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Jan. 9, 2015

MSU assumes leadership role in national composite-materials venture

With more than 25 years of research excellence in the field of composite materials, Michigan State University was tapped by President Barack Obama to be a core partner in a national consortium designed to advance research and development in this all-important field.

MSU will lead the light-and-heavy-duty vehicle component of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, or IACMI, a 122-member consortium funded by a more than $70 million commitment over five years from the U.S. Department of Energy.

MSU is home to the Composite Materials and Structures Center, as well as the Composite Vehicles Research Center. Both have long been nationally recognized as leaders in the field.

“These two world-class facilities will serve as the foundation for future work in this program,” said Lawrence Drzal, director of the MSU Composite Materials and Structures Center, who will serve as director of the Michigan Center of Excellence for the newly formed institute. “We’re confident the IACMI will create new jobs, support the expansion of companies and educate technicians and engineers for these industries.”

Drzal, a University Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering and materials science, was to share the stage with Obama today when creation of the institute was announced.

The institute will focus on advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites, materials that combine strong fibers with strong plastics that are lighter and stronger than even steel.

The advancement of composite-material research is particularly important in the state of Michigan. These materials are crucial to the auto industry, which continues to look for ways to manufacture vehicles that are fuel-efficient and safe.

Five other states will be a part of the project – Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, Kentucky and Tennessee. Leading the project will be the University of Tennessee - Knoxville.

In Michigan, MSU will serve as the primary academic partner, while working closely with corporate partners, including the Dow Chemical Co., Ford Motor Co., TARDEC, General Dynamics Land Systems and many others. In addition, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. has committed to provide $15 million in matching funds to the Michigan portion of the institute.

“Michigan State University has long set the standard for research in the field of composite materials, and we are proud to be a part of this national endeavor,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.

“We are grateful for Dr. Drzal’s leadership, the leadership of our faculty and the continued congressional support that gives us the opportunity to have these kinds of programs,” she said. “We appreciate the invaluable contribution from the MEDC that helped to make this a reality.”

Leo Kempel, dean of the MSU College of Engineering, said it’s only natural that MSU would take a lead role in this project.

“Polymer composites are one of the most transformational technologies on the horizon for reducing the weight of vehicles, whether it’s automobiles, trucks, trains or aircraft,” he said. “In concert with our partners, MSU will advance knowledge in this critical area.”

Composite materials also are important in the development of efficient power generation and the increase of renewable power production.

Fore more information on the IACMI, visit

MSU’s Composite Materials and Structures Center is one of the foremost facilities for the study of polymer composites and is internationally recognized for its contributions to composite science and engineering. For more information, visit

The Composite Vehicle Research Center focuses on research and design of composite structures for lightweight, durable, and safe vehicles for air, ground, and marine transportation. For more information, visit


By: Tom Oswald