Materials Science


The general field of Materials Science involves the examination of all classes of materials from an interdisciplinary viewpoint with an emphasis on making connections between the underlying structure and the processing, properties, and performance of a material. Advances in materials science have resulted in "made to order" materials where exacting control of the most fundamental microscopic processes (referred to as nanotechnology) result in unique applications. Economic development based on the application of materials science to nanotechnological challenges and new product development has led to the creation of Missouri State's Center for Applied Science and Engineering (CASE). CASE's focus is to apply materials science technologies to product development for corporate affiliates and for interdisciplinary learning experiences.

Missouri State's emphasis in Materials Science is on discovering and applying new nanotechnologies driven by commercial interest with a focus on remediation materials, electronic materials, and biomaterials that have unique properties when exposed to the Biological, Chemical, Physical, and FAR IR spectrums through hardening, particle detection, and collective response mechanisms. In addition to the traditional sciences, many opportunities in applying new materials science nanotechnologies involve novel manufacturing, management, and marketing approaches.


Examples of major trends and opportunities in extramural funding

Opportunities for funding in this area are excellent as a result of new demands for advanced technology materials manufacturers to develop new burgeoning defense, homeland security, and biomedical applications. This need is amplified from an economic development perspective by the vacuum caused by the offshore relocation of computer materials and electronics manufacturers.

For example, CASE has received commitments for $25,352,395 in external grants, contracts, lease agreements, and affiliate agreements in the past three years. Furthermore CASE has been authorized to receive an additional $36,900,000 in the FY06 Department of Defense authorization bill. (Typically CASE receives about 20% of the authorized amount due to budget cuts.) In addition, the Materials Science faculty in Department of Physics, Astronomy, and, Materials Science has received over $320,000 in external grants in the past three years. Many other faculty members from the Departments of Industrial Management, Chemistry, and Biology have also received funding for Materials Science related projects.


Examples of areas of knowledge you anticipate will experience the most dramatic growth

Nanotechnology remediation materials, electronic materials, and biomaterials and their application in advanced technology equipment are driving economic growth in terms of new high value, low volume manufacturing opportunities.

"Nanotechnology is expected to have an impact on nearly every industry. The U.S. National Science Foundation has predicted that the global market for nanotechnologies will reach $1 trillion or more within 20 years. The research community is actively pursuing hundreds of applications in nanomaterials, nanoelectronics, and bionanotechnology. Most near term (1-5 years) applications of nanotechnology are in the form of nanomaterials. These include materials such as lighter and stronger nanocomposites, antibacterial nanoparticles, and nanostructured catalysts. Nanodevices and nanoelectronics are farther off, perhaps 5-15 years, and will have applications in medical treatments and diagnostics, faster computers, and in sensors." – from American Elements Inc.

Most of these new business opportunities are in small research and development companies created to eventually transfer the technology to advanced manufacturers. The advanced manufacturers will create most of the new jobs that will fuel the nation's economy for the next generation. For example, some of the initial corporate affiliates of CASE have been acquired by much larger manufacturing companies (to the great financial benefit of the relatively few original employees) to move the product development process to actual production.

Unique Resources:

Examples of unique existing resources as well as current needs in Missouri, the Ozarks, and/or Springfield regarding economic development, technological advances, cultural enrichment, physical well-being, and/or social prosperity

Much of the internal and external funding that Missouri State's materials science and nanotechnology projects have received has gone into developing a very unique and state of the art infrastructure. This infrastructure includes renovated space in Kemper and Temple Halls, new equipment facilities in CASE and the departments of Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Industrial Management and Physics, Astronomy, and Materials Science, and funding for a new academic/corporate research and development building in downtown Springfield called the Jordan Valley Innovation Center (JVIC).

Equipment facilities include very unique systems for the synthesis and characterization of materials that can be used in high value applications. A few specific examples include Class 10,000, 1,000, and 100 clean rooms, micro-device fabrication facilities, a wide range of advanced technology microscopy equipment including atomic force microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy, a state of the art nuclear magnetic resonance system, and new types machine tool equipment including wire EDM and laser cutting systems.

With these unique facilities Missouri State is positioned to claim a program or programs in materials science that, when combined with the proper faculty expertise could reasonably be characterized as world class. Faculty retention and depth in these areas continues to be an issue.


Examples of new collaborations in research and/or learning as well as linkages to the University's existing and emerging research strengths

Missouri State's collaboration programs in materials science have, to date, been concentrated through CASE. These include both internal and external collaboration.

External collaboration has involved elements from the community for example MOU's with the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the Springfield Business Development Corporation, and the City of Springfield, the state, with support for corporate affiliates located within southwest Missouri, Kansas City, and St. Louis areas, and the country with additional corporate affiliates and a new teaming agreement with New Mexico Tech.

Internal collaboration is a requirement. Materials Science is by definition an interdisciplinary field which involves many classical sciences and business. Some of the departments that CASE collaborates with are mentioned above. But interdisciplinary collaboration across departmental and college boundaries is a challenge at any academic institution and Missouri State is no exception.


Examples of building on existing strengths

There are a number of policies and support groups that have made Missouri State's Materials Science programs a success. First, are policies adopted by CASE that are extremely business friendly. These include fast contract negotiation, corporate retention of project associated intellectual property, and research focused on applied product development. Support groups include legislators at the city, state, and national level that recognize that Springfield is at the right time and place for programs supporting advanced technology industry. Many other cities the size of Springfield have business incubator programs that attempt to accomplish similar goals.

Mission Fit:

Examples of compatibility with the University's statewide mission in public affairs

The development of the Materials Science programs across campus will have a significant impact on the economic development of our community. CASE is designed to work with our community to use Materials Science technologies and infrastructure as a magnet to draw advanced technology industry to the Springfield Area and create new jobs. In communicating with many of our federal, state, and local representatives, the message that we have received is that CASE is a model for how a university should interact with a community for the benefit of the state. Unfortunately, many state funded programs at academic institutions have little or no direct benefit for the local community or state.

Education Fit:

Examples of contributions to superior undergraduate, graduate, and professional education

Part of the opportunity for Materials Science interdisciplinary programs (including CASE) is that these efforts will educate individuals so that they can efficiently perform the tasks which make companies competitive in a rapidly changing advanced technology world. We will give our students experience in using complex industrial and research equipment and in techniques in order to minimize differences between corporate employment and academic preparation.

Many of our students are first generation college students who will benefit greatly from this applied approach to education, where advanced technology skills are added to core theoretical knowledge. Most students have a strong desire to witness the theory applied to "real world" applications. For many of them, the question is: "What's it good for?" We will answer this question while training the students in advanced laboratory environments. Our graduates will have the ability to work in the commercial and industrial laboratories which require practical experience in nanotech materials synthesis, preparation and characterization. Graduates will be able to operate instruments and design materials to enhance commercial or industrial capabilities.


Sustainability and sustained funding depends on three parameters: keeping our facilities up to date, building faculty depth and expertise in the relevant fields, and finding ways to support interdisciplinary programs within traditional university management. With the addition of the Jordan Valley Innovation Center the facilities for Materials Science scholarship should remain superior for at least ten years. Faculty depth and expertise remain a challenge since compensation is generally not sufficient to retain expert faculty. Interdisciplinary programs continue to be a low priority for colleges where the bottom line is CHP/FTE and resources are jealously protected by individual units for their "own" programs and students.