Carbon Science Research Centre of Excellence opens at Innovation Park

November 21, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As an early snowstorm was forcing Penn State to cancel classes and activities at University Park on Nov. 15, Invent Penn State and the Office of Industrial Partnerships were celebrating with industry partner Morgan Advanced Materials the opening of its Carbon Science Centre of Excellence (CoE), a global research and development center based at Innovation Park at Penn State. 

Announced in 2016, the CoE spurred development of a 30,000-square-foot building located at 310 Innovation Boulevard. It is anticipated to employ 15 to 30 doctorate-level staff who will pioneer carbon research in a wide range of industries and engineering applications, including aerospace, medical, power generation and more.

The U.K.-based company brought executives, customers and suppliers from around the globe to tour the cutting-edge facility, which was officially opened with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

“This is truly becoming the place where business, education and research come together in Centre County,” said Jeff Fortin, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Industrial Partnerships.

Penn State’s reputation as a world-renowned institution for carbon and materials science research and its collaborative approach to working with business were key to Morgan selecting Innovation Park as the location of its global R&D center. Penn State’s Materials Research Institute affords the company access to both a Materials Characterization Lab (MCL) and Nanofabrication Lab and offers generous industry programs for research partnership, as well as equipment and facilities use. Morgan already has been working with MCL and the Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings at Penn State.

Among many projects, the company is working on electrified rail products, including carbon current collectors used at the top of train carriages to connect to overhead wires. With the populations of cities worldwide continuing to grow, many municipal governments are looking at ways to add environmentally clean public transportation options, including electric train systems.

“The work undertaken at our facility with Morgan will be truly revolutionary,” said Neil Sharkey, vice president for Research at Penn State. “The electrified rail carbon strips that Morgan is already working on, for example, will change how train transport works, making it both safer and more reliable, and decreasing down time. Our partnership with Morgan places us at the forefront of developing new methodologies, in line with Morgan’s mission and values, as well as our own. Their existing expertise and insights will help our researchers and students turn new ideas into commercially viable solutions. The Centre itself is a huge attraction for other businesses to join the Innovation Park, furthering job creation and economic development in Pennsylvania.”

The Centre of Excellence grand opening signaled a new milestone in achieving the vision set forth by President Eric Barron in the Invent Penn State initiative, designed to spur economic development, job creation and student career success. Morgan Advanced Materials has already hired 14 high-level researchers from numerous countries, including Kenya, China and Peru, four of whom are Penn State graduates. That number is expected to double in upcoming years.

“Our Centres of Excellence ensure Morgan remains at the forefront of materials development on a global scale,” said Morgan Advanced Materials CEO Pete Raby. “In addition to helping us create world-leading materials, our partnership with Penn State also allows us to recruit some of the best talent in carbon science and provide unrivaled training to our technologists and engineers.”

While specializing in carbon science materials, the CoE also can be utilized by Morgan’s wider businesses, and so far it has become the home of research projects for the company’s thermal ceramics, technical ceramics, and metals and joining businesses. The Penn State CoE is the fourth of its kind globally, joining Morgan's Metals and Joining CoE in Hayward, California, and its U.K.-based Insulating Fibre CoE and Structural Ceramics CoE. Morgan has six manufacturing sites in Pennsylvania, three that are carbon-related, with locations in Latrobe, St. Marys, Coudersport, Wilkes-Barre, East Stroudsburg, and Allentown.

Morgan Advanced Materials said it has increased its commitment to R&D in recent years, adding 10 million pounds per year to its research expenditures.

“We’re incredibly proud to have launched this ground-breaking Centre of Excellence with Penn State. It marks an important milestone in both organizations’ history, as we both strive for excellence and understanding of the properties and uses of carbon,” said Mike Murray, chief technology officer at Morgan Advanced Materials. “With brilliant science minds on our doorstep, we hope the synergies created between us can accelerate our engineering and solutions for our customers, while benefiting more and more industries going forward.”

Last Updated November 21, 2018