Coatings Go Under the Microscope


A joint venture between industry and academia will work to find solutions for challenges such as corrosion, oxidation and abrasion.

And those are just a few of the concerns that will go under the microscope at a new Pennsylvania State University research center.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC), hosted on Penn State’s University Park campus, pairs Penn State with Rice University in the study and development of atomically thin coatings.

The ATOMIC Center

Penn State announced Aug. 7 that the Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings (ATOMIC) will bring together the world-class research faculty at both Penn State and Rice with leading industrial partners and national laboratories.

In this self-described one-of-a-kind university/industry center, the team will design and develop advanced two-dimensional coatings engineered to solve fundamental scientific and technological challenges, such as corrosion, oxidation and abrasion, friction and wear, energy storage and harvesting, and the large-scale synthesis and deposition of novel multifunctional coatings.

In a statement, the university described the potential to exploit the distinctive properties of two-dimensional nanoscale coating materials in glass and polymer manufacturing, automotive and electronics sectors, civil infrastructure, and marine antifouling and anticorrosion coatings.

"In the future, we expect to create spin-out companies from our center," said Dr. Mauricio Terrones, Penn State ATOMIC team leader and professor of physics, chemistry, and materials science & engineering.

"Coatings are everywhere. If we can solve the problem of corrosion, that will save society billions of dollars,” Terrones added. “If we can create multifunctional coatings that produce energy, that will be huge."

His co-leader at the Penn State ATOMIC center, Joshua Robinson, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and Corning Faculty Fellow, said, "The focus of an I/UCRC is industry-driven research, which is part of our new mission at Penn State."

"Ten companies have committed to support us,” he added, “and we are excited about establishing new partnerships with other companies interested in coatings."

Because this is such a new area of research there could be significant intellectual property that members will benefit from, he said.

The Pennsylvania State University

In a statement, Penn State Vice President of Research Neil Sharkey said he sees the center as having "real potential to impact the economy of the commonwealth and the nation."

The Rice University team is to be headed by Jun Lou, professor of materials science and nanoengineering, and Pulickel M. Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in engineering. Ajayan is also a professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry.

The Industry/University Cooperative Research Program

According to the National Science Foundation, I/UCRC Program provides the chance for colleges and universities with research capabilities to partner with other key institutions and conduct “industrially relevant” research, receive seed funding and recognition as an NSF research center with access to professional resources and guidance aimed toward enhancing global competitiveness.

For industry, government and other organizations with research needs, program provides the means to leverage research and development (R&D) investments with university centers known for their research capabilities.

The centers are meant to conduct research relevant to both industry and the school it is partnered with; the industry is required to provide major support to the center at all times.

The centers rely primarily on the involvement of graduate students in their research projects, thus developing students who are knowledgeable in industrially relevant research.


Tagged categories: Abrasion resistance; Coating chemistry; Coatings Technology; Coatings Technology; Corrosion protection; North America; Protective Coatings; Research and development

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