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Transatlantic partners invest $5m in diamond R&D center

22 Oct 2015

Michigan State University and Fraunhofer IWS expand US devices and coatings center as applications grow.

Whether for photonics or electronics applications or simply for their legendary mechanical properties, diamonds are rapidly emerging as one of the most interesting materials for device developers.

The special capabilities of this enduring carbon allotrope – whose name is derived from the Greek for unbreakable – enable certain devices to perform under extreme conditions. Furthermore, diamond coating technologies create thin films that improve wear and corrosion resistance, and enable new functionalities.

With these material considerations to the fore, the Michigan State University-Fraunhofer Center for Coatings and Diamond Technologies (CCD) is now significantly growing its R&D capabilities on the university campus in East Lansing, MI, US.

The extended $5 million facility will enhance the current MSU-Fraunhofer laboratories in MSU’s Engineering Research Complex. It will add approximately 15,000 square feet (1400m2) of space and new diamond synthesis equipment to accommodate an increase in personnel and research projects at the center. When completed, the new center is expected to generate $7 million in research revenues annually.

The main partner in the new investment is the Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkstoff- und Strahltechnik (IWS), Dresden, Germany. The IWS performs applied research and development in the field of laser and surface technologies, covering basic materials research through to developing systems. Total research expenditure for IWS in 2014 was €27 million. US activities IWS, which closely cooperates with the Technical University Dresden, are concentrated on two Fraunhofer USA Centers: the CCD, and the Center for Laser Applications (CLA) in Plymouth, Mi.

Leo Kempel, dean of the MSU College of Engineering, commented, “Michigan State University and our long-term research partner Fraunhofer USA will triple the existing laboratory space and increase personnel and research resources to integrate and advance this mutually beneficial collaboration. This expansion also increases undergraduate and graduate research opportunities in an emerging industry.”

Academic support

Executive Director Thomas Schuelke and Research and Development Director Timothy Grotjohn will lead the new MSU-Fraunhofer Center. Both are professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in MSU’s College of Engineering.

Schuelke said interdisciplinary teams of MSU faculty and students, Fraunhofer staff members, and industry and government partners will collaborate on market-driven research and development projects.

“The MSU-Fraunhofer collaboration began 12 years ago when the partners first established a joint laboratory on campus under the leadership of Jes Asmussen, a University Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering," Schuelke said. "Today, the MSU-Fraunhofer Center is considered a world leader of wide bandgap diamond power electronics and electrochemical sensor research.”

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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