HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Feb. 5, 2014) - Stronger research ties between The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and local industry partners would result if an effort to establish an Industry & University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) site at UAH succeeds.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a UAH planning proposal for the project. In collaboration with lead organization Mississippi State University (MSU), the planned UAH research center would focus on advanced composites in transportation vehicles. Each I/UCRC requires membership of multiple universities and multiple industry partners. In addition to being a research site, UAH would act as a co-equal partner with MSU to perform the related research.
"The ultimate goal that our team is focusing on now is successfully gaining the NSF approval for an I/UCRC," said Dr. Gang Wang, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who is a principal investigator in the effort along with UAH Research Institute principal research engineer Chris Sautter, associate director for reliability in the Research Institute, and Dr. Houssam Toutanji, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering. The planning proposal funds will support UAH's center planning workshop in summer 2014, Dr. Wang said.
"We plan to bring all our industry and university partners together to solidify the center concept and proposed projects," said Sautter. "At this meeting we will vet the research topics selected by the industrial partners and provide the schedule for completing the full proposal, which will be due at NSF by Sept. 27."
The fact that we are focused on composites in transportation places UAH in the favorable position of being able to support our local aerospace sector while also reaching out to the automotive sector in the Southeast, which is adding composite materials to vehicles for weight reduction and the resultant fuel economy.
Dr. Gang Wang
A final decision on the proposed center is expected in the first quarter 2015. The research performed under the center's auspices would be selected and directed by its Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), which is made up of the center's industrial partners. Proposed research areas are composite materials and structures, materials (sustainable, extreme environments, out-of-autoclave), manufacturing (process simulation, automation), multi-scale modeling (atomic to macro scale), reliability and failure, damage tolerance and fracture, design optimization, damage diagnostics and prognostics, and nano-enhanced multifunctional composites.
"The I/UCRC is a proven model for successful industry-university cooperation," said Sautter. "Through the IAB, our researchers select and provide proposals on the topic areas that our industrial partners deem significant. This process ensures that the UAH researchers, faculty and their students will be focused on issues that impact our members. The result of this cooperative effort is a significant benefit to our local workforce. They will have the opportunity to hire UAH graduates that possess firsthand experience and knowledge in the cutting edge of the field of composites. "
To date UAH and MSU have garnered support from over 20 potential industry partners. "As we put together the proposal, we will be contacting each of our potential members to advise them of our schedule and the recommended research topics," Dr. Toutanji said. "We will be asking them to refine the topics and provide any assistance to the final proposal. In addition, we will work closely with our faculty members at UAH to put together research teams addressing different research topics within the theme of the center."
Locating an NSF I/UCRC at UAH would be a significant milestone for university. Currently there are 61 centers in the U.S. There are no composite centers located in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas or Tennessee.
"The fact that we are focused on composites in transportation places UAH in the favorable position of being able to support our local aerospace sector while also reaching out to the automotive sector in the Southeast, which is adding composite materials to vehicles for weight reduction and the resultant fuel economy," said Dr. Wang. "We believe that creating this center in Alabama and Mississippi will have long term positive effects on our local economy and our university."
For more information, contact:
Dr. Gang Wang
Fred (Chris) Sautter
Dr. Houssam Toutanji