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BASF, Massachusetts Universities to Partner on Materials

Dirt-repellent textile fibers based on nanotechnology (BASF)

Dirt-repellent textile fibers based on nanotechnology (BASF)

Researchers at the German chemical company BASF and three universities in Massachusetts will collaborate on the development of new materials for the automotive, building and construction, and energy industries. Financial details of the new five-year North American Center for Research on Advanced Materials were not disclosed, but the universities in consortium — Harvard University, MIT, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst — are expected to create a total of 20 new postdoctoral positions at the three campuses.

The collaboration aims to bring together academic scientists in chemistry, physics, and biology with industry-experienced engineers. Academic partners plan to contribute their expertise in material sciences and modeling and provide new research ideas. BASF’s participants are expected to contribute their experience in transforming research into technically feasible processes and products.

Research ideas, say the participants, will be decided jointly by the participants in the consortium. Topics already identified include creation of new micro- and nanostructured polymers with different properties. The researchers also anticipate studies of materials with characteristics that emulate biological processes in nature. Other teams plan to address lightweight construction materials for wind turbines and automotive construction.

A scientific committee of representatives from the three campuses and BASF scientists will advise the consortium. University participants on the committee are George Whitesides and Dave Weitz of Harvard Robert Langer and Mary Boyce of MIT, and Todd Emrick and Alan Lesser of UMass Amherst. The North American Center for Research on Advanced Materials is based on a five-year collaboration between BASF and Harvard University that Harvard says involved 13 of its research groups and resulted in advances in the study of biofilms, as well as of chemical formulations for drugs, foods, and cosmetics.

Christian Fischer, president of BASF’s Advanced Materials and Systems Research division, says, “I am convinced that BASF’s market oriented materials and systems researchers, together with the outstanding scientists at the American universities, make up the ideal team for seeking out technically and economically viable solutions.”

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