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$250 Million Composites Research Hub Launches


Chemical industry stalwarts back effort to lower manufacturing costs with aid of federal dollars

by Marc S. Reisch
January 19, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 3

More than 100 universities, research laboratories, and companies—including many chemical industry stalwarts—are joining to form a $250 million institute focused on manufacturing next-generation composite materials.

Led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation will receive $70 million from the Department of Energy. The rest of the funds will come from consortium partners.

The initiative has the potential to reduce manufacturing costs for fiber-reinforced polymer composites by 50%, the partners say. The result could be a new generation of lightweight vehicles, high-pressure tanks for natural-gas-fueled cars, and lightweight industrial equipment.

President Barack Obama announced the initiative on Jan. 9 after viewing an electric car with a carbon-fiber-composite body that was created using three-dimensional printing at plastics compounder Techmer PM in Clinton, Tenn. He said the consortium would bolster U.S. manufacturing and create high-paying jobs.

The companies involved in the institute read like a who’s who of the chemical industry. They include Ashland, BASF, Celanese, Cytec Industries, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Evonik Industries, Huntsman Corp., PPG Industries, 3M, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., and Toray Industries. Other members include Ford Motor, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Boeing, and DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The institute is the fifth such hub to get federal dollars since 2012. The others are focused on lightweight metals, 3-D printing, power electronics, and digital manufacturing.

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