National Science Foundation awards $15M to Rutgers-led engineering research consortium
By Carl Blesch
Published: May 30, 2006
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Rutgers and three collaborating
universities a $15 million grant to improve the way pharmaceuticals, foods and agricultural products are manufactured.
The five-year grant funds an NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) to enhance the quality and consistency of materials used in drug tablets, processed foods, agrichemicals and other composite organic products. Research will focus on the structure of component materials, including particle shapes and sizes, and forces that bind them together. The center also will study how to efficiently produce structured materials in large quantity. Understanding the nature of these materials will provide a foundation for new manufacturing processes that are more predictable, consistent and cost-effective.
“While these industries have come up with many innovations, such as controlled-release drug tablets, there is still more opportunity to incorporate materials science and engineering methods in manufacturing,” said Fernando Muzzio, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at Rutgers and the grant’s principal investigator. “Today’s products and processes were often developed through costly and time-consuming experimentation. We want to uncover more of the science behind these products and the engineering that goes into making them, so companies can get them to market faster, cut costs and eliminate waste.”
Joining Rutgers in the consortium are the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Purdue University and the University of Puerto Rico. In addition, 28 companies are providing $2.5 million in research funding during the ERC’s first year. Muzzio said the consortium expects to bring in as much as $40 million in additional support over the next 10 years from pharmaceutical and food makers, as well as companies that supply manufacturing and analytical equipment.
“Being selected for this grant affirms that Rutgers and its partners have the talent, resources and breadth of expertise to work across disciplines, such as pharmacy, biomedical engineering, chemistry and manufacturing technology,” said Michael Klein, dean of the School of Engineering at Rutgers. “And when coupled with corporate support, the ERC is a model of collaboration for creating new knowledge and applying it quickly to address societal needs.”
Return to the May 30, 2006 issue