CULLEN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

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ECE Professor Wins Grant for Thin Film Cracking Research

By: 

Ashley Schwartz
Stanko Brankovic

Although almost invisible to the naked eye, thin film coatings are used in millions of products that many people use in their daily lives. Found in everything from smartphone touchscreen displays to implantable medical devices, surface coatings add value to products by making them last longer and perform better.

Thin film coatings play a vital role in the manufacturing, aerospace, electronics, automotive, security, healthcare, energy, agriculture and consumer products industries. Until now, research into the fundamental science guiding how these coatings work- and more importantly, how and why the coatings fail– had not been performed.

Stanko Brankovic, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF) to uncover the fundamentals of electrodeposited thin film cracking or fracture.

“There is no fundamental understanding as to what controls this process and how you can mitigate why these cracks occur in electrodeposited thin film coatings,” said Brankovic.

By the end of the four-year grant, Brankovic will be the first researcher to provide a comprehensive framework that explains fracturing of electrodeposited thin film coatings across all applications of technology. His work will also explore methods for preventing cracks in surface coating.

“This is very important in every aspect of civil life because once we learn fundamentally what happens when these cracks occur, with simple modifications we can widen the variety of applications,” said Brankovic.

An example of an application of the thin film coating is an airplane wing. The coating plays an essential role in the lifespan of the aircraft by allowing the thin film to be more durable, lightweight and resistant to the elements.

Brankovic was approached to receive this award based on his past research in electrochemical material science and nanofabrication, and corrosion. This award has the potential for renewal to continue the research in the future.

NASF represents the interests of businesses, technologists and professionals in the surface coatings industry. Its mission is to advance an environmentally and economically sustainable future for the finishing industry and promote the vital role of surface technology in the global manufacturing value chain.

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