Professor Conrad's research interests are in basic plasma physics and plasma physics applications to industrial processes, particularly the surface modification of materials by plasmas. In collaboration with an interdisciplinary research team, he applies fusion plasma physics technology to problems of industrial importance, specifically surface modification of materials by energetic-ion bombardment.
This research resulted in a patented process, Plasma Source Ion Implantation (PSII). PSII promises to greatly reduce the cost of ion beam modification for a variety of components, including industrial cutting tools and dies, injection molding feed screws, paper slitters, and orthopedic devices for total-joint replacement.
PSII has demonstrated efficient implantation of ions to the concentrations and depths required for surface modification; dramatic improvement in the life of manufacturing tools in actual industrial applications; acceptable dose uniformity on non-planar targets without target manipulation; and that such uniformity can be achieved in a batch processing mode. A comparative economic examination of surface modification by PSII relative to conventional ion implantation indicates substantial reductions in operating costs by virtue of the greater throughput possible with PSII.
Although the original intent of the PSII program was to develop cost-effective techniques for non-semiconductor applications of ion implantation, Conrad's group is developing PSII processes for semiconductor applications such as shallow doping of silicon for VLSI, and thin-film transistors for flat panel displays.