Ateneo Physics faculty Dr. Christian Mahinay to receive Php 9 M from DOST-PCIEERD for 2 projects on thin film deposition

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Dr. Christian Mahinay, Head of Vacuum Coating and Plasma Physics Laboratory of the Department of Physics, School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University

by Quirino Sugon Jr

Dr. Christian Mahinay, Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics and Head of the Vacuum Coating and Plasma Physics Laboratory, shall receive a total of Php 9 million from the DOST-PCIEERD (Department of Science and Technology—Philippine Council for Advanced Science for two projects on thin film deposition. The duration of the projects is from 2017 to 2020:

  1. Development of direct current (DC) magnetron plasma system for carbide-based Ti-Al-C (Titanium-Aluminum-Carbon) thin film synthesis (1 June 2017 to 31 May 2019, Php 2,500,245.60). Description: New advances in surface engineering has had an emphasis in finding new materials for the thin films which have improved properties and low cost. One new kind of material used as a hard coating thin film is the MAX phase. MAX Phase thin films are a new type of material which has unique properties due to its ceramic and metallic attributes. A clean and chemical-free way of depositing these coatings is by using gaseous discharges. For this project, MAX phase thin films are coated using a DC magnetron and an RF plasma sputtering system. The vacuum coating laboratory in the Department of Physics, School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University houses a DC magnetron device which will be utilized to synthesize carbide based MAX phase thin films. The Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering (DMMME), UP Diliman, will also be synthesizing MAX phase thin films but in an RF discharge system and the thin films are nitride-based. The Japan-based collaborator for this project is with the Plasma Physics Laboratory in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Doshisha University in Kyotanabe, Kyoto, Japan. The industrial collaborator for this project is Beta Nanocoating Philippines Inc. which specializes in thin film hard coatings for various mechanical tools.
  2. Fabrication of Metal Oxide Thin Films for Optical Coatings with Plasma Assisted Deposition Using a Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) System (2017-2020, Php 6,568,992.40). Description: This project aims to strengthen the research capabilities of the Vacuum Coating and Plasma Physics Laboratory in the Department of Physics, School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University. Although there are plasma systems in the laboratory, these systems are using very old power supplies and are mainly used for educational and training purposes. The laboratory would like to upgrade its research capabilities by adding a brand new system which can provide new technologies and enable publications to esteemed scientific journals. In this project a PECVD system will be designed and manufactured and the direct application for the system is the fabrication of metal oxide thin films, specifically WOx, TaO2 and MoOx, on glass substrates for optical thin film applications such as UV filters.
Below is an interview with Dr. Christian Mahinay by Ateneo Physics News:

1. How did you feel about receiving your tenure as faculty?

I was relieved when I was informed that I have been given a permanent faculty position. I was really not so sure if I will become tenured or not since I have heard stories of very accomplished faculty who were still not awarded tenure due to various reasons. I was not sure if my own accomplishments were good enough for that but thankfully they recognized it and gave me tenure.

2. You had two projects approved last year by DOST. How were you able to do it? Were they submitted at months interval or at different years?

Even though these two projects are now being implemented simultaneously, they were actually proposed at different times. Surprisingly, the MAX phase project was submitted at a much later date, around several months, compared to the other project but was the first to get approved.

The MAX phase project was originally submitted for the DOST-JSPS program which searches for scientific research work here in the Philippines that can collaborate with Japanese counterparts. We already have a good working relationship with Doshisha University and we wanted to create a formal research collaboration with them through DOST-JSPS. Unfortunately, DOST only selected one project among all of the submitted proposals and it was not ours. However, DOST recognized that our proposal was still worth investing in so they approved it as a regular DOST-GIA (Grants-in-aid) project instead of the DOST-JSPS program. This was a collaborative project between UP-Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University and Doshisha University so DOST may have been confident that this project can be successfully implemented.

The other project was something that I was not expecting to get approved but it still pushed through. During the start of my second year in teaching, just right after I got my PhD degree in Physics, the Plasma Physics Laboratory in NIP, UP Diliman was unceremoniously shut down. The coordinator of that laboratory, Dr. Henry Ramos, who was also my adviser, retired already but he was eyeing to go back since he applied for a professor emeritus position. Unfortunately, the lab was still shut down and all the equipment was left inside not being used since no one was qualified to take over the lab in Dr. Ramos’ resignation.

