Research at Scale: Funding for materials centers tops $200M

MSE faculty are leading six newly funded, innovative materials centers.
Research at Scale: Funding for materials centers tops $200M

Graduate student Tyler Olson tests ice adhesion to a surface at the lab of Anish Tuteja.

Long efforts came together in a big way this past year with the establishment of six new materials centers - totaling over $200M - in a wide variety of areas, from electric vehicles to improved drug delivery. Each center is described briefly below.

$130M Electric Vehicle Center
In an effort to cultivate a robust EV ecosystem in the place where the modern auto industry was born, the University of Michigan Electric Vehicle Center launched last spring with three focus areas: accelerating collaborative R&D, developing a highly skilled workforce, and establishing advanced campus infrastructure and facilities to support both research and education.
      “While the EV revolution is well underway, there’s an immense amount of work to do in order to meet—and then push beyond—the US goal that half of new car sales be electric by 2030. We need to address areas like the workforce, cost, vehicle range, charging infrastructure and sustainability. Our center will build on more than a century of U-M leadership in transportation to tackle these and other critical areas."
      To lead the center, Gallimore appointed MSE Professor Alan Taub, a former auto industry executive, as director. Taub previously served as vice president of global R&D at GM and held leadership roles at Ford and General Electric.
      “We’re undergoing a redefinition of personal mobility in a way we haven’t seen in a century,” said Taub, who also is the Robert H. Lurie Professor of Engineering. “It requires changes to the vehicles, the infrastructure, consumer behavior, policy and more. We need academia, industry and government to work together to enable a smooth transition.”
$32.7M in total funding for PRISMS Center (DOE)
The PRISMS Center was recently renewed for another three years by the US Department of Energy - Basic Energy Science program. Over these three years the PRISMS Center will receive $6.5M. Since its inception in 2012, the Center has received $32.7M in total funding. According to Center Director and MSE Professor John Allison, this sustained funding has enabled development of advanced computational materials science tools and a data infrastructure with unsurpassed capabilities.
     The scientific focus of the Center is on accelerating understanding of microstructural evolution and mechanical behavior of light weight magnesium alloys. According to Allison, the Center is making exciting new progress in understanding alloy effects on complex deformation mechanisms and microstructural evolution - which will enable design of new Mg alloys for improved formability to enable new applications in the automotive, biomedical and electronics industries.
     The PRISMS Center's free, open-source software has been downloaded by more than 7000 researchers. The data infrastructure is also publicly available and houses more than 5 million files of materials research data.
$18M MRSEC Center for Materials Innovation (NSF)

Funded with $18 million from the National Science Foundation and led by MSE Professor Rachel S. Goldman, the Center for Materials Innovation seeks to build a campus-wide ecosystem of researchers that converge on material solutions to problems facing society. 
     “By the year 2030, IT is expected to utilize 30% of all electrical energy. This is clearly not sustainable,” said Goldman.   
     “Likewise, we’ve all seen photos of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—plastics in the ocean. This is, in part, because only some thermoplastics are recyclable. Our center will help address both of these grand challenges.”
     The team’s approach to more sustainable computing relates to both conventional and quantum computing. The new materials they propose could reduce the energy costs of both types. In addition, the proliferation of quantum computing would enable some types of problems to be solved in a fraction of the time.
     Beyond technology development, the center is also seeking to create an opportunity pathway for students with identities that are often excluded from science and engineering. The center will offer summer workshops for high school teachers to fulfill continuing education requirements, training them in teaching methods that bring cutting edge materials science and chemistry into their classrooms. Similarly, the center will help train graduate students and postdoctoral researchers as the next generation of science and engineering research mentors.

$11.5M ICECycle (DARPA)
Imagine a world where solar panels remain ice free in the winter, planes are de-iced without toxic pollutants, and soldiers and first responders can apply lotion to protect themselves from frostbite.
      That future could soon be a reality, thanks to a grant awarded to MSE Professor Anish Tuteja by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
      The project is the latest within DARPA's Ice Control for Cold Environments (ICE) program, which is striving to control the physical properties of ice crystals to protect people and defense assets from extreme cold.
      The project aims to find molecules that can be used to manipulate ice and snow in several ways, including changing the temperature at which water freezes, increasing and decreasing how strongly ice adheres to surfaces, and inhibiting or encouraging ice crystals to grow on surfaces.

$7.5M MURI Award (DoD)
A new project led by MSE Professor Rachel S. Goldman will embrace imperfections in next-generation electronic devices, possibly enabling faster and more efficient information processing.
 Funded by the Department of Defense, the project aims to understand how dislocations could be used as nano-pipelines to channel electrons while manipulating their spins. The project also involves researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
     While electronic devices that couple charge and spin, known as “spintronics,” are already used for information storage, they have not yet been fully developed for classical or quantum computation. Spin is an intrinsic property of the electron that can be thought of as its rotation. Electrons are said to have spin up or down directions, which could represent the 0s and 1s in computing.
     “These nano-pipelines could revolutionize information technology like the silicon transistor did,” said Goldman. 
“Much in the way that you control the charge in a silicon transistor in two dimensions, here we’re going to control the charge and the spin, but we’re going to do it all in one dimension.”

$2.3M EFRI Award: Distributed Manufacturing of Personalized Medicines (NSF)
On a dollar per gram basis, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are perhaps the most valuable chemicals in the world, and yet much of the mass of APIs in drugs taken is not absorbed in the body, entering the water supply and harming human health and the environment. At the same time, despite rapid advances in the science of personalized medicine and digital, additive manufacturing, the trillion-dollar-a-year pharmaceutical industry retains its century-old manufacturing processes, and uses supply chain and distribution models that are inconvenient and prone to contamination. To address this problem area, researchers and drug manufacturers have begun developing 3D printing approaches to drug formulation, dose customization, and release profile engineering. However, fundamental challenges remain with material compatibilities, ingredient dispersion, process control, and scalability.With their recent Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation grant from NSF, Professors Max Shtein, Anish Tuteja and Geeta Mehta.aim to address these challenges by converging several new breakthroughs in additive manufacturing, molecular and crystallization modeling, surface science and engineering, and patient-specific in vitro disease models.