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Science Exchange Stories: Gordon Hardy from Hunt Imaging

Gordon Hardy in the lab at Hunt Imaging.
Gordon Hardy in the lab at Hunt Imaging.

For this week’s story I spoke with Gordon Hardy who works on something most of us don’t think about very often – developing new inks and toners. More specifically, he is creating a new ink to print the small numbers on the bottom of checks. The problem is complex and interesting, check out his story below.

Q: What’s your role at Hunt Imaging?

Gordon: Mostly formulation and material analysis, but even customer support. It’s a small company, so you really have to do everything

Q: What did you use Science Exchange for? 

Gordon: It’s an inkjet project. We have expertise in magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) ink here. It’s those funny looking characters that are printed on the bottom of checks. Those are read magnetically, so the ink itself has magnetic particles embedded in it. MICR toners are well established and with the current growth in high speed production inkjet printers there is a need for MICR inkjet, but it’s not an easy thing to create because you are trying to make iron float in water.

You can do it if you make the iron small enough, but if you make it too small it loses its magnetic strength. The problem is, you make it smaller and smaller and it gets less and less magnetic. So you have to make a different type of magnet, that’s not just iron, but something that’s a little stronger. You need to make them on the order of twenty nanometers; that’s what we’re working on now.

The particle size and even the particle shape is important. For our project on Science Exchange, the Nano Research Facility conducted TEM to look at the size and shape of the iron and other oxide particles we’ve generated.

Q: How’d you hear about Science Exchange? 

Gordon: Through Google, it seemed like a good idea to connect those with a need to those with a method.

My overall experience was very, very positive. It worked out very well.

Q: What’s the next step with this research? 

Gordon: We are still making sure we have all the variables controlled for these particles. We’ve already found a way to disperse them in the ink. I would expect in a few months we will have something that can be tested in the field, and in a year we’ll have a product.

You have to work quickly.

Q: Do you have any advice for other R&D scientists?

Gordon: I think people in the R&D field always think that you have to do everything yourself. There are times you just can’t, but even during the times that I can do it myself, sometimes it’s a little faster to farm things out and get help from somebody else. Scientists tend to have trouble with that, they want to do everything themselves, but it’s not always the best way.


Tess Mayall


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