Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative Honored at U.S. White House

The research accomplishments of the UConn Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) was among the milestones highlighted at the U.S. White House's fifth year anniversary of the Materials Genome Initiative.
The research accomplishments of the UConn Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) was among the milestones highlighted at the U.S. White House’s fifth year anniversary of the Materials Genome Initiative.

By Amanda Campanaro

Materials Science and Engineering Professor Rampi Ramprasad recently attended the fifth year anniversary event of the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) hosted by the U.S. White House.  Among the accomplishments recognized at the event were the outcomes of the UConn Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI), a collaboration of five universities lead by UConn’s team of researchers including Professor Ramprasad of MSE, Professor Gregory Sotzing of Chemistry, and Professor Yang Cao of Electrical Engineering.

The UConn MURI was funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR)—one of the research arms of the Department of Defense—and is aligned with the Materials Genome Initiative, announced by President Obama in 2011 as a means of accelerating materials discovery. In five years, UConn’s team of researchers, along with their collaborators at Columbia University, Penn State University, RPI and the University of Akron, has combined high-throughput computational screening, informatics, and experimental synthesis and testing to develop a set of new organic and organometallic polymer dielectrics with enhanced properties compared to materials now in use. This materials discovery effort is described in the MGI Accomplishments and Technical Highlights document as “an excellent example of how the MGI is being harnessed to collaboratively design new materials”.

“Historically, materials discovery largely happened by trial and error,” Professor Ramprasad says. One of the main charters of the MGI is to accelerate the materials discovery process by encouraging team-work between people from multiple synergistic backgrounds, and using computations, data mining, and theory to screen and guide the experimental phases of the project. The primary objective of UConn MURI research program was to design new classes of polymeric materials with high dielectric constant and high breakdown strength, suitable for application in high voltage, high energy density capacitor technologies.

Capacitors store less energy than batteries, but charge and discharge energy much faster.  “The goal of our project is to increase the amount of energy stored in a capacitor, while still maintaining the speed of charging and discharging,” says Professor Ramprasad. New materials discovery for capacitors is important for the future of multiple technologies ranging from defense applications, such as the all-electric ship, to civilian applications, such as hybrid cars.

“We can claim that we have a number of new promising energy storage capacitor materials that did not exist before the program started,” says Professor Ramprasad. Their findings have been recently reviewed in the journal Advanced Materials (Adv. Mater. 2016, 28, 6277–6291).

“Our collaborative effort has shown that the MGI paradigm can lead to useful outcomes, and could potentially be applied to many other applications,” says Professor Ramprasad. As discussed earlier this year in an UConn Today article, Professor Ramprasad and his research team have developed data-driven methods that can “scan millions of theoretical compounds for qualities that would make better solar cells, fibers, and computer chips.” These methods, models and data have been made accessible to the public.  MGI is a model that emphasizes the sharing of knowledge across disciplines and universities.

As to the barriers involved in collaborative research, Professor Ramprasad says, “There were challenging moments in the initial phase of the project. For people from different backgrounds to reach a common point where we understood each other’s challenges and true strengths was critical for the team to work well.” Finding an equilibrium was their turning point.

“To be a part of this project was a great honor. To see that the work we do on the computer can be realized in practice is a rewarding experience.”

UConn Professors Among Top 300 Most-Cited Scholars in the Field

By Amanda Campanaro

Dr. Steven L. Suib and Dr. Cato T. Laurencin and are among the 300 most-cited researchers in Materials Science and Engineering worldwide.

In the review, which was conducted using citation data from the Elsevier Scopus Database, MSE Supplies compiled the ranking data and listed the names and institutions of the highly cited scholars. “The highly cited researchers or scholars are either the corresponding author or the first author of their publications,” the review says.  “Among all the researchers, only the top 300 in the field of materials science and engineering (MSE) are included in the list, ranked by the total citations of their papers.”

Dr. Steven Suib with Ph.D. student Altug Poyraz
Altug Poyraz, left, a graduate student, with Dr. Steven Suib, distinguished professor and director of chemistry on Jan. 9, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Dr. Steven L. Suib is the Director of the Institute of Materials Science and Chair for the Applied Chemical Technology Subdivision (ACTS) of the American Chemical Society (ACS). His recent publications include “Substrate Control of Anisotropic Resistivity in Heteroepitaxial Nanostructured Arrays of Cryptomelane Manganese Oxide on Strontium Titanate,” in conjunction with UConn MSE’s Mark Aindow, and “Formation of Platinum (Pt) Nanocluster Coatings on K-OMS-2 Manganese Oxide Membranes by Reactive Spray Deposition Technique (RSDT) for Extended Stability during CO Oxidation,” published in Advances in Chemical Engineering and Science, 2014.

Dr. Cato Laurencin
Dr. Cato Laurencin at his office at UConn Health in Farmington (Peter orenus/UConn Photo)

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin is the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and University Professor of MSE and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE). He is the recipient of many honors, including the 2016 National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Dr. Laurencin’s recent publications include “The Quest toward Limb Regeneration: A regenerative engineering approach,” published in Regenerative Biomaterials, 2016; and “Animal models of osteoarthritis: classification, update, and measurement of outcomes,” published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, 2016.

Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature: scientific journals, books and conference proceedings. Delivering a comprehensive overview of the world’s research output in  the fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and arts   and humanities, Scopus features smart tools to track, analyze and  visualize research.