The Science and Technology Center for Layered Polymeric Systems (CliPS) aims to create a broadly integrated program of research and education through the vehicle of a unique microlayering and nanolayering processing technology developed at Case Western Reserve University (Case). To create the integrated Center, Case is partnering with the University of Texas at Austin, Fisk University, the University of Southern Mississippi, and the Naval Research Laboratory under the overall leadership of the Center Director, Professor Anne Hiltner. She will be assisted by a Co-Director and a Deputy Director, an Executive Director for Education, a Research Chair, and two Site Directors. An external Advisory Board will be reviewing the strategic plans of the Center and providing guidance on its integrated operations.
The proposed Center will focus on three research platforms: 1. Unique processing technology that enables fabrication of versatile hierarchical microlayered and nanolayered polymer-based structures and systems. 2. Development of membrane and barrier systems that exploit the layered hierarchy to achieve unique transport properties. 3. Development of electro-optical devices with special properties based on the advanced layered materials.
This work will result in radically new polymer-based systems with exceptional capabilities to: (1) process polymers into layers no thicker than the radius of gyration of individual polymer molecules by forced assembly; (2) combine these polymers with organic dyes, inorganic and hybrid organic/inorganic particles, and conductive/photoreactive materials that possess high levels of molecular recognition; and (3) organize the aggregate materials into nanoscale multi-layers to produce new functional devices by conventional technologies. As part of the process of designing and producing such layered films, broad fundamental knowledge will be generated in the areas of forced assembly of different polymers, self-assembly of molecules possessing molecular recognition, and properties of hybrid materials. The Center will interface with the industrial sector through an Industrial Associates Program to translate Center technologies into commercial applications.
The Center's approach strategically integrates polymer science and engineering with research in nanotechnology, optics, laser physics, membranes, biomedical engineering, device development and other scientific disciplines in a "polymers-plus" concept. Accordingly, the multidisciplinary nature of the research program flows naturally into graduate and undergraduate education. The partnership's integrated educational approach mirrors the polymers-plus idea to introduce coursework in emerging cross-disciplinary areas such as polymers-plus-nanotechnology, polymers-plus-electro-optics, and polymers-plus-biomaterials. The Center's research activities will be integrated into the undergraduate curriculum through a new course concentration in "Nanoscience and Layered Systems" at Case and the University of Texas at Austin.
A number of new initiatives designed to expand participation of women and underrepresented minorities at all levels and to impact high-school science education will build on foundations already in place at the participating universities. A multi-level research and education collaboration will exploit and further develop an existing strategic partnership between Case and Fisk University. The "Polymer Envoys Program" will engage students from the Cleveland Municipal School District in the exploration of polymer science and engineering as academic pursuits and eventual careers; this program will serve as a model for the other Partner institutions to form linkages with local public high schools.
Recognizing that personal contacts are an important influence in the career choice of college graduates, Case has established affiliations with 5 non PhD-granting schools that offer strong undergraduate science and engineering programs to stimulate enrollment of American students in the Center's graduate programs. Three modular "foundation" courses in polymer science will be developed in collaboration with the Partner institutions and the Affiliate schools to introduce the basics to all students in the Center and prepare them for participation in the research activities. Mentoring at all levels is another important component of the Center. While students and their faculty mentors will have unique opportunities to pursue research paths, more advanced students will also have mentoring opportunities in their work with younger students. Therefore, the Center will consist of interlocking mentor-student relationships that are designed to achieve its long-term goal of nurturing creative scientists and engineers. Implementation of the integrated educational initiatives will be evaluated against an established timetable.
The Center will be instrumental in developing the concept of "polymers plus" at the crossroads of science and engineering. It will foster linkages between academia and industry, and accelerate the development of new product initiatives. In some instances, these linkages will stimulate innovative entrepreneurial ventures and small businesses. The Center endeavors to become the definitive contact point internationally for research and education in layered polymeric systems. Knowledge-transfer vehicles including an interactive website, streaming technology and Internet Protocol television are designed to share information among internal and external constituencies at the local, state and national levels.