Research conducted there is expected to revolutionize the production of fibers and films and generate more than $200 billion in revenue industry-wide.
The center will be the only one in the nation to deal exclusively with fibers and films, an industry that accounts for 25 percent of the total U.S. gross domestic product and is the dominant industry in the South. The industry's manufacturing base includes electronic components, fiber optic cables, synthetic fibers, multi-layer food-packaging films, and reinforced composites used in construction and aircraft.
Products to be affected -- in some cases, reinvented -- as a result of Clemson research can be found in fields as diverse as biomedicine, transportation, communication and construction.
Led by Clemson's Dan D. Edie, the center's director and Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering, a group of Clemson and Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty successfully competed against 83 other nationally ranked research institutions for the National Science Foundation award.
"This prestigious award solidifies Clemson's standing as a national research university and is expected to bring millions of dollars in research funding to the university," said Clemson University President Constantine Curris.
"Clemson's Center for Advanced Engineering Fibers and Films holds the promise to revolutionize vital industries by creating dozens of new consumer products while reducing operating costs exponentially. That translates into long-term viability and profitability for one of the state's leading employers," said President Curris.
The award will enable the Clemson-led team to partner with federal laboratories, other universities and industries to revolutionize the understanding of fiber and film technology, to direct and speed the development of new products and processes, and to train the highly qualified professionals needed to lead these vital materials industries into the 21st century.
The Clemson center is one of approximately 25 Engineering Research Centers in the nation. The National Science Foundation established the centers to create partnerships among government, university and industry to advance engineering research and education in critical areas.
"This center will greatly enhance the state's ability to attract knowledge-based industries and build our economy for the 21st century," said S.C. Governor David M. Beasley. "By investing in the technology and research opportunities of tomorrow, we are ensuring quality job opportunities for our children and our grandchildren."
"High-tech industries are drawn by the presence of highly regarded, nationally recognized research universities. By creating a national engineering research center at Clemson, the National Science Foundation has sent a strong message to the rest of the country that South Carolina is a 'player,'" Governor Beasley said.
The center's economic impact will be particularly profound in its home state of South Carolina because the state's concentration of fiber, film and related textile industries represents nearly one-half of its manufacturing base. (See related story on regional economic impact.)
The S.C. General Assembly and the university have committed more than $1 million to support the center during its first year of operation. Clemson has also promised 10 additional faculty positions for center-related research. The National Science Foundation has committed $12 million for the first five years, with the total NSF funding anticipated at more than $20 million.
"This was truly a team effort, with university, industry and state leaders working hand in hand," said President Curris. "The cooperative spirit and strong support shown by the Governor and the General Assembly helped us rise above the competition. Governor Beasley had the foresight to see the importance of the NSF Center to the future of South Carolina's economy and recommended funding for the center, and the General Assembly shared that vision and appropriated state support."
Industries have initially pledged more than $1 million per year in support of the center research and education programs. Partnering industries include 3M, Amoco Performance Products Inc., AlliedSignal Inc., Clark-Schwebel Inc., Collins and Aikman Group, Cryovac Division of Sealed Air Corp., DuPont, Dow Chemical Co., Ethicon Division of Johnson & Johnson, Celanese Acetate, Hoechst Trevira Corp., MSNW Inc., N.H. Andreas Co. Inc., Owens Corning Corp., Poly-Med, PPG Industries, Raytheon STX and Shell Chemical Co. The center's associate director of industrial collaboration is R. Larry Dooley, chair of Clemson's bioengineering department.
Also collaborating in the project are federal laboratories such as NASA, Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Phillips Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, as well as other established Engineering Research Centers. Connected universities include the University of Florida, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois and McGill University.
Central to the center's mission is the concept of "designed" materials -- fibers and films produced using computer-based, three-dimensional analysis, modeling and simulation. The center will develop software packages that will allow researchers to control the process of each fiber or film's creation. The center's testing facilities will feature a virtual-reality system linked to pilot-scale equipment in Clemson laboratories.
