North Dakota SUNRISE Receives National Science Foundation OK For UND Research Site

The University of North Dakota, in collaboration with several other universities, recently got approval from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand the Center for Integration of Composites into Infrastructure (CICI), an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research (I/UCR) Center.

The project will  add a supplemental site at UND. The cooperating institutions are West Virginia State University, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, University of Miami and North Carolina State University.

CICI’s vision is to advance composite science and technology, expand the use of composites in infrastructure, and provide educational opportunities to current and future engineers. The UND site will be administered through the SUNRISE BioProducts State Funded Center of Excellence (COE). SUNRISE BioProducts, one of North Dakota’s state-sponsored Centers of Excellence, focuses on the research, development and commercialization of renewable chemicals, polymers and composite materials.

“The UND CICI site is a key strategic component to the SUNRISE BioProducts COE,” said Center Director Wayne Seames, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at UND. “This site will insure that the Center continues its mission to contribute to the economic development of North Dakota for the next decade and beyond.”

To date, 17 companies and two government agencies have expressed interest in the UND site.  The new members will join the more than 30 CICI members participating through sites located at the lead university, West Virginia State University, as well as at Rutgers, the University of Miami and North Carolina State University.

“While many of these companies have roots in North Dakota, others will be introduced to our state, and its many business opportunities through the UND CICI site,” Seames said. “This program also opens the door to closer research collaborations between UND faculty and researchers at the other four CICI universities.”

“On behalf of all the CICI members, including our Industry Advisory Board, we welcome UND to the center,” said CICI Director Hota GangaRao.  “We are very excited to partner with UND because of their fundamental interest in advancing biomass-based composites for infrastructure applications. This work fits in well with our Center’s theme. All the university participants as well as our industry partners are looking forward to a productive partnership with UND in developing sustainable polymer composites for infrastructure applications and the consequent reduction in the carbon foot print.”

The UND CICI site can continue to grow in the future.

“We hope to attract additional potential partners from other infrastructure-related industries, such as those that serve airports and that provide materials for flood mitigation,” said Brian Tande, co-principal investigator on the project and a faculty member in the UND Department of Chemical Engineering. “We also hope to become a leading center for testing new road and bridge building materials under extremely cold conditions.”

A unique feature of the I/UCRC program is its emphasis on industry-driven research.  Researchers work closely with the members to design the projects that will be studied.  These projects must be approved by the CICI members before the center’s researchers can work on them.  This insures that the members receive maximum benefit for their subscription fees. Student training is also a key component of the program, which requires that the bulk of the research be conducted by graduate students.

“The student-centered research requirement aligns with UND’s mission,” said Michael Mann, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and associate dean for research in the UND College of Engineering and Mines. Mann also is a faculty participant in UND’s CICI site. “As a mid-sized research university, UND’s priority is using research as a training tool to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers for future careers in the application of research for the good of society.”

The mission of the CICI is to accelerate the adoption of polymer composites into infrastructure and transportation applications through a collaborative research partnership of academia, government and industry.

Research is focused on fundamental scientific topics concerning composites such as strength/service life predictions, smart structure development, fire/blast protection, fatigue response, aging phenomenon and nondestructive testing.  The CICI works to develop new and unique products that can be made through a wide variety of processes for which numerous market opportunities exist. By adding UND to the CICI, the research scope will be expanded to include: 1) renewable polymers and composites for use in CICI relevant applications, 2) natural and renewable filler materials for composites, and 3) characterization of emissions generated during fires from composite infrastructure materials. These new capabilities complement existing CICI capabilities, strengthening the center for the future.

About the SUNRISE BioProducts Center of Excellence
Initiated in January, 2009 the SUNRISE BioProducts Center of Excellence is a multi-university (UND, North Dakota State, Mayville State), multi-disciplinary COE that focuses on translating fundamental research related to renewable materials into commercially relevant technologies for the production of renewable chemicals, polymers, and composite materials.

About ND SUNRISE (Sustainable Energy Research Initiative and Supporting Education)
ND SUNRISE is a student-centered, faculty-organized supercluster consisting of 38 faculty in 13 academic departments at the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, and Mayville State University.  ND SUNRISE research focuses on three areas: the technologies to enable the environmentally sustainable use of coal, the production of fuels, chemicals, polymers, and composites from renewable sources, and the harvesting of energy from diffuse sources (wind/solar/hydrogen).

Juan Miguel Pedraza, National Media Relations Coordinator, UND Office of University Relations, 701.777.6571 (office), 701.740-.1321 (cell),

Wayne Seames, Director, SUNRISE BioProducts Center of Excellence, 701-777-2958,