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ATOMIC vision to move from Phase I to Phase II of the program. IMAGE: Penn State MRI

The Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings (ATOMIC), a center focused on the study and development of 2D materials that is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) project, is preparing to move from Phase I to Phase II of the program.

In Phase II, ATOMIC would receive slightly less funding from NSF and would need to add more member companies as collaborative partners. Led by Penn State’s Materials Research Institute (MRI), the center has been operated in collaboration with Rice University in Houston and is also adding a third research site at Boise State University.

The center’s focus is the design and development of 2D coatings, which are one-atom thick materials, that have unique properties that make then suitable for a variety of industrial and research applications. These include developing the fundamental platform for new technologies dealing with corrosion, oxidation and abrasion resistance, friction and wear, energy storage/harvesting, multifunctional sensors and actuators, anti-bacterial, anti-fouling, and catalysis.

The center enables Penn State, Rice, and now Boise State to run high reward projects in world-class research facilities that can result in shared intellectual property from these projects being available to the center’s industry and university members. Additional advantages include improved talent scouting, cutting-edge materials development insights, more networking opportunities, and relationship building with three premier universities.

"We are extremely excited about moving to Phase II as the new phase now includes Boise State as a new site, and companies working on electronics and devices will be joining,” said Mauricio Terrones, director of ATOMIC, Penn State Verne M. Willaman Professor of Physics and distinguished professor of physics, chemistry, and materials science and engineering. “This demonstrates the solid foundations built during ATOMIC Phase-I regarding the reliable synthesis of 2D materials, that are now mature for building multifunctional electronic devices and sensors. Therefore, now we will be maturing innovative technologies that are closer to markets and with higher technology readiness levels."

Adding Boise State as a third research site requires ATOMIC to add more member companies, a challenge given the difficulties in recruiting and retaining members due to pandemic-control restrictions on travel and meetings. However, according to David Fecko, MRI director of industry research collaborations, Boise State brings specific capabilities to the table.

“One example is Boise state has a lot of expertise in development of inks using 2D materials, and in application of the inks by numerous ink-jet printing capabilities,” Fecko said. “These processes find particular usefulness in high-volume manufacturing situations such as roll-to-roll processing of flexible electronics.”

Center membership for phase II is $45,000 per year for full members. Associate members are half the cost, with half of the voting power on projects. New projects are proposed by site university faculty/student teams and selected by vote by the center’s industry advisory board. Each industry member has a seat on advisory board.

“We are excited about the next chapter in ATOMIC, especially with the continued partnership of Rice and the addition of Boise State University that will continue to expand our expertise in 2D materials and coatings,” Joshua Robinson, co-director of ATOMIC and Penn State associate professor of materials science and engineering. “Our members are always looking for the next breakthroughs in coating technology, and Boise brings a new angle to creating next generation coatings via printing.”

Along with Terrones and Robinson running the Penn State ATOMIC site, the Boise State site director is David Estrada and the Rice site director is Jun Lou. Companies interested in becoming an industry partner can contact Fecko at dlf5023@psu.edu.