The importance of Characterization to Technology

G. Haugstad
University of Minnesota, US

Keywords: nanoscale, characterization, coatings, nanocomposites


For many companies developing materials-based technologies or attempting to improve existing ones, access to academic research facilities has become vital. Many small companies cannot afford to purchase advanced instrumentation, let alone pay for staffing with years of thesis and/or postdoctoral experience developing methodology and honing skills on these tools. Even larger companies that do purchase some of the same advanced tools as found in academic labs may not invest in correspondingly advanced staffing to reap the full benefit. Thus a market for training, hands-on usage and advanced analytical services, as well as research collaboration, has emerged at the interface of technological companies and university-based materials characterization facilities. On the academic side of this interface, although one can still find aversion to “commercial influence” in some nooks and crannies of universities, it’s safe to say that a general aversion to industrial interaction has disappeared from most public universities (and perhaps most private ones). As reported in recent years, many public US universities have lost state support and thus have sought corporate funding to fill the gap. But at some universities a cultural transformation took place long ago. At the University of Minnesota in the physical sciences and engineering, the transformation dates to the early 1980’s. This metamorphosis hugely strengthened during the 1990’s thanks to the Engineering Research Center (ERC) program created by the National Science Foundation in the late 1980’s. A legacy of Minnesota’s ERC from 1988-1999 is a 15-yars-running industrial consortium with the acronym IPRIME: Industrial Partnership for Research in Interfacial and Materials Engineering. This presentation firstly gives an overview of educational and research interactions between IPRIME member companies and the University of Minnesota’s Characterization Facility, and secondly provides research examples pertinent to biomedical coatings and nanocomposites.