MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


The Materials Processing Center (MPC) is an interdisciplinary center within MIT’s School of Engineering. It is directed by Professor Lionel C. Kimerling. It was established in 1980 in response to a recognized national need to improve the materials processing knowledge base and streamline the process of translating materials research results into industrial innovations and new products. MPC research covers a broad range of materials and processes focused on six basic industrial sectors: biomaterials, primary materials, structural materials, electronics and microphotonics, transportation, and energy. We measure the value of this research by its impact on commercial and defense applications.

The mission of the Materials Processing Center is to provide an environment where students and professionals from industry, government, and academia collaborate to identify and address pivotal multidisciplinary issues in materials processing and manufacturing in a way that creates new knowledge, produces knowledgeable and capable employees, and promotes the exchange of information in the service of our nation and in the context of a global community.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field of materials processing, faculty and research staff affiliated with the MPC come from a range of fields beyond the traditional materials science and engineering group. Significant contributions to the materials processing knowledge base within the MPC are being made by specialists in the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biology, Physics, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, and Ocean Engineering. MPC research involves approximately 160 faculty, research staff, and visiting scientists, as well as their associated collaborators and graduate and undergraduate students.

In keeping with MIT tradition, the MPC is founded on close ties with industry. We have a 43-member Industrial Collegium of domestic and international companies. For members, the Industrial Collegium serves as a window on the state-of-the-art in materials research and development at MIT. For MIT faculty, the Collegium is a viaduct, bringing their research results to industry attention. In this way, the Collegium provides a technology transfer pathway between university research and industrial application. Part of our strategy is to leverage core federal research funding into expanded industrial-academic collaborations. MPC industrial support currently stands at 36% of our total budget.


The MPC initiates programs to enhance the intellectual vitality of the materials processing community at MIT. We measure the value of these programs by the intellectual core they create, by the new and creative collaborations among researchers in diverse departments they catalyze, and by the meaningful research they generate. In October 1999, we held our 4th annual Materials Day at MIT. This program includes a workshop, a poster session with cash prizes given to the best of 61 graduate presentations, and a dinner with our students, faculty, and industrial guests. The day's theme and title was "Small-Volume Structures, Thin Films, and MEMS: Processing and Properties," and the workshop was chaired by Professor Subra Suresh, who later became Head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. For miniature structures, issues of production and of the size-dependence of properties and performance are of major technological concern for industries depending on microelectronics, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), thin-film coatings, and magnetic storage devices. Materials Day ’99 highlighted the unique intellectual breadth and depth of or interdisciplinary materials community and its focus on industrial applications. Materials Day 2000, scheduled for October 16, 2000, will be co-chaired by Professor Douglas Lauffenburger, Co-Director of the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health, and by Professor Robert Cohen of the Department of Chemical Engineering. The upcoming Materials Day will explore "Growing Opportunities: Where Materials and Biology Converge."

The MPC sponsors three research-funding initiatives: the MPC Visiting Scholar Program, the MPC Young Faculty Seed Program, and the MPC Research Initiative Seed Program. In the Research Initiative Seed Program, the MIT Solar Club was awarded another year of $5000 in seed funding, and the MPC has welcomed new faculty members Richard Smith, Christine Ortiz, Yoel Fink, Alexander van Oudenaarden, and Adam C. Powell IV to our materials community.


During 1999 the MPC birthed the new Microphotonics Center, and remains the temporary host to this daughter Center. The Microphotonics Center is supported by a 17-member core faculty from five academic departments within MIT. These faculty were responsible for over $ 13 M in microphotonics-related research funding over calendar year 1999. The MPC is coordinating further development of industrial support for the Microphotonics Center.

Microphotonics Center research will focus on basic device models, photonic bandgap materials, waveguides and microcavities, micro- and nanomagnets, quantum dots, semiconductor LEDs and lasers, advanced detector technologies including polymer-based signal amplification, self-assembled polymer devices, high-dielectric polymers, high-density optical integration, including development of filters for WDM applications, lithography, and nanometrics. Research collaboration is organized in three main teams: resonant structures and novel devices, integrated functionality, and new materials and processes.

The establishment of the Microphotonics Center last year was followed in January 2000 by a $90 million major industrial alliance with Nanovation Technologies, Inc. This six-year initiative will endow several chairs for microphotonics faculty members, support 27 new microphotonics research projects in 2000, as well as finance the construction of a new microphotonics processing laboratory, including cleanroom fabrication and characterization facilities.


Highlights of the research performed by MPC faculty in 1999 are available on our web site at, and are reported in our Annual Reports, Materials Research at MIT (MPC) and Bringing New Technology to Light (Microphotonics Center). Of particular note are several results by Microphotonics Center faculty Edwin Thomas and Yoel Fink, whose "perfect mirror" technology has resulted in the development of a very low-loss "omniguide" optical fiber; and Lionel Kimerling's work with Ge-based photodetectors.

