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Investigating everyday water from the different perspectives of “materials, life and the environment”

The Water Frontier Research Center(WaTUS) is a cross-disciplinary hub for the academic study of water in the context of material surfaces and interfaces. It is made up of three groups focused on “water and material,” “water and life” and “water and the environment,” respectively, and is comprised of experts in various fields, including physics, chemistry, materials science and mechanical engineering, who adopt a multi-perspective approach, primarily for the study of water as it interacts with material surfaces and interfaces.

The action of water is difficult to predict and control due to the complex changes it undergoes in response to the shape and chemical composition of material surfaces. Thus, it is necessary to construct a scientific theory enabling a systematic understanding of the interaction between water and material.

For example, Professor Motosuke is an expert in micro and nano-thermal hydraulic engineering. In the context of the current trend towards mechanical miniaturization in numerous fields, particularly in the area of medical diagnostic equipment, Professor Motosuke is working to understand the action of fluids at the nanoscopic level, well beyond what we can see with the naked eye, and apply this knowledge in various ways, such as reducing environmental load or facilitating ultra-early stage diagnostic technology.

Associate Professor Sakai is researching surfactants, like those we use to wash dishes or our bodies. In his laboratory, Associate Professor Sakai is researching healthy and hygienic environment-promoting applications, including Gemini-type surfactants that provide outstanding results with just a small amount of product and ethanol disinfectants that can be discharged as a foam.

Contributing to society through joint research and industry-academia collaboration

The Water Frontier Research Center works to address a variety of societal needs through joint research carried out in conjunction with governmental bodies, universities, research institutions and private manufacturers. There is a limit to the scope of research that a single laboratory can carry out, but collaborating with other research institutions enables new research perspectives to be explored.

For example, the normal behavior of water on the surfaces and interfacial areas of materials is relevant to fundamental challenges in energy and medicine.

To address energy-related challenges, researchers at the Water Frontier Research Center are undertaking industry-academia collaborative research into lubricating oil additives that reduce energy loss from friction. The interaction of water, as a minuscule component in these lubricating oils, with material surfaces has an impact on additive effectiveness; thus, it is extremely important to understand the behavior of water.

Also, in the field of medical materials, research is being carried out in conjunction with other universities and medical manufacturers to prevent friction-related degradation of artificial articular cartilage by developing a better understanding of material surface shape and chemical composition. Thanks to this research, successful advancements in artificial articular cartilage have been developed which resist degradation so that repeat surgery is not necessary.

This sort of collaboration with other research institutions and manufacturers enables higher-level expert research resulting in technologies that can directly benefit society. The research and development being undertaken at the Water Frontier Research Center is wide-ranging and transcends traditional barriers, fostering an accumulated mass of knowledge that will help us achieve a more environmentally friendly, high-efficiency, low energy-consuming society.

Water Frontier Research Center

■ Main research content

Research is focused on water behavior on the surfaces and interfacial areas of materials. The aim is to shed light on the origins of the properties and functions manifested at the nanometer structural scale by water on the surfaces and sliding interfaces of materials.

Faculty of Engineering Department of Mechanical Engineering
Professor Masahiro MOTOSUKE

■ Main research content

Fields of research encompass micro and nano-thermal hydraulic engineering. Research is focused on development of surface flow and microparticle control and measurement technology for high-efficiency reactions.

Faculty of Science and Technology Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry
Associate Professor Kenichi SAKAI

■ Main research content

Fields of research encompass colloidal and interface chemistry. Among other things, research is focused on surfactant development and functional evaluation, evaluation of “α-gel” cream formulation, and characterization of adsorption occurring at solid/liquid interface.

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