Rowan University lands its largest research award

Rowan University lands its largest research award

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Rowan University landed its largest single research award, the South Jersey school announced Wednesday. It was chosen to take the lead on a $14.5 million project for the U.S. Army.

The award adds to Rowan’s rising reputation as a research hub in the region, a goal of University President Ali Houshmand in Rowan’s ongoing transformation. 

“When we began our research mission a few short years ago, this is what we envisioned,” Houshmand said in a statement. 

Through the grant, which comes from the Department of Defense and Army Research Laboratory, Rowan researchers will lead a team of collaborators from both the academic world and the coatings industry to create new materials the Army can use to make military equipment stronger, lighter and more durable.

The materials are being developed using what’s known as “cold-spray” processes that, at the moment, are used to adhere powdered metals to surfaces though a layer-by-layer approach researchers say reduces flaws in applications. The less flaws, the stronger and more durable the materials become. 

The Rowan-led team wants to take this advanced manufacturing technique a step further by developing ways to use the cold-spray process with polymers, not just metals, and is starting with polystyrene, the type of material used to make packing peanuts and egg cartons. After that, the plan is to pursue using additional materials the Army requests. 

“We will work to make materials more quickly, to make them better and easier to repair offsite and, importantly, onsite in the field,” Joe Stanzione, an associate professor of chemical engineering, said in a statement. “That includes everything from parts for tanks and jeeps, to usable tools, and helmets.”

Since the cold-spray manufacturing process is about 30 years old, using it with advanced materials “is still considered wide open,” Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Francis Haas said in a statement, allowing Rowan and its partners to "substantially contribute to the field.”

Stanzione and Haas are among the team of nearly 42 researchers and staff at Rowan who will be working on the Army grant project, from post-doctoral researchers to close to two dozen undergraduates. The team will also include researchers from Pittsburgh-based PPG (NYSE: PPG,) the global paint, coatings and specialty materials company, Drexel University, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Rowan University has seen a significant spike in funded research in recent years, to $39.6 million in 2018 from $9.1 million in 2012. During that same period, the university has seen significant transformation and its student body has grown by 56%. Rowan created a medical school with Cooper University Health Care in 2012 and was named a comprehensive public research university in 2013. 

Last year, Rowan's Yusuf Mehta, a  civil and environmental engineering professor in its Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, secured a $3.4 million award from the Department of Defense to help the Army sustain and improve how it operates in extreme climates.