion received the T.C. Graham Prize award during AIST’s 2018 Leadership Conference in New Orleans on November 5. Champion said winning the prize provides two major benefits: “The prize money will allow us to further our research by acquiring new data and showing alternative applications useful in stainless steel products. Possibly more important is the visibility winning the prize brings. This will really expose us to steel companies that might be interested in partnering to implement our technology into their products. As an academic professor, we have a limited ability to get something to the commercial arena and have it available for people to use.”
When informed of their success, Champion was initially taken aback. “I don’t necessarily think of manipulating very tiny structures as something that would be recognized by a big institution like this, where the focus, in my mind, is on large objects. The other finalists seemed to make large things, so it was a little surprising that something so tiny would be recognized as having the potential to make an impact.”
Champion and Hess’ proposal represented one of a diverse group of individual and team applicants from around the world. From that group, three finalists were ultimately selected, and Champion presented the proposals during a live video conference to the Contest Jury on August 28, 2018. During the conference, each finalist had 10 minutes to present their submission to the jury of global steel industry executives, followed by a brief question-and-answer session.
The Contest Jury consisted of John Ferriola, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Nucor Corp.; Mark Millett, president and chief executive officer, Steel Dynamics Inc.; Roger Newport, chief executive officer, AK Steel; and Barbara Smith, president and chief executive officer, Commercial Metals Company.