The Polymer Nanocomposites

Polymer Nanocomposites Manufacturing Partnership
University of South Carolina
Departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Management
PI: Harry J. Ploehn
Co PIs: Hanno zur Loye, William Sandberg, Harris Pastides
NSF Award #IIP-0650186
3 Year Award
Start Date: 1 March 2007
Brief Project Overview:
The Polymer Nanocomposites Manufacturing
Partnership (PNMP) is a joint effort of the University
of South Carolina and polymer manufacturing
companies located in or near South Carolina. The
PNMP catalyzes the transformation of polymer
manufacturing processes and value-added plastic
products fueling economic development in South
Carolina. The PNMP fosters innovation in polymer
manufacturing through
• Basic research in synthesis and characterization
of layered (nano)materials, routes to their
incorporation in polymer nanocomposites, and
accelerated methods for evaluating
Multidisciplinary student-faculty-industry “Innovation Teams”
serve as conduits for information, knowledge, and collabornanocomposite performance;
ation on problems of technical and economic interest to partner
• Joint University/industry development of polymer companies.
nanocomposite technology for near-term
commercialization; and,
• Workforce development through involvement in
Top Contributions:
research, cross-disciplinary education, and
1. Establishes a new mechanism for collaboration
industrial internships.
Program Activities:
• Interdisciplinary Education: “Entrepreneurial
Commercialization of R&D”
 Year-long business school course offered only
to PNMP students (more than 25 graduate
students including IMBAs, chemical engineers,
and chemists to date)
 Purposes:
 Engage students in business-oriented
technology/market assessment projects proposed
by corporate partners
 Expose business students to science-driven
 Expose chemistry and engineering students to
strategic business perspectives and management
of corporate innovation processes
identifying, analyzing, and resolving issues relevant
to the commercialization of their R&D projects
 Improve oral and written communication skills in
presenting sophisticated analyses and
recommendations to corporate clients
 Develop skills in working as multidisciplinary
teams on complex, time-sensitive projects that
require research, analysis, and decisions
 Lectures and readings introducing corporate
innovation processes and R&D commercialization
 Team-based, partner-driven research focused on
specific business-oriented issues related to
innovation, marketing, and product development
• Technical Research
 Synthesis of “model” nanocomposite coatings
containing highly exfoliated inorganic platelet
 Evaluating the gas barrier performance of these
2. Novel vehicle for professional development of
science & engineering doctoral students.
3. Startup company created to commercialize
technology developed in this program.
Top Challenges:
1. Successfully coupling technical research with
Innovation Team technology & market assessment
2. Partner funding for technical research and
business school fellowships .
3. Integrating student project coursework into
doctoral and MBA degree programs.
 Assist the participating corporate partners in
between science & engineering and business
school units on questions of interest to industrial
 Exploring fundamentals of reinforcement in
polymer nanocomposites
 Synthesis of filler materials with surface
chemistry tailored for elastomers
 Preparation and characterization of model
nanocomposite elastomers
• Water and oxygen barrier coatings
 Polymer films, paperboard
• Sustainable solutions
 Water-based coatings
 Non-petrochemical based
 Recyclability, degradability
 Understanding sustainability down the
value chain
• Reinforcement mechanisms in filled rubber
• Elastomer formulations offering
 Lighter weight = fuel efficiency
 Improved wear
 Lower rolling resistance
 Traction (wet and dry)
• Market impacts and economics of new
(no longer active partners)
Key Attributes of our
Innovation Ecosystem:
Questioning & Curiosity:
• Partner companies can explore research and technology
assessment questions beyond the scope of what they can
justify with in-house manpower and resources.
• Business school students learn about the realities of
scientific research.
• S&E students learn about the realities of real-world
innovation and commercialization of R&D.
Risk Taking:
• Partner companies can explore high-risk, high reward
research questions and over-the horizon technology
assessment questions with low penalty for inconclusive or
negative answers.
• Students can get outside of their disciplinary comfort
zones with minimal risk of jeopardizing their success in
their degree programs or slowing progress towards
• Non-disclosure agreements promote open sharing of
information between partner companies and Innovation
• Intellectual property agreements are problematic for
some company partners. The most interesting questions
are sometimes the closest ones to high value
Collaboration Across Fields:
• While team-based, client-guided consulting projects are
standard in the MBA curriculum, introduction of science &
engineering students to the teams leads to different
perspectives, team dynamics, and the ability to address a
wider scope of questions of interest to the partner/client.
• The Innovation Team methodology provides a novel
vehicle for the professional development of science &
engineering students. They learn about corporate
innovation processes and R&D commercialization while
using their own discipline – and even their specific
research projects – as the motivating context.
Placing Partners in “New
Environments” & “Playgrounds”:
• Partners with significant established R&D activity were
most willing and prepared to engage in technical research
and interaction with Innovation Teams on technology
assessment questions.
• The same partners were most likely to have established
innovation processes and the willingness to teach them to
the Innovation Team students.
• Partners with low R&D activity were eager to ask market
and technology assessment questions but were
unprepared to fully engage in equal give-and-take with
Innovation Teams or research groups.
Leading/Inspiring for Surprising
or Unexpected Results:
• Collaboration between S&E and Business on the
Innovation Team concept turned out to be the most
engaging and attractive component to both the partner
companies and the students.
• The Innovation Team approach will likely serve as a
model for sustained collaboration between Engineering
and the Business School for not only the teaching of
innovation, but also enrichment of university-industry
research interactions. This holistic approach to the
relationship is very attractive to the corporate partners.
National Science Foundation Partnerships For Innovation
Grantee’s Meeting April 25-27, 2010
Arlington, VA