The MPC has successfully integrated a group of physics faculty into our MPC materials community. Professors Raymond Ashoori, George Benedek, A. Nihat Berker, Takashi Imai, Mehran Kardar, Patrick Lee, Leonid Levitov, Simon Mochrie, Alexander van Oudenaarden, and Xiao-Gang Wen have brought more than $ 1.8 million to our research volume as well as contributing to new MPC initiatives. The MPC mourns the passing of Professor Toyoichi Tanaka with the Physics Department and the entire MIT community.


While the scientific foundation of the materials processing community at MIT has been established with federal research support, our future success is measured by our ability to leverage this knowledge base into industrially relevant applications. Our Industry Collegium, in collaboration with the MIT Industrial Liason Program, provides MPC faculty and senior research staff the necessary gateway to industry. The staff of the MPC works closely with both our Industry Collegium and Industrial Advisory Board members to understand their needs and match these with the expertise of our faculty. During the past year, MPC faculty and research staff have acquired nearly $ 2.167 M in new industrial research support from a total of 12 individual companies and federally funded industrial collaborations.

In addition, Professor Michael Cima has established new research partnerships to further develop Three-Dimensional Printing (3DPTM) technology with several sponsors. He is working with NASA to explore "Forces During Manufacture and Assembly of Microscale Discrete Electronic Components" and has established an NIH-supported collaboration with Prof. Robert Langer to continue development of implantable electronics for drug delivery. These are now being used in preclinical experiments. In addition, the MPC has expanded Prof. Benedek's research effort by helping him obtain a significant NASA contract entitled "Kinetic Evolution of Stable and Metastable States in Protein Solutions."

The MPC provides an active industrial outreach function for the broad materials community at MIT, and leverages its Industry Collegium to expand the community's relationships with industry and to capitalize on the link between university research and industrial innovation. Our success is reflected by increase industrial research volume in the face of increasing academic and industrial competition for shrinking federal research support. Given that research represents 75% of graduate education, the health of the academic community is highly dependent on its ability to serve the needs of industry effectively. At the same time, U.S. companies are increasingly dependent on outsourcing to solve current R&D problems and are seeking future growth opportunities through longer-term exploration of new products, processes, and directions. The MPC's ongoing challenge is to reach directly into industrial operating units, helping academic ideas become commercial innovations. We are structured to focus on establishing specific research program areas based on our strong external industrial partnerships. This approach requires continued expansion of our direct interaction with MIT labs and centers, including RLE, MTL, CMSE, TELAC, as well as with multiple academic departments.

Our overall research objective is to continue to expand our industrial research sponsorships in fiscal year 2001. In particular, we are expanding our efforts in the major research area of biomaterials. We will launch a relationship with the Pall Corporation during 2000 and have opened discussions with a major pharmaceutical company. The biomaterials theme of the upcoming Materials Day, mentioned above, will increase awareness of this important area within the MIT materials community.


This year, the MPC continued supporting its new seminar series, Materials Unlimited. This seminar celebrates the diversity of the MIT materials community and spotlights the achievements of our graduate students. Recent speakers included Vanessa Chan (DMSE), whose research on block copolymers led to the development of a self-assembled double-gyroid template for nanoporous or nanorelief ceramic structures useful as high-temperature filters or as dielectric materials, and Lemelson Prize winners M. Jalal Khan, Michael Lim, and Thomas Murhpy (EECS), who have developed an efficient fabrication technique for Bragg grating add/drop filters. These filters are crucial for wavelength-division multiplexed optical telecommunications.

The MPC continues its Summer Research Internship in collaboration with the Center for Materials Science and Engineering. This 18th class includes ten interns working under seven faculty members in several departments. The Summer Research Internship program provides the faculty with much-needed seed support for exploratory projects and continues to meet our goal of providing undergraduates with an array of multidisciplinary research experiences in the materials field.

Under the aegis of the Microphotonics Center, the MPC sponsors a new weekly microphotonics seminar series to increase and develop the MIT community’s awareness and understanding of this important area. The series featured speakers from industry, other universities, and MIT departments during this reporting period. Abstracts of the talks may be found on our web site at


MPC is the leading, and by far the largest, university research center with a materials processing emphasis. Our Collegium represents one of the strongest industry research interface at MIT. The MPC is ideally positioned to take advantage of the national shift in emphasis to engineering practice and outsourced R&D. We are structured internally to identify major research program areas and externally with strong industrial partnerships. We are successful if we maintain a strong, dedicated Industry Collegium; motivate faculty and students to address pivotal issues in materials processing and manufacturing; further involve women and minority faculty and students; and continue to increase the research throughput of the MPC in the coming year.

More information about the Materials Processing Center and its affiliated Microphotonics Center can be found on the World Wide Web at

Lionel C. Kimerling

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000