The Rust Belt is well on its way to becoming the Rust Control Belt, with millions of dollars in new contributions nurturing the University of Akron’s pioneering corrosion research program.
On Monday (May 9), the university broke ground for a 39,000-square-foot research building to complement its degree program in Corrosion and Reliability Engineering (CARE).
At the same time, the program announced an $11 million contribution from the Department of Defense to continue development of the National Center for Education and Research in Corrosion and Materials Performance.
The center and degree program were launched last fall with $10 million in private and public funding.
The university is the first in the nation to offer an undergraduate degree (through the College of Engineering) in the study of corrosion. The program’s research is aimed at developing new alloys, coatings and products to prevent and treat corrosion.
‘We’ve Got to Have Educated People’
The new $11 million infusion, from DOD’s Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, will underwrite research, equipment, curriculum development and salaries for three years, said Daniel J. Dunmire, director of the DOD office.
Images: University of Akron
|Dr. Joe Payer (left) directs corrosion research at the University of Akron, which received $11 million this week from the Defense Department’s Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, headed by Daniel J. Dunmire (right).|
“This will totally support the strategic plan we have in place,” Dunmire said in an interview Thursday (May 12). “We have found that absolutely one of our weaknesses in the material degradation area is that we don’t have enough educated people.
“We’ve got to have educated people … dedicated corrosion engineers … to face the infrastructure decaying right now.”
Officials from the DOD corrosion office, the university and the U.S. Air Force Academy will meet Monday in Akron to map out the specific deliverables for the money.
The focus will be on “those things that are really eating our lunch”—the costliest, most destructive types of material degradation identified by the corrosion office's baseline studies, said Dunmire.
The research focus will include polymers, ceramics, composites and alloys.
Coatings Technology Development
The new center will support faculty and student “research activities that will produce technologies and processes for reducing the $400 billion annual cost of corrosion to the U.S.,” said Dr. George Haritos, dean of the College of Engineering.
|The National Center for Education and Research in Corrosion and Materials Performance, at the University of Akron, is expected to open its first laboratories this winter.|
Sue Louscher, the college’s executive director of strategic partnerships and government programs, said the facility would develop products and technology that will support growth of Northeast Ohio industries engaged in corrosion prevention and mitigation products and services, and assist them with launching new products.
The DOD grant will underwrite at least one new coatings project, Louscher said. The University of Akron will partner with the University of Southern Mississippi and a local start-up company on that nanocoatings research. Both schools are part of the six-member University Corrosion Collaboration sponsored by DOD.
The Akron program will also review several coatings projects begun last year “to see if some of this funding can sustain those efforts,” Louscher said.
“We’re trying to leverage these funds in many different directions,” she said.
Beyond the dollars to spend, DOD’s support adds prestige to the university’s corrosion initiatives, Louscher said.
“By investing in a national center where significant research is undertaken, that allows us to recruit the best and brightest students and faculty to develop [technologies, processes and products] that they can then take out into industry.”
Program Support Grows
The fledgling corrosion program has already drawn significant support from the coatings industry, related suppliers, NACE and SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings, who are all heavily invested in fighting the nation’s corrosion crisis.
• In March, the program announced a partnership with MesoCoat Inc. to develop an emissions-reducing metal coating and cladding technology for infrastructure. That initiative is being underwritten by a $2 million grant from a technology nonprofit.
• BP Exploration has donated $500,000 through its Inherently Reliable Facilities Flagship Technology Program to develop curriculum and advance workforce development, particularly as it relates to the gas and oil industry. The gift also includes scholarship funds.
“Corrosion control, mitigation and monitoring are significant concerns in our industry,” said IRF program director Simon Webster. “We recognized that the future success of the IRF program depends on having reliable long-term access to highly specialized materials and corrosion expertise.”
• Protective coatings manufacturer Carboline, through its partnership with NACE Foundation, is underwriting a $15,000 annual student scholarship for the program. A separate significant contribution by Carboline is endowing a faculty chair that will be filled in August by Dr. Scott Lillard, of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
• Mears Group, Inc., through its partnership with the NACE Foundation, is also providing a $15,000 annual scholarship.
NACE and UA have also partnered on developing a customized on-line Operator Qualification (OQ) course for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.