"By 'designing' fibers and films from the molecule up, manufacturers will be able to tailor their products to achieve specific properties, as opposed to the current time-consuming practice of trial and error," said Edie.
"Instead of looking at data on a page, researchers will be able to specify polymer type and process conditions and then 'walk' into the molecular structure of a fiber or film at any point in the entire manufacturing process," said Edie.
"It's like the movie 'Fantastic Voyage' -- only this time it's real."
Clemson's efforts could collapse the normal research-and-development process of seven years to mere seconds. Center-developed technologies could then be swiftly transferred to the marketplace through the center's industrial collaboration program.
"This award does more than establish us as a national research institution," said Thomas M. Keinath, dean of Clemson's College of Engineering and Science. "It charges Clemson with leading the revolution in engineering research and education. What we do in the coming years will have a profound effect on the fiber and film industry as well as the nation's next generation of engineers and scientists."
Components of that education revolution include cooperative-education opportunities for undergraduates, in-plant research through a graduate-level industrial residency program and pre-college outreach programs designed to attract younger students to engineering and science disciplines. Overseeing the education reform will be Clemson's John M. Kennedy, an associate professor in mechanical engineering who has been named the center's associate director of education.
Under Kennedy's direction, students will work as team members with faculty to "design" polymeric materials in the center's virtual domain and then test the results at Clemson and partnering industries.
End uses could include the following:
* Inexpensive nylon reengineered to have the strength of Kevlar, the material used to make bulletproof vests.
* Improved, recyclable packaging film that could dramatically increase the shelf life of foods and reduce waste.
* Car engines made of lightweight, thermally conductive composites, eliminating the need for a separate cooling system and reducing dependency on fossil fuels.
* Next-generation electrically conductive fibers and films used as chemical and biological sensors.
* Miniature "organic" laser systems for surgery. * Holographic data storage devices.
* Light-powered flat panel displays for TV screens.
* Energy-efficient processes that will significantly reduce the use of environmentally-harmful solvents in the manufacture of synthetic textiles.
Louis G. Tornatzky
Clemson Center Will Greatly Impact State And Regional Economic Health
CLEMSON -- The economic impact of Clemson University's new national engineering research center will be doubly significant in South Carolina and the Southeast, where fibers and films remain dominant industries.
"Universities have always generated intellectual capital, but we now know they can also generate economic capital and wealth," said Louis G. Tornatzky, director of the Southern Technology Council, an off-shoot of the non-profit Southern Growth Policies Board.
"Now, more than ever before, a state or region's economic prosperity is directly linked to how well their universities' technology programs can grow and attract industries."
In the center's home state of South Carolina, the projected impact on state revenue is expected to be substantial since the state's concentration of fiber, film and related textile industries represents nearly one-half of its manufacturing base.
"Clemson already has an excellent working relationship with knowledge-based businesses throughout the state and plays a significant role in strengthening our economy," said S.C. Governor David M. Beasley. "The research center's magnet effect will now pull additional knowledge-based industries into the state and help us build the knowledge-based economy that we need to thrive.
"Designating this center at Clemson will not only benefit South Carolina companies involved as partners, but will also reinforce America's leading role in this critical technology."
According to a report recently released by the South Carolina Technology Advisory Council, knowledge-based companies are attractive because they are among the most rapidly growing companies in today's economy, they pay higher than average wages, and they tend to purchase goods and services within their local communities.
For South Carolina-based companies like the Cryovac Division of Sealed Air Corp., access to center expertise is predicted to greatly strengthen its critical research-and-development programs.
"The center will be a terrific asset for our company since our prime research facility is located in South Carolina," said Carter Robertson, the human resources officer in Cryovac's Duncan facility. Cryovac employs 2,700 people at its four South Carolina units and is recognized as a world leader in the flexible packaging field. The company develops, manufactures and markets an array of shrink films and bags, foam trays, flexible laminates and associated packaging equipment.
Other South Carolina-based companies partnering with Clemson's new Center for Advanced Engineering Fibers and Films include Clark-Schwebel Corp., of Anderson; Poly-Med, of Anderson, and N.H. Andreas Co. Inc., of Greenville.
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