With three years of funding now concluded, team members in the Research Commercialization Program (RCP) Composites grant are adding up their successes and the knowledge gained. Funded through the Ohio Department of Development’s Third Frontier program (ODOD OTF), team technical co-lead, Teresa Wagner was pleased with the progress on all three of the Composites RCP market areas: energy, transportation, and survivability. Wagner, Leader of CSB Pioneering Technologies at Owens Corning
Science and Technology (S&T) center in Granville, OH, shared program research leadership with Dr. Rob Banerjee, VP for Business Development at WebCore Technologies, LLC
in Miamisburg, OH. Steve Mitchell, who retired from GE Aviation in Cincinnati and then transitioned to the University of Dayton Research Institute
(UDRI) during the term of the RCP, also played a key role in project management and deployment.
The overall RCP was funded for $8MM, but received a cost share pledge of an additional ~$8.1MM. In early 2011, the RCP was responsible for creating 44 for-profit jobs and 8 not-for-profit jobs while retaining 20 Ohio jobs. Approximately two-thirds of the total jobs were related to manufacturing and the remaining jobs were tied to research and development.
“Sharell Mikesell, co-director of the Center for Multifunctional Polymer Nanomaterials and Devices (CMPND) at The Ohio State University
(Ohio State) was the program manager and overall lead for the project,” Wagner reported. “He coordinated the efforts of all team members, including Owens Corning, WebCore, Ohio State, and UDRI – which were the principal investigators. Also named in the proposal were the National Composites Center
(NCC), GE Aviation, and NanoSperse
In addition to serving as director of the central Industry Liaison Office at Ohio State
, Mikesell also served as co-director for The Wright Center for Multifunctional Nanomaterials and Devices (CMPND) during its tenure as focal point for organizing and managing two RCPs and numerous other nanotechnology industry collaborative activities. CMPND also was responsible for creating 15 jobs in Ohio for-profit companies, helping retain 58 workers through infusing technology and collaborating with their parent companies, and creating 15 not-for-profit jobs.
The excellent results of the two RCPs, one in Composites and the other in Polyimides have made major strides towards commercialization of new technologies and materials. These two efforts created 149 jobs and retained 98 jobs in Ohio. These two programs have been responsible for $345MM in sales and $214 in new funds gained. Further, these two efforts have led to 60 patent filings, been the impetus for starting seven companies, and attracted two companies to set up business in Ohio.
“Our activities during these very important years (beginning in 2007 and ending in 2010) were benefitted by funding coming at a very critical time when we wanted to qualify a new material,” said Banerjee. “It was a big deal for us and for nanomaterials to break into wind energy technology, especially for a small company like WebCore.” He explained, “The RCP was our first funding, and it was both good timing and a great opportunity to work with Owens Corning. We found that both Owens Corning and WebCore had very similar goals, and it was an ideal collaboration.”
The Composites RCP was set up to include an advisory committee that reviewed projects in the thrust areas, to help guide the efforts toward commercialization of products into the marketplace.
“The funds that Owens Corning invested helped commercialize our High Performance Reinforcement products and kick-start a family of next-generation products,” Wagner explained. “The RCP efforts also created jobs, particularly engineers and technicians at the Owens Corning S&T facility, where we set up a pilot plant that needed staffing.” The technical developments in this RCP helped to build a knowledge base for Owens Corning to take a huge forward leap in incorporating nanotechnology into new products.” She explained, “When the RCP began, we were able to support the material qualification and application development work streams needed to drive new business. Due to the RCP funding, several S-glass products, our next-generation offerings, were conceived, developed and commercialized in material security (ballistic armor) and transportation applications. So much has happened.”
Banerjee said, “For us, Owens Corning was a primary supplier. We used their standard fiberglass product, not one of their specialty glass products like WindStrand® roving. We incorporate the fiberglass into our product, TYCOR® core material, and thus, both the WebCore and Owens Corning materials were used to make wind turbine blades.” The resulting blades were qualified by Mitsubishi for their products, WebCore received ISO certification and German certification for its composite core products, and WebCore also collaborated with three Ohio companies to further develop and commercialize composite towers for utility-scale wind turbines.
He added that for the transportation focus of the RCP, his company was working on a product for rail car flooring, but the downturn economy halted production. “When the market recovers, which has not yet fully occurred, we hope to continue development and marketing of the product.” He added, “Here, even though we didn’t move the product to market yet, the RCP was instrumental in a most tangible collaboration, especially with Owens Corning,” said Banerjee.
In the survivability thrust, led by Dave Hartman at Owens Corning, the collaborators’ intent was to commercialize novel materials and processing technologies for light-weight ballistic armor systems for tactical vehicles plus bring the jobs, revenue growth, and wealth creation from such a project to Ohio. This thrust area succeeded in developing a flat panel using Owens Corning ShieldStrand® fabric for interior and exterior armor modules and also developed complex shaped armor for integrated structural composite vehicle components. Multiple qualifying tests were conducted on the components with high success ratings.