Some of Dr. Ramos’ students, including myself, continued his legacy in doing plasma physics research when we settled in different institutions outside UP Diliman. We approached DOST if they can help us recover the equipment inside the lab from NIP and transfer them to our individual institutions. Each researcher was expected to receive one system from the lab. DOST proposed that we should write down research proposals which will make use of those equipment so that there is a rationale in pulling out the equipment from NIP and sustainably utilize those systems in our respective labs. However, during the discussion with NIP and DOST, it was found out that DOST has no control over the equipment inside NIP, hence even if our proposals will get approved, we still cannot recover the equipment.

Thus, DOST advised us that we will have to redo the proposals we wrote to include building our own systems since we can not use the ones from NIP anymore. I was already wary with the whole process but I still submitted a revised proposal and we went through the process of a technical panel presentation. Months went by without any word from DOST and I had already forgotten about that proposal. Just lately, this past July 2017, I had received word that my proposal has passed the initial stage and will now be defended in front of the DOST Governing Council (GC). I had also heard, that among all the proposals of my peers, it was only mine that was invited for the GC presentation. This was not yet a sure sign of being accepted and I was still not optimistic that it will pass through. The GC meeting went well and their major concern was the commercialization of the product made through the research. I told them that it was viable since it has already been done by the industry but not here in the Philippines.

After the GC meeting, a month passed and I was really surprised to receive an email from DOST that they have approved the project and I will just have to wait for the MOA and transfer of funds. The project officially started last October 1, 2017 but I am still waiting for the transfer of funds so we still have not done anything yet.

3. Were the equipment for the PECVD already delivered? Have you already started on this project?

It already officially started last October 1 but since we still have no funds, we have not yet purchased any equipment or materials yet.

4. How is the MAX Phase thin film deposition project going on now?

That project is doing fine and still on track with our timeline. We have already started depositing copper and aluminum on glass and silicon substrates and we are still waiting for the titanium targets so that we can deposit that one as well. The project is still in its second quarter so we are still not fabricating thin films on tools, which is the ultimate goal of the project.

5. How many students do you have in your lab right now. What projects are they working on?

I have eight undergraduate students and two graduate students. I have three additional students who are not my advisees but are part of the project staff.

Paz Ramos, my PhD student, is working on the MAX phase project. Charmiene Zafra, my MS student, is working on the atmospheric plasma jet system with her research regarding plasma treatment of polycarbonate materials. There are four more undergraduate students working on the same machine and they have different research projects such as plasma polymerization, plasma pyrolysis, and plasma treatment of corn and rice seeds. Two undergraduate students are working on the Low energy ion beam setup where they are characterizing and analyzing the properties of the plasma and ion beam generated by that plasma. Lastly, one student is doing computational theoretical ion beam physics as his research project.

6. Are you going to Japan soon or one of your students for the project? Is Prof. Wada going back again in the Philippines?

Yes, actually just recently, seven of my students got their abstracts accepted for the ISPlasma 2018 conference which will be held in Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan this coming March 4-8, 2018. One of them, Krystel Iris de Castro, even landed an oral presentation for her work. They will all be going to Japan and I will of course accompany them on their trip. We will definitely visit Doshisha University again and might even stay there for a few days.

Wada-san recently visited the Philippines to attend the 2nd International Symposium of the Vacuum Society of the Philippines (ISVSP 2018) last Jan 9-12, 2018; I was co-chair of the event. Wada-san and I had some talks regarding a MOA between the Dept. of Physics and Wada-san’s laboratory in Doshisa University.

7. Any parting thoughts?

For new assistant professors like myself, do not be afraid in applying for research projects, especially from the DOST. Even though it might seem slow and hopeless at times, in the end, if you are patient, you will get what you waited for.

Also, it helps when you have a clear agenda and a strong conviction of your work when you present it in front of your possible funding sources.

Thank you.

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Dr. Christian Mahinay (2nd from the right) and the students of the Vacuum Coating and Plasma Physics Group of the Department of Physics, School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University. From left to right: Franulfo dela Cruz (PhD Physics), Paz Victoria Ramos (PhD Physics), Paolo Edward Tan (BS APS-MSE), Oliver Streeter (BS APS-MSE) (sitting in the photo), Raphael Carreon (BS APS-MSE), Christian Lorenz Mahinay, and Miguel Hilario (BS APS-MSE).

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About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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