MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


The mission of the Materials Processing Center (MPC) 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

The Materials Processing Center is an interdisciplinary center within MIT's School of Engineering created 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 applications. Center research covers a broad range of materials and processes and focuses on six basic industrial sectors:

Our metric for the value of this research is its impact on commercial and defense applications.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field of materials processing, faculty and research staff affiliated with the Center come from a range of fields beyond the traditional materials science and engineering group. Significant contributions are being made by specialists in chemical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, aeronautical and astronautical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, chemistry, nuclear engineering, and ocean engineering. Center research involves approximately 150 faculty, research staff, visiting scientists, and graduate and undergraduate students.

The MPC builds upon MIT's history of close ties with industry. We have a 40-member Industrial Collegium of domestic and international companies which provides a window on the state-of-the-art in materials research and development at MIT, and provides an outlet for our research results to industry. In this way, the Collegium strengthens the link between university research and industrial innovation. Part of our strategy is to leverage core federal research funding into expanded industrial collaborations. MPC Industrial support currently stands at 45% of our total budget.

Center Initiatives
The MPC initiates programs to enhance the intellectual vitality of the materials processing community at MIT. By measuring the value of these initiatives in terms of the intellectual core they create, we hope to define our community strengths, collaborate in new and creative ways, and pursue the most meaningful research. In 1997 we continued our series of Vision Workshops, designed to explore issues and generate priorities for emerging fields of materials-related research. The second Vision Workshop focused on optoelectronics, specifically "High Dielectric Contrast Structures for Microphotonics". Participants included representatives from academia, industry and federal agencies. The previous workshop addressed "Automotive Processing and Manufacturing Needs."

The MPC sponsors three research funding initiatives: (1) the MPC Visiting Scholar Program, (2) the MPC Young Faculty Seed Program, and (3) the MPC Research Initiative Seed Program. The 1997 MPC Visiting Scholar is Dr. Venkataraman Swaminathan of Lucent Technologies, Inc. in North Andover, MA, who is working with Prof. Kimerling in the area of microelectronics. Prof. Caroline Ross received an MPC Young Faculty Seed award, to create an interdisciplinary team (including Mechanical Engineering, the Microelectronics Technology Laboratory, and the MPC), and assemble industrial support for research on the viability of very high density, "patterned' magnetic media. The MPC also provided seed funding to the faculty leaders of each of our six basic industrial sectors to facilitate core intellectual, development, and research program initiatives.

The MPC has expanded a number of its information distribution services to include the MPC Short Course Library. This listing of short technical seminars led by MIT faculty and senior research staff offers MIT's industrial partners a concise and focused guide to the expertise of MIT's materials community, spanning several School of Engineering departments. Over the past year, the MPC has maintained a materials subject-related scan of the Commerce Business Daily, which is available electronically through MIT's Office of Sponsored Programs. Since its inception last summer, this wholly electronic service has alerted our faculty to important federal research funding opportunities.

Other highlights from the past year include nearly $2.5M in new industrial research support initiated by the MPC in FY97, as well as an additional two new members to the MPC Industry Collegium.

Research highlights from the past year are too numerous to report in detail here. A sampling of some of the important breakthroughs achieved by our faculty, research staff, and students follows.

New Industrial Projects
While the scientific foundation of the materials processing community at MIT has been established with federal research support, our future success will be measured by our ability to leverage this knowledge base into industrially relevant applications. Our 40-member Industry Collegium provides the MPC faculty and senior research staff with 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, these activities were directly responsible for the addition of nearly $2.5 million in industrial research support from a total of 18 individual companies and federally funded industrial collaborations. This includes:

New Industrial Initiatives
The MPC provides an active industrial outreach function for the broad, interdepartmental materials community at MIT, using the Industry Collegium to expand our relationships with industry and capitalize on the link between university research and industrial innovation. Our success is reflected by increased 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 our academic community is dependent upon our ability to work effectively to serve the needs of industry. Downsized U.S. companies are increasingly dependent upon out-sourced solutions to current problems and are actively seeking future growth opportunities via longer term exploration of new products, processes, and directions. Our programmatic trend is to reach directly into industrial operating units where timely solutions are needed and ideas become commercial innovations.

The primary challenge to successful collaboration with industry is in simply getting to know each other's needs and capabilities. With this in mind, we undertook a direct liaison experiment with PPG Industries, Inc., designed to give PPG a clear perspective on the materials community at MIT, along with its capabilities and interests. Dr. Ernest Lawton, a senior research and product development professional with PPG Industries, joined us on campus for the `97 Spring term to explore the depth and breadth of our research efforts, how we conduct research and interact with industrial sponsors, what might be of specific interest to PPG, and how we might collaborate. He had broad access to faculty and students, weekly research group meetings, seminars, numerous opportunities for private discussions, and identified over 20 areas of interest. After coordinating several on-campus visits with his colleagues, Dr. Lawton has helped PPG select three initial priority projects they wish to pursue. We deem this "experiment" to have been a success, and will hopefully repeat it with other companies.

A reciprocal initiative has begun with Corning, Inc., which asked the MPC to provide a range of complementary expertise in support of its core business and technology functions. Specifically, the MPC has been asked to respond to a set of high-priority materials processing issues in three divisions, with excellent results to-date. We hope to expand this collaborative approach into additional industrial partnerships.

Internally, we are structured to focus on establishing specific research program areas based on strong external industrial partnerships. Some of these initiatives are described above. It should also be noted that this approach continues to expand our direct interaction with other MIT labs, centers, and departments including LEES, RLE, MTL, the OR Center, LFM, the Manufacturing Institute, TELAC, and the Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Physics Departments.

Our overall research objective is to add at least an additional $2M in industrial support in FY97. This target is clearly obtainable with currently identified industrial partnership opportunities.


The Materials Processing and Manufacturing Institute, launched in partnership with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, had a total of six students enrolled in the Program for FY97. The projects are being conducted at:

This program provides both MIT faculty and students with the opportunity to participate in high priority, proprietary industrial-site projects. Students receive the combined benefits of an MIT academic experience and industrial research practice. This program provides us with the additional opportunity to have significant impact in the real world while educating the faculty-student teams to this goal.

The MPC continues its Summer Research Internship with the Center for Materials Science and Engineering. This 15th class includes eight undergraduates, seven from other universities. The program provides the faculty with much needed seed support for exploratory research projects and continues to meet its goal of providing undergraduates with an array of multidisciplinary research opportunities in materials.


MPC is one of few, and by far the largest, university research centers with a materials processing emphasis. Our Collegium represents 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 out-sourced research and development. We have restructured internally to identify Research Program Areas and externally with stronger industrial partnerships. We are successful if we

More information about the Materials Processing Center can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

Lionel C. Kimerling

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97