UACES Facebook Div of Ag, UAM, Ark Forest Resources Center scientists part of statewide Center for Advanced Surface Engineering
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Div of Ag, UAM, Ark Forest Resources Center scientists part of statewide Center for Advanced Surface Engineering

By Mary Hightower
U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture


Fast Facts:

    • Div of Ag, UAM, Ark Forest Resources Center part of statewide research center
    • Center’s work funded by $20 million from National Science Foundation through AEDC
    • “An incredible research opportunity.” -- Phil Tappe

(606 words)
MONTICELLO, Ark. -- Forestry researchers and agricultural engineers will be working together at the nano- and micro- levels as part of the new statewide Center for Advanced Surface Engineering, or CASE. 

Their research will be conducted through a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation to Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Division of Science and Technology.

Over five years, about $1.7 million will go to researchers working in partnership from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, the Arkansas Forest Resources Center and UAM School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

As director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center, Phil Tappe is a bridge among the institutions. The center is a collaborative partnership between the Division of Agriculture and the UAM School of Forestry and Natural Resources, where Tappe also serves as dean.

“This is an incredible research opportunity for us. The potential applications for the cellulose-based materials that we expect to develop could open new horizons for engineering and medicine at the nano- and micro- levels,” he said.

Forestry in Arkansas accounts for more than 24,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in wages annually, with products including pulp and paper, solid wood products and furniture.

“This is a good example of using our research expertise to develop technologies that can be utilized by one of the state’s most important industries, adding to the economic contribution by the forestry sector,” said Mark Cochran, University of Arkansas vice president-Agriculture and head of the system’s Division of Agriculture.

Clarence Watson, head of the division’s Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, said the project will showcase the ability of division’s researchers to find new channels of innovation that “can support economic development in the state’s significant forestry industry in a new direction.”

Tappe said that “we envision linking forest science and existing nanotechnology research and fabrication capacities to develop novel surfaces with changeable permeability which, for example, will allow for control and release of antimicrobial compounds or antioxidants. We are prepared to put our unique expertise in forestry to work in this project.” 

CASE researchers will develop novel lubrication materials, permeable food packing materials and other novel surfaces that can be fine-tuned for specific applications, such as selective filtration. The project will strengthen the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics workforce using a variety of innovative approaches to train students, teachers, researchers, and practitioners in surface science, material fabrication, and surface characterization techniques. The project will also emphasize the development of expertise in technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and manufacturing.

Those involved in this aspect of the research are:

    • Julie Carrier, professor-Biological and Agricultural Engineering, U of A System Division of Ag, who will serve as team leader.
    • Ben Babst, assistant professor-Ecophysiology, UAM/Arkansas Forest Resource Center.
    • Bill Headlee, assistant professor-Biometrics, UAM/Arkansas Forest Resources Center. 
    • Jin-Woo Kim, professor-Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Division of Ag.
    • Steve Ricke, professor-Food Science, Division of Ag.

Ten Arkansas institutions of higher education are collaborating on CASE work to enable discovery, design, fabrication, and testing of multi-functional surfaces. The CASE research and educational activities encompass material-science needs in agriculture, medicine, and industry. Applications include manufacturing, food packaging, and healthcare industries.

The funds will be used to support the ASSET project, Arkansas Advancing and Supporting Science, Engineering and Technology, a multi-institutional statewide program with research areas that impact education and workforce, cyberinfrastructure, and engineering research.

“This award will go a long way in strengthening STEM-based research and workforce in Arkansas,” Governor Hutchinson said. “All eyes are now on Arkansas because of the strides we are making in science and technology. We must continue to build on this momentum to ensure our current and future workforce has the skills they need to succeed.”

­The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.   

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126


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