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Polymer Nanocomposites

Center of Economic Excellence



Award Amount

$3.5 million

External Funding Above Match

$17.3 million

Research Focus

Development of synthetic tools needed to precisely control the environment or interface between nanoparticles and polymer matrix applicable to optics, electronics, biological, medical, and structural material applications.

University Partner

University of South Carolina

Private Sector Partner

PBI Performance Products, Michelin North American, BASF, United States Navy

Research at the Polymer Nanocomposites Center focuses on developing improved materials for the polymers market. The plastics industry in South Carolina currently accounts for approximately five percent of the Gross State Product of goods and services. This Center is aiming to transform the plastics industry and thus have a major impact on the state’s manufacturing economy.

A research consortium is being formed to evaluate the potential applications of inorganic and organic-modified inorganic nanomaterials to improve the performance of a variety of polyester (PET) polymers used in the food packaging industry; South Carolina is a national leader in production of these polymers. The Center is also involved in evaluating and improving the gas barrier properties of PET as embodied in a patent portfolio donated to the University of South Carolina (USC) by Eastman Chemical Company.

The Center is one of few national academic groups to have a complete system for making PET nanocomposites by in situ polymerization. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded research funding to the Center to construct and evaluate polymer nanocomposite structures for application in high-energy storage devices. The Center anticipates further partnerships with several South Carolina capacitor companies, including KEMET and AVX.

From 2007–10, the Center received $600,000 in research funding from the National Science Foundation for a Partnership for Innovation project. Partner companies in the project included Michelin, MeadWestvaco, and PBI Performance Products. BASF has granted research funding to this Center to develop the next generation of high temperature fuel cell membranes.

SmartState Endowed Chair Dr. Brian Benicewicz’s work in high-temperature fuel cell membranes has resulted in a research contract with BASF, which has developed fuel cell units being used in European homes and portable power devices. Dr. Benicewicz’s work with polymer nanocomposites has resulted in new materials for electronics, optical and other industrial applications.

Work from this Center has led to the creation of a startup company, Parallel Permeation, Inc.

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