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Physical Sciences Division
Staff Awards & Honors

March 2012

Andrey Sushko Earns Second Place Honors at Intel's Science Talent Search

Andrey Suskho
Andrey Sushko received second place in the Intel Science Talent Search. Born in Russia and raised in London and Richland, Sushko is an intern at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and a student at Hanford High School.

Congratulations to Andrey Suskho, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory high school intern, on receiving second place honors in the Intel® Science Talent Search®. Katrina Hui, another PNNL high school intern, was a semi-finalist for Washington State. This competition offers high school seniors the chance to present original research in mathematics, science, and engineering.

Sushko's entry into the national competition was a tiny motor, measuring just a quarter of an inch in diameter, that uses the surface tension of water instead of electromagnetism as its driving force. Working at home in Richland, Wash., Sushko began creating this motor by studying different materials and how they interacted with water. He selected paraffin wax, obtained from melted candles, and coated the motor's stator electrodes with this hydrophobic material. The wax coating facilitated curving the water's surface when an electric potential was applied, translating the water's curvature into shaft rotation.

Sushko has been building smaller and smaller model boats for years and became intrigued with the idea of creating an unconventional motor once he figured out it was possible. Conventional motors become weaker as they are scaled down, making motors smaller than a millimeter fairly impractical. Biological "motors" such as bacterial flagella are efficient at the nanometer scale, but little existed that worked at the micrometer scale. Sushko's motor might fill that gap, because the power output per volume increases as the motor gets smaller. However, the design can't cross the nanometer mark because it requires many water molecules to generate a surface.

This tiny motor could open the doors for a host of micro-robotic devices for medical and other applications.

"Andrey has always impressed me," said Dr. Jim Amonette, his mentor at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory where Andrey works on carbon sequestration. "From the beginning, it was clear to me that he was working at a graduate student level. He's ready to do science, and I'm giving him the opportunity to do as much as he can."

Andrey Sushko is working at the Laboratory through the PNNL Science and Engineering Education's work-based learning programs, which encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers through research experiences.


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