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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer To Host International "Diffusion Fundamentals IV" Conference

August 16, 2011

Rensselaer To Host International "Diffusion Fundamentals IV" Conference

Multidisciplinary Conference To Be Attended by Researchers From Around the World

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute next week will host the Diffusion Fundamentals IV conference. Academics from around the world will visit the Rensselaer Troy campus to participate in the four-day event.

Diffusion Fundamentals IV marks the first time the conference will be held outside of Europe. Attendees will travel to Rensselaer from as far as Germany, China, and Australia. The conference begins Sunday, Aug. 21 and will conclude Wednesday, Aug. 24, and takes place primarily in the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

The multidisciplinary conference is dedicated to exploring the concept of diffusion, or the random jittering movement of molecules. While many of the lectures and presentations will be related to chemical engineering, Diffusion Fundamentals IV will also feature talks and presentation about the physics of diffusion, as well as applications of diffusion in biology, medicine, geosciences, nanomaterials, and other areas.

“It is no exaggeration to say that diffusion is one of the most important fundamental physical phenomena, with boundless applications, not only in chemical engineering and other broad scientific areas, but also in sociology, business, and finance,” said conference chair Marc-Olivier Coppens, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer. “I expect this conference will help foster collaborations and multidisciplinary research among the students, academics, and researchers who attend.”

The conference website is at:

Princeton University Professor James Wei will deliver the opening lecture, “Diffusion in tight mazes.” Among the dozens of other presenters, four Rensselaer professors will speak about their ongoing research.

Rensselaer Chemical Engineering Professor Joel Plawsky will deliver the lecture, “Drift, Diffusion, and Dielectric Breakdown.” The talk is based on his research into understanding the drift and diffusion of oxygen on surfaces such as silicon dioxide — a major challenge impeding the design and realization of smaller computer chips. Institute Professor Georges Belfort, also from the Rensselaer Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, will give the presentation “Diffusion in synthetic and natural membranes: Critical for success.”

From the Rensselaer Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Assistant Professor Yunfeng Shi will present. Shi will talk about his molecular dynamics simulation research, which investigates how gas diffuses in nanoporous materials and seeks to determine strategies for controlling this diffusion. Additionally, Bruce Watson, professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rensselaer, will give the lecture, “Diffusion in solid-Earth systems.” Watson will talk about diffusion in geosciences, and how understanding the movement of solids and liquids through the Earth is vital to modern solid-Earth geochemistry.

Also presenting will be Bernhard Blümich, who received his master’s degree in physics from Rensselaer in 1976. He is currently a professor of macromolecular chemistry at RWTH Aachen University in Germany.

The first Diffusion Fundamentals conference took place in 2005, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of German physiologist Adolf Fick’s seminal study, “Über Diffusion” (1855), and with the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s milestone journal article, “On the movement of small particles suspended in a stationary liquid demanded by the molecular-kinetic theory of heat” (1905).

The first three conferences took place, respectively, in Leipzig, Germany; L’Aquila, Italy; and Athens, Greece.

Diffusion Fundamentals IV is supported by the National Science Foundation; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; the Vollmer Fries Lecture Series, sponsored by the Rensselaer Office of the Provost; the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie; along with industrial sponsors Air Products; ExxonMobil; Praxair; Schlumberger; Quantachrome Instruments; and Süd-Chemie.

For more information on Coppens’ research at Rensselaer, visit:

For more information on the chemical and biological engineering research at Rensselaer, visit:

Contact: Michael Mullaney
Phone: (518) 276-6161