MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


The Materials Processing Center is an interdisciplinary center within MIT's School of Engineering directed by Prof. 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 applications. Center research covers a broad range of materials and processes focused on the following six basic industrial sectors: biomaterials, primary materials, structural materials, electronics, transportation, and energy.

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

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: creates new knowledge; produces knowledgeable people; and promotes exchange of information in the service of our nation 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 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 43-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 provides a technology transfer pathway 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 percent of our total budget.


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 materials community strengths, collaborate in new and creative ways, and pursue the most meaningful research. In October 1998, we continued our Materials Day celebration, including a workshop, poster session and dinner with our students, faculty and industrial guests, this year adding the incentive of cash prizes to our poster session. The theme was Precision in Shape, Process Control, Structure, and Properties–precision in the development of specific shapes and process control to generate both uniform and unique structures, from the nano- to the macro-scale, which enhance the properties and performance of materials, products, and systems. It highlighted the unique intellectual breadth and depth of our interdisciplinary materials community and its focus on industrial applications.

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. The MPC continued its support of the 1998 MPC Visiting Scholar, Dr. Kazumi Wada of NTT, who is working with Professor Kimerling in the area of microelectronics. Professor Caroline Ross, recently granted an NSF CAREER Award, received a substantial MPC award to assist in establishing the new Thin Films Laboratory, which includes pulsed laser deposition and UHV stutter/analysis equipment donated by IBM. In the Research Initiative Seed Program, the MIT Solar Club was awarded another year of $5,000 in seed funding.


Research highlights from the past year are too numerous to report in detail here but are available at our web site Of particular note is the substantial effort by an MPC-coordinated team of interdisciplinary faculty focused on the development of Industrial Consortium support for our new Microphotonics Center. Considerable corporate interest has been generated with major expansion expected in its development over the coming year.

The MPC has also added a group of physics faculty to our research team. Professors George Benedek, Raymond Ashoori, Patrick Lee, Simon Mochrie, Takashi Imai, Toyoichi Tanaka, Xiao-Gang Wen, Mehran Kardar, and A. Nihat Berker have brought more than $800,000 to our research budget as well as contributing to MPC initiatives.


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 Industry Collegium, in collaboration with the MIT Industrial Liason Program, 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, MPC faculty and research staff have acquired nearly $4.0 million in industrial research support from a total of 23 individual companies and federally funded industrial collaborations.

By way of example, Prof. Michael Cima has established new research partnerships to further develop Three-Dimensional Printing™ (3DP) technology with several industrial sponsors. TDK U.S.A. Corporation is funding research into 3DP of Integrated Ceramic Components for Electronics, and Kennametal, Inc., and Valenite, Inc., are supporting research into Prototyping and Manufacturing of Cutting Tool Inserts by 3DP. In addition, Prof. Cima is also working with American Superconductor on coated high temperature superconductor research.

The MPC provides an active industrial outreach function for the broad, interdepartmental materials community at MIT, and leverages 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 percent of graduate education, the health of our academic community is highly 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 ongoing challenge is to reach directly into industrial operating units where timely solutions are needed and ideas become commercial innovations.

Internally, we are structured to focus on establishing specific research program areas based on strong external industrial partnerships. It should also be noted that this approach requires our continued expansion of our direct interaction with other MIT labs, centers, and departments including RLE, MTL, CMSE, TELAC, and the Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, and Physics Departments.

Our overall research objective is to continue to add at least $2M in industrial support in FY2000.


This year, the MPC launched Materials Unlimited, a new seminar series created to celebrate the diversity of the MIT materials community and in particular to spotlight the achievements of our graduate students. Last spring, Materials Unlimited started with presentations by three outstanding graduate students: John Santini, Jr., whose work on microchip drug delivery has received national attention, Yoel Fink, whose microphotonics work and omnidirectional mirror have also received national recognition, and Steven J. Murray, whose efforts in magnetic shape memory materials are currently making a huge impact on the field.

The MPC continues its Summer Research Internship with the Center for Materials Science and Engineering. This 17th class includes nine interns. The program provides the faculty with much needed seed support for exploratory research projects and continues to meet our goal of providing undergraduates with an array of multidisciplinary research opportunities in materials.


MPC is one of the leading, 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 maintain a strong, dedicated Industry Collegium; motivate faculty and students to address pivotal issues in materials processing and manufacturing; involve women and minority faculty and students; and continue to increase the research throughout the center in the next year.

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

Lionel C. Kimerling

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99