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August 23rd, 2012

BP to invest $100M in new international advanced materials center

Published on August 23rd, 2012 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

The University of Manchester seems to still be striving to make the school an international materials research Mecca. Most recently, Manchester and BP jointly announced that the latter will provide £64 million ($100 million) over 10 years to the school to create a multi-institutional international research center to develop materials for energy and industrial applications.

Henceforth known as the BP International Center for Advanced Materials, the program should provide a nice boost to materials researchers and students at a time when many jobs are very insecure. BP and the university predict BP-ICAM will support 25 new academic posts, 100 postgraduate researchers and 80 postdocs during the decade.

According to a school press release, the center will have a hub-and-spoke structure similar to the new graphene research center I wrote about late last year. In this case, Manchester’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences will serve as the “hub,” and University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as the “spokes.” If I read the release correctly, Manchester justifies serving as the hub by bragging that it “has core strengths in materials, engineering, characterisation, collaborative working, and a track record of delivering breakthrough research and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world.” True or not, Manchester evidently knows how find and connect with the deep-pocket folks, so that is probably justification by itself.

Regardless, BP-ICAM will initially target three broad types of petroleum-sourcing applications: structural materials (high-pressure, high-temperature materials for deepwater production); smart coatings (for resistance to corrosion and other environmental stresses); and membranes and filters (for separation, filtration and purification throughout the petroleum/biofuel production chain).

According to a BP-ICAM “Challenges and Goals” document (pdf),  specific research responsibilities in the above areas are distributed among the four institutions, based on their particular expertise. For example, UIUC will focus on “Self-protecting and self-healing coatings” and “Self-healing adhesives, sealants and fiber-reinforced composite materials.” BP-ICAM is also supposed to eventually encompass research on functional materials, catalysis, energy storage and energy harvesting.

University of Manchester, University of Cambridge, Imperial College and UIUC all have other significant BP-funded research projects and presumably this experience has facilitated their participation in BP-ICAM.


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