Image of an atomically thin coating: Image: M. Breshnehan.
Image of an atomically thin coating: Image: M. Breshnehan.

The study and development of atomically thin coatings will be the focus of a new, one-of-a-kind university/industry center funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

Led by Penn State, in collaboration with Rice University in Houston, the new Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) will design and develop advanced two-dimensional coatings engineered to solve fundamental scientific and technological challenges. These challenges will include: corrosion, oxidation and abrasion; friction and wear; energy storage and harvesting; and the large-scale synthesis and deposition of novel multifunctional coatings.

Two-dimensional nanoscale coating materials have unique properties that can be exploited in glass and polymer manufacturing, automotive and electronics sectors, civil infrastructure, and marine antifouling and anticorrosion coatings. The new I/UCRC, known as the Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings (ATOMIC), will integrate world-class research faculty at Penn State and Rice with leading industrial partners and national laboratories.

Leading the ATOMIC center for Penn State are Mauricio Terrones, professor of physics, professor of chemistry and professor of materials science and engineering, and Joshua Robinson, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and Corning Faculty Fellow. Jun Lou and Pulickel M. Ajayan, both professors of materials science and nanoengineering, are leading the ATOMIC center at Rice University.

"The focus of an I/UCRC is industry-driven research, which is part of our new mission at Penn State," said Robinson. "Ten companies have committed to support us, 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 added.

"In the future, we expect to create spin-out companies from our center," said Terrones. "Coatings are everywhere. If we can solve the problem of corrosion, that will save society billions of dollars. If we can create multifunctional coatings that produce energy, that will be huge."

The NSF I/UCRC program is designed to grow US innovation capacity by seed funding long-term partnerships among industry, universities and the government. Members pool their funds to conduct pre-competitive research that solves fundamental problems that will advance the entire industry sector. The program builds relationships between companies and researchers, and provides students with real-world experience and future employment opportunities. NSF provides the organizational framework along with funding for center administration, in this case over $1 million over five years between the two sites. The member companies provide funding for the center research.

"My heartiest congratulations to Mauricio, Josh and their colleagues at Rice University," said Neil Sharkey, Penn State's vice president for research. "The Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings is just the type of industry-university research partnership that we hope to accelerate here at Penn State. We are very proud to be hosting this new center and anticipate seeing highly innovative materials and coatings that will eventually hit the marketplace in any number of useful applications. The Center, surrounded by highly advanced instrumentation and expertise within Penn State's Materials Research Institute and bolstered by the creativity of its industrial partners, promises to be a wonderful resource for our students and faculty, and one with real potential to impact the economy of the commonwealth and the nation."

This story is adapted from material from Penn State, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.