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LU engineering, sciences receives $395,805 National Science Foundation grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded Lamar University a $395,805 grant under the provisions of its Major Research Instrumentation Program for the acquisition of a nanoindentor, a high tech instrument not currently available in the region. 

A nanoindenter is a versatile tool that helps researchers characterize different materials at the nanometer scale, said Paul Bernazzani, interim associate dean of LU’s College of Arts and Sciences and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. It uses an extremely hard tip to probe the surface of a sample by creating precise indentations to measure surface mechanical properties.

The one-year award, “MRI: Acquisition of a Nanoindenter for Advanced Materials Research and Education at Lamar University,” resulted from a collaboration of faculty in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences that included Bernazzani; Ali Beheshti, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Xuejun Fan, professor of mechanical engineering; Keivan Davami, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Rafael Tadmor, professor of chemical engineering and Simmons Distinguished Faculty Fellow.

This grant supports the purchase of a state-of-the-art nanoindenter to build interdisciplinary collaborations and expand fundamental research activities in the areas of nanomaterials, metamaterials, microelectronics, high temperature coatings, antifouling surfaces, polymers, and thin film coatings, Bernazzani said.

The instrument will cement collaborations between faculty in biology, chemistry and biochemistry, chemical engineering, civil engineering, industrial engineering and mechanical engineering, Bernazzani said.

The instrument will enhance the university’s capability to perform fundamental research and will enable faculty and students to collaborate on the development of emerging technology with the assistance of LU’s Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship (CICE).

“The addition of this instrument to the suite of microscopy instruments purchased recently for port management and other applications positions us very well to offer high quality research services to industries in the Southeastern United States,” said Srinivas Palanki, dean of the College of Engineering and holder of the Charles and Eleanor Garrett Endowed Chair.

With the instrument, undergraduate and graduate students will participate in research and gain an understanding of small-scale characterization of advanced materials, Bernazzani said. The nanoindenter will be made available to the research community and information on the instrumentation will be shared broadly.

“We expect that this will not only impact research at Lamar, but to also enhance lectures and teaching laboratories,” Bernazzani said.