The future of materials manufacturing in Alabama will be shaped by the skilled scholars and students working in a newly dedicated center of excellence at the UAB School of Engineering, says the executive in charge of economic development for the state.
Neal Wade, director of the Alabama Development Office, made the statement Aug. 24 when the ribbon was cut to officially open the UAB Materials Processing and Application Development Center, or MPAD, a facility where UAB will help industry design and test new materials, technologies and applications.
"Companies that don't want to spend extra dollars in this economic time on research and development can now look to UAB to conduct tests and develop new materials," Wade says.
"This center is the real deal. They have an unparalleled level of intellect here and are operating state-of-the-art equipment to work in the most advanced areas of composite and metal materials research," he says.
Home to a 6,000 square-foot composite materials laboratory and 9,000 square-foot metals laboratory, MPAD, which operates out of the UAB Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is the largest academic research facility of its kind in the country.
"Having both composites and metals research under one roof is extremely rare," says Linda Lucas, Ph.D., dean of the UAB School of Engineering. "We will be able to develop new materials and new processing technologies and methods for various applications all in one location."
MPAD's metals lab is still in its equipment installation phase, but by late fall will begin to discover and test new metals and alloys for improved, safer vehicle armor, among other projects. The lab will be capable of pouring 500-pound test castings, significantly larger than traditional test samples fashioned at most U.S. universities.
The MPAD composites lab was established in 2004 and already has built a strong research reputation with the development of new materials for use in military missile systems and new compounds to create lighter-weight seats, access doors, roof covers and frames for municipal buses to make fleets more fuel efficient.
"You have a rare intersection at MPAD of research and development spinning out new products and services that will benefit existing business, and this facility can be used as a tool to recruit new business, too," says Barry Copeland the interim director of the Birmingham Business Alliance.
The leader of Alabama's economic development efforts agrees.
"When you put that whole package together, MPAD at UAB can really make a difference, bringing new investment to the state and leading metals and composite materials development into the next generation," says Wade.