Productive university, industry research partnership recognized
February 21, 2011
Researchers from Virginia Tech and Kraton Polymers LLC have been awarded the American Chemical Society Division of Polymeric Materials' 2011 Award for Cooperative Research in Polymer Engineering and Science, sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company.
The award recognizes collaboration by Timothy Long, professor of chemistry in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, and Carl Willis, research fellow, Kraton Polymers of Houston. A symposium discussing new directions in polymeric materials will be held in Long and Willis' honor at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in Anaheim in March 2011.
Long and Willis have worked together for nearly 10 years to develop new polymeric materials for water management and purification. The research was initiated as an exploratory project funded by Kraton in Long’s laboratory at Virginia Tech. The trust and collaboration grew during the initial two-year collaboration, with Willis becoming a member of the dissertation committee of the graduate student who was working on this project. The result was a new family of products called “Kraton A Polymer.” David Williamson, a 2003 Ph.D. graduate in chemistry, worked on this project at Virginia Tech and as an industrial intern at Kraton, and was a co‐inventor of a key patent, U.S. Patent 6,699,941.
A second area of collaboration addressed a Kraton copolymer that had been set aside in the 1980s because of sensitivity to humidity. Once again, Long and Willis involved students in Long's lab and Willis tutored one of them. A new product line, NEXAR™ polymers, which can be used for applications ranging from water desalination to industrial separation, was the result, with Brian Mather, a 2007 Ph.D. graduate in chemistry, a co-inventor on U.S. Patent 7,737,224.
Willis, who has invented and developed numerous commercial block copolymer products and is the inventor or co-inventor on 95 patents, has been a valued mentor and collaborator. He received the Kraton Award for an exceptional contribution to the growth of the business. He was a chemist at Shell Development Company, visiting scientist at Royal Dutch Shell Chemical Company in the Netherlands, and senior staff research chemist at Shell before joining Kraton in 2001.
Long has assembled an international group of researchers who focus on the synthesis, physical characterization, and high performance of polymeric materials for emerging technologies such as miniaturized electronics and biomaterial applications. His current research is directed at the design of ion-containing polymers and polyelectrolytes, which can be prepared without solvents.
Long directs an Army Research Laboratory materials center of excellence, developing multilayered structures and composites. He is also a co-director of an Army Research Office-sponsored Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative to develop ionic liquids for electro-active devices. Long lead an earlier Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative dealing with the design of macromolecular architectures with an emphasis on rheological and mechanical performance.
Long is also associate director for Interdisciplinary Research and Education for the Fralin Life Science Institute and is affiliated with the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute and the Macromolecule Science and Engineering graduate program at Virginia Tech.
"This is a very prestigious and conveted award, said S. Richard Turner, director of the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute at Virginia Tech. "Successful achievement at the academic-industrial interface is an area that is critical to new products, jobs, and economic growth in our nation. Long and Willis join a distinguish list of past winners who have received the award for contributions ranging from new polymers that are the basis of the electronic chips that drive our computers to the coatings on LCD TVs that allow wide angle viewing."
The symposium will be Monday, March 28, and the award will be presented at the joint awards reception of the Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering and Division of Polymer Chemistry on Wednesday evening March.
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.