UAB, BBA partner to win prestigious $600,000 NSF Partnership for Innovation grant

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will support a UAB/Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) collaboration through a $600,000 Partnership for Innovation (PFI) grant, which has the potential to enhance and create more knowledge-based jobs in the Birmingham region through UAB startups and spin-off companies.

yogesh vohra fYogesh VohraThis is one of only 17 PFI grants awarded this year, and the first ever given in the state of Alabama. PFI grants encourage academic and industry partners to work together on research discoveries to bolster U.S. competitiveness or provide a solution to a national and/or global problem.

The grant will support a synthetic diamond research project — “Innovations in Chemical Vapor Deposited Diamond Crystals and Nanostructured Diamond Coatings” — and it represents a significant milestone in a growing strategic trend of collaborative efforts between the BBA and UAB.

Developments in the synthesis of diamond over the last three decades have made it possible to grow different types of diamond on various surfaces. UAB and the BBA will team with Almax-easy Lab, Onyx Optics and Vista Engineering to develop: new diamond-based sensors that can work in the most extreme environments, like deep below the ground in gas and oil drilling or in space exploration; new diamond-coated laser media that will create industrial- and medical-laser applications; and next-generation, diamond-coated biomedical implants that will last twice as long as existing implants.

“The increase in lifespan of biomedical implants will improve the quality of life for millions of Americans and reduce the need for revision surgeries,” said the study’s principal investigator (PI) Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., University Scholar and professor in the Department of Physics and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. “The diamond-coated laser media, with minimal loss and high damage threshold, will enable new laser applications in industry and medicine.”

UAB faculty, graduate students and staff have made significant scientific discoveries in the field of synthetic diamond, and this NSF-PFI grant provides timely support to conduct translational research to overcome key technological barriers to commercialization.

Read more about the partnership.

Economic Development