Knox Commerce

Composites Coalition Capitalizes on University’s Research Facilities

BY: KAYLA SMITH

Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley announced in November 2017 the statewide Composites Coalition initiative alongside founding partners the Knoxville Chamber, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Tennessee Economic and Community Development Department (TNECD), the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Each of the partners has a vested interest in economic development and technological advancements across the state.

Composites Coalition aims to capitalize on Tennessee’s unique composites assets and leading composites research facilities. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville has spent the last several years building its composite profile and now has several composite facilities on its campus including the Center for Renewable Carbon, the Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility and Engineering Annex, and the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM).

JIAM comprises a multidisciplinary team of scientists from the university and ORNL, and at 140,000 square feet, it represents one of the world’s premier centers for advanced materials research.

The Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility and Engineering Annex, features cutting-edge machines devoted to advanced manufacturing of composites typically containing carbon fiber and plastic resins.

The University’s Center for Renewable Carbon is an internationally-recognized leader in the development of new and/or improved bioenergy sources, biorefinery processes, bioproducts and biomaterials that coordinates the science, knowledge transfer and trains the workforce required to develop a sustainable and economically viable bioeconomy.

Hicham Ghossein is a Ph.D. candidate and senior graduate student under a GRA contract at the University of Tennessee in the Mechanical Biospace Biomedical Engineering Department. Ghossein credits Dr. Uday Vaidya, chief technology officer at IACMI and Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing Professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for recruiting him to the university.

“At the University of Tennessee, I am gaining applicable, real world, experience in my concentration,” said Ghossein. “Many students that graduate with a Ph.D. are highly intelligent, but do not have the industry experience needed. Working with Dr. Vaidya has helped me network with existing industry, and he’s helped me build up my experience early on. I’m now more fit to meet industry requirements, standards and work ethics.”

Ghossein has 14 graduate students and 20 undergrad assistants in his team and department, but says there are over 100 students working on carbon fiber and composites projects between all departments and buildings. Each team works under non-disclosure agreements with existing industries to build prototypes and solve real-world problems. They are currently working on 20 projects in cooperation with the University of Tennessee and IACMI with 20 additional projects on the books.

There is full collaboration with facilities between the university and ORNL with seamless access for students between the two. The university covers the entire spectrum of composites manufacturing, and its students can easily work at ORNL or the university.

For more information on Innovation Valley’s technological advantages and the Composites Coalition, visit go.knoxvillechamber.com/composites-coalition.