This PREM project partnering the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) created a hub for research on advanced materials based on a structured collaboration among a team of thriving UPRM researchers with their high-level UW partners, so as to establish a platform for excellence in education and research on materials science and engineering (MS&E). UPRM PREM research encompasses a breadth of relevant new materials and phenomena by focusing on three thrust areas: Spintronics and Nanostructured Magnetic Materials, Superconductors Processing and Functional Composites. The nanostructured magnetic materials group works on the production of stable suspensions of doped and co-doped ZnO nanocrystals via different routes.A new sol-gel method was developed to synthesize bare and Gd- and Eu-doped ZnO with promising structural and optical properties. Co ferrite nanoparticles synthesis are being developed for nanobiosensors applications. Synthesis in reverse micelles yields facile control of nanoparticle size with low polydispersity. Atmospheric exposure conditions, critical for processing MgB2 is the focus of the superconductor group that studies the processing history of the diboride, i.e. sensitivity to O2 exposure and unanticipated C-doping from CO2. For the first time new processing routes, including high energy ball milling, of functional Al matrix composites have been successfully developed to synthesize Al-XB2-based composites. In parallel, via directional solidification AlB2 particles were corroborated as potent catalytic substrates for Al nucleation.
The main educational goal is the establishment of a Materials Science & Engineering graduate program at UPRM. While we make this goal a reality more than 50 graduate and undergraduate students from different science and engineering fields have participated in the project. A much impressive outreach endeavor promoted the formation of five MS&E clubs in regional public high schools with over 120 members, mentored by six science teachers trained by PREM faculty. Fourteen high school students worked in PREM laboratories and obtained numerous awards in local and regional scientific fairs. Most of them have become or are becoming UPRM science and engineering students.
PREM partners the most successful members of UPRM materials community with UW MRSEC and materials researchers several areas: materials education and outreach, magnetic nanoparticles synthesis in liquid crystals, characterization of nanostructured particles, nanomechanical properties of functional composites, superconducting and multiferroic materials, and undergraduate research initiatives. UW partners offer training workshops on advanced materials characterization techniques for UPRM participants, assisted in establishing an exchange student program between institutions. All UPRM PREM faculty hold Adjunct Fellow positions in UW Dept. of MS&E. PREM offers its members the unique opportunity to help develop their potential for professional growth and productivity. PREM professors have accumulated a wealth of recognitions, such as CAREER awards, more than thirty peer-review publications, six Distinguished Professor Awards granted the UPRM College of Engineering, more than 300 poster and oral presentations, and an impressive funding record.
An example of the thriving PREM student body is Ruth Hidalgo, a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate who joined PREM shortly after the project started. Soon to graduate Ruth found in PREM a niche to develop her potentials at the fullest, accumulating a vast and outstanding experience: a national scholarship (first one in Puerto Rico), 14 oral and poster presentations, participation in national scientific meetings and professional associations’ conferences and one publication. Ruth is the president of the UPRM Material Advantage Student Chapter founded under PREM’s umbrella. She is applying to Florida State University graduate school to pursue an MS degree in the area of superconductor processing. PREM is the largest grant awarded to UPRM in the MS&E field. This PREM team was able to expand MS&E research to the highest levels ever in our institution in terms of peer-reviewed publications, presentations and external funds (more than $3.5 millions in 3 years) from offshoot projects resulting from PREM activities. The project success further strengthened the institutional commitment to create a Master of Science program in MS&E. In the last year, three new materials professors have been hired to thrust this upcoming program. This PREM has evolved, expanding beyond the original thrust areas. Anticipating the conclusion of this project, PREM industrious faculty members have increased their research production and their pursuit of external funding to sustain this growth. Industrial connections are being sought to collaborate in these efforts. Since the MS&E graduate program is expected to start in the upcoming year, PREM is considering the next ultimate educational goal: a doctoral program in Materials Science.
- Surinder P. Singh, Oscar Perales-Pérez, Maharaj S. Tomar, Adrián Parra and Amalyris Ruiz, "Room-temperature synthesis and characterization of highly monodisperse transition metal-doped ZnO nanocrystals," NANOTECH, Vol. 2, (2005): pp. 29-32.
- Victoria L. Calero, Carlos Rinaldi, Markus Zahn, "Magnetic fluid and magnetic nanoparticle based sensors," In Encyclopedia of Sensors, C. A. Grimes, E. C. Dickey, and M. V. Pishko, Eds., American Scientific Publishers, Vol. 5, (2006): pp. 389-401, ISBN 58883056X.
- Benjamin J. Senkowicz, Richard Pérez Moyet, Oswald N. C. Uwakweh, Eric E. Hellstrom, David C. Larbalestier, et al., "Atmospheric conditions and their effect on ball-milled magnesium diboride," Superconductor Science and Technology, Vol. 19 , (2006): pp. 1173-1177. [Note: This article was selected as 32 most significant ones published by this journal in 2006].