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New Center Expands Materials Research Partnerships with Industry

A new Center for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics, supported by the National Science Foundation and co-located at Penn State University and North Carolina State University, will build on and expand the research capabilities of Penn State's long-running Center for Dielectrics Studies.

by Penn State
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Multilayer ceramic capacitors, a key component of many consumer electronics and automotive products.Image credit: nepp.nasa.govThe new center is an NSF multi-university Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, with 18 inaugural industry partners. The NSF will provide $830,000 over five years to support operations and infrastructure, with additional funding coming from member companies and organizations.

"The timing was right to build for a longer term future by establishing many new partnerships and leveraging old partnerships that are undergoing change themselves," said Professor Clive Randall, who directed the CDS for 16 years and serves as co-director of the new center.

For more than 30 years, the CDS maintained an international reputation for helping industry improve materials and manufacturability in multilayer ceramic capacitors, a key component of many consumer electronics and automotive products.

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The new center will expand its outreach to industry and move into new fields of research with multidisciplinary teams at both universities engaging in research in advanced dielectrics and piezoelectrics. The center's results will transfer to CDP members to support new products and processes. Areas of research are expected to include high energy-density electrochemical capacitors for power electronics and the energy grid; dielectrics with low-temperature processing for flexible electronics -- an anticipated $250 billion market by 2025; capacitors for extreme environments; polymer nanocomposite dielectrics to enhance energy storage density and improve insulation for power distribution; and piezotronic transistors, a possible replacement for silicon-based electronics.

"Materials for high temperature capacitors are key to developing next generation power devices, such as the devices that are the focus of the Next Generation Power Electronics National Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which was announced by President Obama at NC State in January," said Beth Dickey, director of the CDP and professor of materials science and engineering at NC State.

Faculty experts from Penn State will come from the departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Engineering Science and Mechanics, Mechanical Engineering, Energy and Mineral Engineering and Electrical Engineering.

"The teams at Penn State and NC State have a robust history of collaboration between institutions, as well as with industry," Susan Trolier-McKinstry, professor of materials science and engineering, Penn State. "The combination of materials expertise brought by the participants with the excellent characterization and fabrication facilities available offers the opportunity to bring about major advances. We look forward to being able to move this field forward with our industry partners."