US2$ million funding keeps material research rolling at LeHigh University

Anand Jagota Anand Jagota is professor and founding chair of the bioengineering program at Lehigh, which works with Michelin in adhesion research

Recent funding grants given to LeHigh University mean the college’s friction and adhesion research department will continue to develop innovative solutions that could fuel tyre development. According to the University, Anand Jagota, professor and founding chair of Lehigh University’s bioengineering department, has arrived at a milestone in his 15 years of researching friction and adhesion.

Following the acquisition of nearly $2 million in new support from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) over the next five years, Jagota and collaborators from Cornell University and Michelin North America are aiming to develop “two novel mechanisms to improve friction of soft materials based on bio-inspired design of near-surface structures”.

“These are two difficult and new approaches to controlling friction of soft material surfaces and interfaces that have come to light through our previous work. This is our fifth and largest grant in this line of research—we continue to find fresh and exciting ideas to investigate”, said Jagota.

The team’s first paper on research partially funded by the new grant was accepted for publication in the journal Soft Matter in January.

Michelin a key industry partner in development work

Jagota has previously partnered with Michelin North America through the NSF’s GOALI program, which encourages academic-industry collaborations. Indeed, Michelin is a key industry partner in the programme. The team also includes Lehigh alum Constantine Khripin ’08 PhD, a materials performance researcher at Michelin who did his dissertation work in Jagota’s laboratory:

“As a PhD student I was on the academic side of research, discovering new phenomena and attaining an in-depth understanding of mechanisms involved,” says Khripin. “Now that I am on the industry side, there’s more to the equation. I have to be part salesman and part diplomat, pitching the academic results to a broad organization for funding; part engineer, identifying applications where the project might bring value; part paralegal, working on the IP strategy; part contract negotiator…It’s exciting to be involved with connecting research to product innovation, but there are certainly a lot of moving pieces.”

One of Jagota’s current PhD students who works on the lab’s existing GOALI project Nichole Moyle is currently collaborating with Micehlin:

“….Many of the structures we work in our lab with are on the micron scale,” she continues, “but for my project, we also look at structures on the millimeter scale, because those would be easier to manufacture. We also meet with our industry partners multiple times a year, so there are many opportunities to practice presenting and discussing our work.”

The latest project investigates two mechanisms based on previous discoveries. The experiments Jagota’s team will perform and the data they will analyze are designed to expand engineers’ understanding of friction while generating ideas and methods that could influence Michelin’s tyre design and production in the future.

“Tire manufacturing is a very mature field, so there’s a very different dynamic when it comes to implementing innovation,” Jagota continued, adding: “You have to be very, very careful before making changes because of the safety aspect, so there is a deliberate process for applying new ideas. It’s certainly a challenge, but we take that as a positive.”

Anand Jagota is professor and founding chair of the bioengineering program at Lehigh. His research interests are in biomaterials, biomechanics, and nanobiotechnology. His group works on properties, processing, and modeling of DNA interactions with nanomaterials, specifically on its hybrids with carbon nanotubes. He also has interests in nanomechanics, biomechanics, adhesion and friction. In another active project, his group works on biomimetic fibrillar interfaces with enhanced adhesion, friction, and compliance achieved by design of near-surface architecture. Currently, Jagota’s lab is engaged in research projects in solution-based processing of carbon nanotubes, the biomimetics of fibrillar adhesion, and adhesion and mechanical properties. Jagota has authored more than 150 refereed journal articles.

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