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Center for Particulate and Surfactant Systems (CPaSS)

University of Florida

Columbia University

Last Reviewed: 12/20/2019

Advancing, developing and promoting research in Greener Surfactant & Particle Technologies

Center Mission and Rationale


Center for Particulate and Surfactant Systems Spring 201 Industrial Advisory Board meeting; August 10 - 11, 2017; Columbia University, New York, NY.

For additional Center or meeting information,


The mission of CPaSS is to advance, develop and promote Greener Surfactant & Particle Technologies, where 'greener' is defined as including or resulting in less hazardous reagents, energy/water/materials savings and more value added with little to no compromise in performance.


To accomplish it mission, CPaSS targets the following goals:

  1. Advance fundamental understanding of surfactant-polymer-protein-substrate static and dynamic interactions for optimal performance;
  2. Create synergy among reagents;
  3. Explore high-risk, high impact research that could lead to technological innovations and new intellectual paradigms; and,
  4. Establishing a venue for industrial and academic interactions for conducting industrially relevant research.

Particulate and surfactant systems are vital to essentially every major industry including: Consumer Products, Pharmaceutical & Health, Agriculture & Food, Oil/Mining/Minerals, Specialty Chemicals and Analytical Instrumentation & Services.  Many industrial applications involve the use of dry or wet particulate systems and natural or synthetic surfactants whose effectiveness depends on the synergistic or competitive interactions with each other.  Although much progress has been made over the last few decades in understanding particulate-surfactant systems, their behavior in industrial systems, especially in the emerging fields of nano-bio technologies, remains unexplored due to the lack of tools and expertise to investigate such complex systems.

In many cases, technologies are poorly understood and process optimization depends upon expensive and time-consuming trial and error techniques.  A comprehensive understanding of the interplay between particles and surfactant systems will greatly improve the ‘ad hoc’ approach sometimes found in industry and will lead to processes and products such as better detergents,  faster acting drugs, efficient corrosion inhibition, enhanced anti-bacterial activity, extended release of actives and advanced separation technologies, all with minimal environmental impact.

Research program

Greener Surfactant & Particle Technologies

The synthesis, characterization and applications of reagents and particulate systems are vital to the industrial community the Center serves.  CPaSS faculty, staff and students provide expertise and conduct research projects in the following areas of interest identified by the Center stakeholders:

  • Cosmetics and Healthcare Products
  • Dispersion of Soft and Hard Solids
  • Advanced Particulate/Mineral Separations
  • Antimicrobial Coatings
  • Corrosion Inhibition
  • Waste Minimization, Reuse and Remediation
  • Toxicity of Nanostructures/Nanoparticles
  • Antiscaling Additives

A common research platform is the development of structure-property-performance correlations for the design of engineered particulate and surfactant systems for optimal operation in industrial applications.  In this regard, it is necessary to first establish the relationship of the particulate and surfactant nanostructures (including functional groups and mode of addition) to their performance.  A major research focus is to explore the microstructure and nanostructure of novel individual and mixed particulates and surfactants with potential industrial applications and to understand the basis of interactions that control their bulk and interfacial behavior.

Special Activities

We are striving to achieve more industrially driven and intellectually stimulating deliverables required for a viable CPaSS in today's economy. Our focus will be on research projects with potential impact on greener surfactant and particle technologies through pre-competitive research, translation to PhD-level research and knowledge transfer & technology outcomes. Part of this strategy will include focusing on the fundamental and applied aspects of personal care and bio-based reagents, green mining and/or minerals, antimicrobial coatings, corrosion inhibition, antiscaling additives and synergy with biosurfactants.

Facilities and Laboratory

CPaSS is jointly housed at the University of Florida and Columbia University. The research facilities and laboratories together provide a unique set of equipment and instrumentation necessary to synthesize, characterize and evaluate particulate and surfactant systems on the molecular, microscopic and macroscopic levels.

Techniques are available for physical, mechanical and chemical analysis of particle systems including size, shape, surface area and porosity, surface chemistry, rheology, tribology, interfacial phenomena, powder mechanics, powder flow and segregation. Processing facilities are provided in a 5000 square foot high-bay pilot plant and include crystallization, classification, size reduction, spray drying, coating, filtration and a wide variety of other techniques. Particle synthesis techniques include a 20 L stirred reactor, spray dryer, fluid bed dryer, wet and dry coating techniques, laser deposition and mechanofusion. Additional equipment and facilities include a microplate reader, Class 1000 tissue culture room, centrifuge, scintillation counter, gas chromatograph, CO2 incubator, inverted fluorescence microscopes, tissue culture hoods, centralized dishwasher, autoclave, Image Pro v4.5 Optical Analysis Software, Paar Physica UDS 200 Rheometer, Optical Microscopes, Coulter LS 13320 Particle Size Analyzer, Colloidal Dynamics Acoustosizer, Brookhaven ZetaPlus and a JEOL JSM6330F SEM. For a complete list of particulate systems equipment capabilities, please visit

The Center also has both the required technical expertise and facilities in the areas of surfactants and polymers, their synthesis, characterization and application. These laboratories are well-equipped with an atomic force microscope (AFM), quartz crystal microgravimetry (QCM), surface plasmon resonance spectroscope (SPR), Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrophotometer, fluorescence spectrophotometer, microcalorimeter, surface area analyzer, scanning electron microscope energy dispersive x ray fluorescence (SEM EDX), inductively coupled plasma (ICP) spectrophotometer, UV/visible spectrometer, instrumented flotation machines, particle size analyzer, Du Nuoy, Wilhelmy and spinning drop tensiometers. Additionally, the CU laboratories house high performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC/GPC), electron spin resonance spectrometer (ESR), Brookfield Viscometer, Brookhaven photon correlation spectroscopy (PSC), analytical balances, analytical ultra centrifuge, dynamic laser scattering equipment and zeta meters. The polymer science laboratories used by the Center include modern facilities for polymer synthesis, a Cesium-137 gamma irradiator, light scattering, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), FTIR and UV spectrophotometry. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), ESR and mass spectrometry are situated in the Department of Chemistry at CU. The laboratories are equipped with a wide range of optical microscopy instruments (transmission and reflection, polarized and interference) together with computer-assisted particle size analysis facilities.


University of Florida

PO Box 116135
1180 Center Drive

Gainesville, Florida, 32611-6135

United States

Columbia University

905 SW Mudd Building
Mail Code: 4177

New York, New York, 10027-4177

United States