Fountain Sleuths

By Marcia Faye
Fountain Pen
Pen Diagram

“I love writing with fountain pens because they are a unique combination of beauty, tradition, and dexterity. In addition, they are ‘green,’ unlike ballpoints, where the refill must be discarded. A bottle of ink lasts for years!”— Professor Sohail Murad, Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Why does my fountain pen leak?
Since the first mass-produced fountain pens appeared in the 1880s, the instruments have suffered from leakage issues. A paper co-authored by Illinois Tech professors Alex Nikolov, Sohail Murad, and Darsh Wasan, and Pingkeng Wu (Ph.D. CHE ’19 in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science (October 15, 2020) looked inside the cartridge apparatus for a solution to the problem.

A poorly designed ink and air flow mechanism from the ink reservoir in the pen to its nib contributes to an ink/air capillary flow imbalance, thereby causing an erratic flow of ink to the pen nib.

Graphics: Scott Benbrook