The International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) in Sustainable Materials Development aims to educate undergraduate and graduate students in the environmental, technical and legislative aspects of sustainable materials development and manufacturing. The overall goal of the program is to increase students' awareness of the environmental and societal impacts of the materials lifecycle, while involving them in specific research activities aimed at improving and quantifying materials sustainability. Over a three-year period, eighteen students from North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University will spend ten weeks at The University of Sheffield conducting mentored research in a multidisciplinary environment. Student research projects will fall into three general areas: i) Low-energy Materials Processing, ii) Design of Materials for Critical Element Substitution and iii) Materials Lifecycle Analysis. Pursing these activities in an international venue will provide a broad, global context for materials sustainability, as the legislative and research environments associated with these issues can be highly country-specific. The program intends to develop globally aware and engaged students, who think about materials science, engineering and manufacturing within the global context of sustainability and environmental impact.

The program will leverage the unique interdisciplinary environment of the Substitution and Sustainability in Functional Materials and Devices (SUBST) center at the University of Sheffield, which brings together interdisciplinary scientists developing new materials synthesis and processing strategies alongside leaders in the development and application of life-cycle analysis (LCA) models for materials manufacturing. The students will be co-mentored by faculty within the participating US and UK institutions and will conduct research within three technical areas: Low-Energy Materials Processing (e.g. near-room temperature sintering of ceramics via cold-sintering processing), Design of Materials for Critical-Element Substitution (e.g. development of Pb-free BaTiO3- and BiFeO3 based ceramics for energy harvesting and storage applications), and Materials Lifecycle Analysis (e.g. hybrid life-cycle analysis of lead-free piezoelectrics). Providing critical input data for materials LCA, the program will help assess the potential of newly discovered materials and processes to improve the sustainability of key electronic-ceramic technologies.

This project is co-funded by Cross-Cutting Activities in the Division of Materials Research (DMR/MPS), the Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (OMA/MPS), and OISE.

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.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
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Maija Kukla
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North Carolina State University Raleigh
United States
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