North Central College student working on project

College of Arts & Sciences

Research underway using advanced new technology: X-ray powder diffractometer

Eyeing the future

Oct 27, 2016

Sophisticated new equipment tucked into a back room of Kroehler Science Center hints at the new era of discovery that’s coming with the completion of the new Science Center in 2017.

A new X-ray powder diffractometer emits a white glow that illuminates the tiny room and the student-researchers who are learning its capabilities for better understanding chemical and material composition.

Its availability for student and faculty research can be attributed to a generous donation by a North Central College neighbor of 37 years and local scientist, Dr. Jim Kaduk, and his wife Catherine. His pledge and a gift-in-kind from the manufacturer, PANalytical, covered most of the cost of this sophisticated technology.

Kaduk holds degrees from Northwestern University and Notre Dame, but experienced the small college atmosphere at North Central as an adjunct professor of chemistry years ago. “What strikes me is how friendly and supportive a place like this is,” Kaduk says. “It planted the idea of getting more involved here in the future.”

Kaduk is a renowned crystallographer who spent his career with Amoco and its corporate descendants (Amoco/BP/Innovene/Ineos). Today, he consults through his own firm, Poly Crystallography, Inc., to analyze materials on an atomic scale. “I’ve always been fascinated by what atoms are in a material and how they’re arranged,” he explains. “Crystallography is basic science infrastructure.”

X-ray powder diffraction is a versatile analytical technique, providing not only qualitative and quantitative phase analysis, but also details of atomic, molecular and crystalline structure.

The X-ray diffractometer was delivered in June. Over the summer, Kaduk has been on site to help students Andrew Cigler ’17, Dean Edson ’19, Allie Pales ’18 and others learn the technology. While Kaduk uses the technology to study solid crystalline structure, assistant professor of physics Nick Mauro is using it to study the structure of liquids for next-generation battery technology for electric vehicles.

“This allows us to do some of the same type of research performed at national laboratories like Argonne National Laboratory,” says Mauro. “Jim provides a wealth of expertise and we’re excited that our students get the opportunity to learn from him.”

Kaduk’s generosity represents an invaluable asset to North Central’s science faculty and student research program. “I’ve wanted to create an academic connection here and it also allows me to share what I’ve learned over my career,” he adds.