Nethmini Ariyarathna – Vacuum Cycle Cavitation Cleaning

How will the world meet the manufacturing, critical cleaning and surface quality requirements of the future? One way is through the efforts of young people who look at the practical aspects of science. One such person is Nethmini Ariyarathna of the Cleaning Research Group at Sam Houston State University. Nethmini and I recently visited (using the current socially-acceptable techniques of phone, text, and email) to discuss her projects and goals.

Nethmini enjoys the practical aspects of research more than the theoretical aspects. She has a B. Sc. in Environmental Science and is working toward her M. Sc. in Chemistry. After her Masters degree, she would like to work for a company for a few years to obtain practical experience. “Then, I will think about pursuing a PhD in physical or analytical chemistry. I love those two areas.” Her planned pathway would be a fusion of Environmental Science, chemistry, practical experience in industry, and perhaps a PhD.

This “cross-cultural melding promises to fill a much-needed niche to develop cleaning processes that are effective and that may be more environmentally sustainable. Nethmini may be influenced by the career path of her advisor, Dr. Darren Williams. Dr Darren is a practical academic who melds experience in manufacturing and academia.

For the past six months Nethmini has been working on the Vacuum Cycle Cavitation Cleaning process, a technique with the potential to grow to be an essential tool for critical product cleaning during manufacturing. “We have a small vacuum chamber in our lab. I am working on how to remove particles/materials from blind holes and capillary tubes.” Nethmini and fellow student Tanner Volek built the prototype vacuum cycle cavitation system that will be featured in our Product Quality Cleaning Workshop (PQCW). While PQCW is on pause because of the COVID-19 crisis, here is an on-line demonstration of the vacuum-induced cavitation inside a glass capillary tube.

Vacuum cycle cavitation cleaning  is also known as cyclic nucleation process or CNP. LPW Reinigungssysteme GmbH is the official patent owner regarding CNP and the process technology of cyclic vacuum in the USA, Europe, and China. CNP takes advantage of the natural vapor pressure of fluids, including water (or other liquids). All liquids will spontaneously boil (cavitate) when the pressure inside the container is reduced to the liquid’s vapor pressure by the vacuum pump. Nucleation refers to formation of the cavities in the liquid – radioactivity is NOT involved!

Vacuum cycle cavitation is a different technique from ultrasonic cavitation, and the two techniques can be complimentary. The vacuum method is being commercialized for difficult, high-value critical and precision cleaning applications – especially where other techniques have failed.

We will provide more details about VCCC. Stay tuned for more about cleaning, surface quality, and the future of manufacturing.

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