“One very interesting outcome of our collaboration resulted from our focus on nanomaterials,” Banerjee said. “Working with CMPND at Ohio State, we tried a series of experiments to determine whether we could incorporate nanomaterials into our product. A truly sincere effort was made on behalf of both parties, but in the end, we decided that for now, we did not achieve a final product that was both commercially viable and technological feasible.”
At UDRI, a variety of projects launched and transitioned nano-composite materials into new product applications, said Mitchell. “Our projects fell into three categories, nano-composite tooling, nano-erosion-resistant vanes, and nano-composite enclosure components,” said Mitchell. “First, we nano-enriched a molding compound to provide an affordable, rugged, moldable compound usable for tooling in a variety of processes, then delivered the material to numerous suppliers for evaluation.
“Secondly, we approached the critical need for jet engine vanes with superior erosion resistance with a nano-enriched airfoil surface. We succeeded in launching this concept, which has been proved viable.
“Thirdly, we happened to have excellent timing in discussing a project with the U.S. Navy for building strengthened housing for on-ship turbine engines. RCP colleagues decided to allow this project into the RCP, and we developed and successfully tested the nano-composite material, initially for the door on this enclosure.”
The erosion resistant coating project with GE Aviation was so successful that it led to the development of a whole series of nano-enhanced multifunctional coatings, which served as the basis of a new RCP project, “Protective Integrated Coatings for Extreme Environments,” led by UDRI. These functional coatings leveraged partnerships and applications in aerospace, wind, and transportation as a way to accelerate transition to commercialization.
Ohio State (specifically Drs. Jim Lee and Jose Castro) and Nanomaterial Innovation Ltd. (NIL) participated in the RCP by developing nano-reinforced fiber preforms and foam core materials and technologies for advanced composite applications.
Lee said, “One of our key accomplishments was developing a vacuum-assisted spray method at Ohio State, which allows fast deposition of nanoparticles, such a carbon nanofibers and carbon nanotubes into glass fiber mats and fabrics, such as those used in Owens Corning WindStrand roving products.”
The mats showed excellent properties, such as erosion protection and de-icing potential. Ohio State has won two National Science Foundation Small Business Phase I grants based on the RCP work.
Ohio State, in collaboration with NIL and Owens Corning, also developed a carbon dioxide and water co-blowing agent technique to produce “green” polystyrene foams. These nano-composites achieved high strength at light weights. Two patents have been filed on this work and NIL has been spun off from Ohio State, and is now employing three FTE engineers and two part-time staff.
“The overall collaboration generated by the RCP and supported by CMPND’s team building, management, and coordination function had several very important non-technical outcomes,” Banerjee said. “We got some very positive exposure and visibility from ODOD, and that relationship helped us win additional financial support. We also developed a team of program collaborators that includes Owens Corning, UDRI, and our company (WebCore), and together we are looking at composite materials for wind turbine towers – a new effort.”
“Most significant for us, the RCP became a model for us to work in different ways, with an outstanding group of external partners and university contacts,” said Wagner. “Our connections and the progress made through the RCP collaborations led Owens Corning to support further internal investment. So what started with the RCP will now expand into a major future initiative for our company.”
Owens Corning (NYSE: OC) is a leading global producer of residential and commercial building materials, glass-fiber reinforcements and engineered materials for composite systems. A Fortune® 500 Company for 57 consecutive years, Owens Corning is committed to driving sustainability by delivering solutions, transforming markets and enhancing lives. Founded in 1938, Owens Corning is a market-leading innovator of glass-fiber technology with sales of $5 billion in 2010 and about 15,000 employees in 28 countries on five continents. Additional information is available at www.owenscorning.com.
WebCore Technologies, LLC, was founded in 1991 to develop a low-cost structural core material engineered to enable optimized structural sandwich panels for better performance, reduced cost, and easier manufacturing. The entrepreneurial team invented a patented fiber reinforced composite core material called TYCOR®. The product’s broad design flexibility enables efficient engineering and performance characteristics that can be tailored to the needs of a wide range of very demanding applications and markets. The company works closely with industry leaders and partners to advance the use of composite sandwich structures as a robust solution for today’s changing marketplace.
NanoSperse is a design and manufacturing company dedicated to improving durability, reliability and functionality of defense, aerospace, and industrial composites. NanoSperse’s specialization is uniform dispersion of nanomaterials used as feedstocks for advanced composites. Consistent, uniform dispersion of nano particles is critical to achieve thermal, electrical, and mechanical performance in the next generation of advanced composites. NanoSperse supplies custom intermediate resin and polymer systems as required by its customers. NanoSperse has obtained patent licenses, and IP from the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), the second largest federally funded materials research organization in the US. The partnership transitions advanced materials from prototypes into products in NanoSperse’s facility at the National Composites Center (NCC) in Kettering, OH.
The University of Dayton Research Institute is the research arm of the University of Dayton, located in Dayton, Ohio. UDRI is a national leader in scientific and engineering research, serving government, industry, and not-for-profit customers. Its full-time professional staff of engineers and scientists conduct research and provide support in a wide variety of technical areas. UDRI works with its customers on many levels, ranging from short-term projects completed on an as-needed basis, through contractual partnering or teaming relationships, to working side-by-side with our customers in multi-million dollar long-term contracts.