OSU-UO collaborate on sustainable materials chemistry, receive $20 million NSF grant

A collaborative Oregon State University-University of Oregon Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, born under a National Science Foundation grant in 2008, is moving into a second phase under a new five-year, $20 million NSF grant.

The new NSF funding, awarded through its Centers of Chemical Innovation Program, will allow the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry to expand research and development and boost efforts to translate basic-level discoveries into the commercialization of new technologies. A large component of Phase 2 is the education of students, postdoctoral associates and faculty on how to accelerate this translation.

Since the center’s initial formation under a $1.5 million grant to Douglas Keszler, a chemist at Oregon State University and adjunct professor at the UO, collaborating scientists at eight institutions have applied environmentally friendly green-chemistry approaches to the synthesis and fabrication of compounds, thin films and composite materials.

Green, or toxically benign, products could pave the way for next-generation applications of a wide variety of high-performance electronic devices applicable in such fields as integrated-circuit manufacturing, solar energy and medicine.

Under the Phase 1 grant — as the Center for Green Materials Chemistry — Keszler was the principal investigator. Co-investigators were David C. Johnson, the UO’s Rosaria P. Haugland Chair in Pure and Applied Chemistry, Darren W. Johnson, a UO chemist and adjunct professor at OSU, and John F. Wager, professor of electrical engineering at OSU.

“We’ve built a strong team for Phase 2, so we’re excited about the opportunities for accelerating our basic research efforts, building on our transformational nanoscience of Phase 1 and expanding programs to translate findings to commercial markets,” Keszler said.

The Phase 2 grant will provide OSU and the UO the opportunity to make a significant impact on the national scale, said David Johnson, who will head education and outreach efforts. “Our vision for the Center is to develop an understanding of the fundamental chemistry enabling the synthesis and assembly of complex nanoarchitectures for technological applications,” he said.

The UO and OSU each will receive about $9 million. The remainder goes to collaborating researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Rutgers University, University of California, Davis, and University of California, Berkeley. Other collaborators include the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, Advanced Photon Source at the Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of Victoria in British Columbia.
To date, collaborating researchers primarily have shared facilities at OSU and the UO, including the Lorry I. Lokey Laboratories. A main office and lab space may be based in the Robert and Beverly Lewis Integrative Science Building, now projected to open in Fall 2012.

Under Phase 2, researchers will develop; films and 3D nanostructures from water-based precursors; a new nanochemistry based on interleaving structural elements to yield unprecedented performance; synthetic techniques to make precursor clusters; and films with intentional nano-architectures and new properties. Under an open knowledge model, all innovations will be shared after appropriate patents are recorded.

Also planned is a series of science-pub presentations across all regions of Oregon; such informal get-togethers to engage in science topics with the public have regularly drawn interest and large turnouts in Portland, Eugene and Corvallis. Center leaders also will develop an innovative high-school chemistry curriculum in collaboration with Hermiston High School.

ONAMI (Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute), a state-designated signature research center, is a major supporter of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry. ONAMI partners with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance on the center’s commercialization program.

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