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The requirement to have an industrial partner ensures that I have a reality check on the work ā€“ and while it means more effort up front to establish the right relationships, in the end this is really helpful because it allows me to have some confidence that what Iā€™m doing is as practical and relevant to real-world needs as possible.
- Daniel Schmidt of UMass Lowell Plastics Engineering

Academic Research Grants

Research students 2014-2015 at TURI Open House - web sized

Seed Funding to Reduce Toxics

TURI awarded three grants to UMass Lowell faculty in 2014 to conduct research that identifies and tests less hazardous substances used in industry.

  • Getting the Lead Out ā€“ In the second year of funding, Assoc. Prof. Zhiyong Gu in Chemical Engineering is working to fully characterize a new type of lead- and halogen-free nanosolder paste for use in next-generation electronics assembly and manufacturing of computers, cell phones, automobiles, satellites and medical devices such as heart pacemakers. Dr. Gu's research team received a Phase 1 EPA P3 award for their innovative research last year, and will be participating in the competition for Phase 2 funding in DC May 2015.
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  • Formaldehyde-free Thermosetsā€“ Assoc. Prof. Ramaswamy Nagarajan in Plastics Engineering and his research team will continue their investigation into inherently safer plastics using food grade feed stocks for formaldehyde- and phenol-free thermosets.
  • Elimination of Organic Solvents in Biobased Biodegradable Latex Coatings - Assistant Prof. Meg Sobkowicz Kline in Plastics Engineering will investigate new synthesis mechanisms to allow her to create versatile latex coatings from renewable resources without using toxic solvents. The resulting coatings could be an innovative solution to paper coating applications that currently rely on the use of highly toxic formaldehyde-based resins.

Every year we provide seed funding to faculty in the UMass system to initiate research that will lead to new opportunities for companies to reduce their use of toxic chemicals. Since its inception this program has provided over $1,500,000 in funding, supporting more than 105 graduate and doctoral level students. The seed funding helps UMass researchers gain additional funding to find safer alternatives.

For example, Assoc. Prof. Zhiyong Gu and an interdisciplinary team received $460K from the National Science Foundation to develop lead-free soldering for the microelectronics and semiconductor industry. It has also lead to national recognition of the research being done and the students at UMass. Read the Lowell Sun story A Greener Clean: From fruit peels and algae, UML team works to create less-toxic detergent.

The research has contributed to industry adoption of toxics use reduction, has resulted in patents and commercial products, and has contributed to TURI's goal of reducing the use of toxic chemicals to promote safer worker and environmental health.