The Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science’s Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems is receiving an award from the National Science Foundation to create and support an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

A National Science Foundation I/UCRC conducts high-quality, industrially relevant, fundamental research, through strong industrial collaboration in research and education and transition of university-based intellectual property to industry. Virginia Tech and the University of Texas at Dallas will serve as dual sites for the center. The National Science Foundation grant will facilitate leveraging of industry funds to achieve a greater research impact, while attracting additional funding from industry and federal and state governments.

The National Science Foundation awarded $525,000 to Virginia Tech beginning Aug.1, 2010, for a period of one year and $275,000 to University of Texas at Dallas for one year, both with expected renewal of equal amounts for a total of 15 years.  

The center director, Dan Inman, the G.R. Goodson Professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Associate Director Shashank Priya, from the Virginia Tech departments of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering, initiated the formation of the center two years ago in collaboration with professor Bruce Gnade, vice-president of research at the University of Texas and professor of chemistry and electrical engineering. 

“Dr. Gnade’s experience as a program manager with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and as a manager with Texas Instruments is vital to success of the center,” said Inman.

“Recognizing the fact that clean energy represents a critical technology, the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science established the Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems as an industry university cooperative research center and has provided seed support since July, 2009,” said Roop Mahajan, director of the institute.  This support sustained operations and pursuit of additional resources and is a good example of the importance of nurturing emerging technology.”

“We would like to express our sincere thanks to the institute and also to the companies that helped us pursue this opportunity. We were fortunate to have SAIC, ITT, Texas MicroPower, UTRC and Delta as industry champions at a very early stage of development, which strengthened the quality of research being conducted at the center,” said Priya.

“Our research programs in the area of energy harvesting are continuously growing.” Inman said. “The quality of faculty and students at both Virginia Tech and the University of Texas who are working in the area is very impressive. We are therefore confident that we will provide our members with an excellent return on investment and exceed expectations on many fronts.”

 “Contributing to development of this center through managerial operations while working with talented scientists and engineers from both academia and industry has been an excellent experience for me” said program manager Beth Howell.

John Geikler, Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, and Carol Roberson, Virginia Tech Research Contracts, were instrumental in developing intellectual property and policy agreements for the center.  

“This is one of five awards of this type to Virginia Tech from the National Science Foundation during 2010, a strong indication of confidence in Virginia Tech’s potential to develop and exploit these types of collaborations for the benefit of society,” said Roberson. 

“We will be working very hard to facilitate the existing potential and to expand it through collaboration with our industrial partners,” Geikler added.

Electrical energy harvesting from various environmental sources with minimal cost has the potential to dramatically enhance the existing systems and to open a whole new set of devices and functionalities; for example, portability for currently non-portable systems.  Also, electric energy generation from the freely available environmental resources may enable development of self-powered systems.

Center research is expected to launch a new generation of more effective and cost efficient products and industries which will contribute to the national economy through job creation and savings to the consumer. Civilian and defense areas will benefit directly from the achievements of the center through proliferation of smart homes, smart highways, cell phones and music players, radar, global positioning systems and automobiles.

The demand for energy harvesting products is on the rise. Industry has been unable to meet the product requirements, thus delaying the launch of products needed in this vital sector.  New applications have emerged, creating a need for additional research to discover novel materials and conversion mechanisms, or to invent micro-to-macro scale components and systems. This center will address these critical needs.

The Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science is a premier interdisciplinary research institute located at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. The core mission of the institute is to promote, stimulate, and catalyze interdisciplinary and collaborative research at the confluence of engineering, the physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and medicine. The Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science is realizing this mission by harnessing and leveraging the collective talents of Virginia Tech faculty, staff and students and nurturing them in the development and promotion of high-quality and internationally competitive research initiatives that are responsive to societal needs.   Strategic research initiatives in nanoscale science and engineering, molecular and cellular biology, sustainable development including energy, water and renewable materials, and cognition and communication have been identified in pursuit of this mission.

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