The Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program supports the enhancement of research capabilities of minority-serving institutions through the establishment of centers that effectively integrate education and research. CREST promotes the development of new knowledge, enhancements of the research productivity of individual faculty, and an expanded presence of students historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
With CREST program support, Tuskegee University will continue development of its Center for Sustainable Lightweight Materials in collaboration with Auburn University, Cornell University and National Laboratory partners. This work will accelerate research and development of multiscale advanced lightweight materials with potential applications in areas such as automotive, building, biomedical and tissue engineering, among others, where synthetic materials are found to be toxic, non-degradable and non-sustainable.
The Center articulates three research thrusts: (1) Nanobiomaterials Extraction, (2) Biopolymers Design and Synthesis, and (3) Advanced Green Composites. The aim of all three research thrusts is to gain fundamental understanding of the emerging field of sustainable lightweight advanced materials. Activities in Subproject 1 include synthesis of a variety of nanomaterials from waste resources like rice husk, bone ash, and fish scales, extraction of cellulose in various forms and lignin from plants, and production of nanofibers. Subproject 2 includes synthesis of biopolymers from lignocellulosic biomass, development of resins with excellent thermal and mechanical properties from agricultural and food processing wastes. Subproject 3 activities focus on development of advanced green composites through use of plant fibers, fibers from liquid crystalline and bacterial cellulose. In addition, durability and toughening characteristics of advanced composites will be enhanced through development of autonomously self-healing polymers and composites, toughened fibers and resins.
The Center will enhance STEM research and education at Tuskegee University, produce new knowledge, strengthen the research competitiveness of faculty and promote interdisciplinary collaborations within Tuskegee University and with partner research centers. Center activities will enhance the research and development enterprise and infrastructure at Tuskegee University, making it nationally competitive in the emerging field of sustainable lightweight advanced materials. Intellectual property will lead to the creation of patentable products and processes.
Students, traditionally underrepresented in the STEM disciplines, will be provided with meaningful research experiences at a readily accessible advanced research facility and a pathway to Ph.D. programs. Center activities will provide education and research integration and exposure to students from middle school to the doctoral level, and to the general public, including persons with disabilities.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.