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Advanced Carbon Materials Center Established At UK

The tiny but mighty nanotube will continue to be the subject of several research projects at the University of Kentucky, thanks in part to a highly competitive and prestigious grant awarded recently by the National Science Foundation for a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). The MRSEC center, known as the Advanced Carbon Materials Center, will be funded by both NSF and UK at $8 million over five years and will be located at the Center for Applied Energy Research.

The center will foster research in four related areas: carbon fullerenes and nanotubes, polymer and pitch composites, electronic devices, and activated carbons.

The grant to UK is one of only a few of its kind given out nationally, according to Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies Fitzgerald Bramwell. "In the past, such centers have gone to the top-ranked institutions," he says. Of the 113 applications received for MRSEC centers, NSF awarded only 12.

"UK's award reflects a coordinated, multidisciplinary effort involving four university units as well as a strong effort from university administrators and support from private industry," says Robert Haddon, a UK professor of chemistry and physics, and director of the new center. In addition to Haddon, the core team consists of Peter Eklund, physics; Eric Grulke, chemical and materials engineering; and Frank Derbyshire, Center for Applied Energy Research. The mission of the center, Haddon says, will be to become internationally known for the synthesis, study and application of carbon-based materials and to further education in these areas to create new industries.

Commercialization and technology transfer are important components of the center. Haddon says several large multinational companies have already expressed interest in the center's research. Two new spinoff businesses--ASA Products and CarboLex--have already been formed. Both are located in ASTeCC, UK's Advanced Science and Technology Commercialization Center, which is an incubator for start-up ventures and multidisciplinary collaborations.

"We expect new companies to arise from concepts developed with the assistance of this prestigious MRSEC award. In short, this funding will assist us in making practical applications, products and economic impact out of university-funded research," Bramwell says.

For more on nanotube projects at the University of Kentucky:
Thinking Big By Thinking Small