LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 3, 2016) — The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) has been selected to participate in a five-year, $317 million public-private partnership announced in April by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
The partnership, named the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) Institute is the latest Manufacturing Innovation Institute and is designed to accelerate innovation in high-tech, U.S.-based manufacturing involving fibers and textiles. Matt Weisenberger, associate director of CAER’s materials group, will be leading the UK efforts.
The partnership includes 32 universities, 16 industry members, 72 manufacturing entities, and 26 startup incubators, spread across 27 states and Puerto Rico.
The new initiative will receive $75 million in Department of Defense funding with $242 million in additional funding coming from industrial partners, venture capitalists, universities, nonprofits and states.
The partnership will focus on the development of new technologies through research and innovation. It also will include a network of community colleges and technical education experts to ensure necessary workforce development.
UK CAER’s materials group is home to the center’s fiber spinning and processing research. The center operates the largest solution spinline found in an academic setting in North America. UK CAER will receive $3.5 million over five years to fund advanced/smart fibers and textile research.
“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with some of the nation’s leading fiber and textile manufacturers to advance the next generation of functional materials,” said Rodney Andrews, director of the UK Center for Applied Energy Research. “This funding confirms what we have known at CAER for quite a while — that our fiber production capabilities is at the forefront in fiber research and development technology, helping advance manufacturing in Kentucky and across the nation.”
UK CAER’s unique 100-foot-long fiber spinning line produces multifilament, continuous tow yarns. The line was designed to help provide solutions to the complex issues facing the fiber spinning industry, especially carbon fiber and multifunctional fibers.
“Our spinline has made some very promising advances,” Weisenberger said. “We have developed the capability to continuously process hollow and multi-core fibers, which will pave the way for the future development of multifunctional fibers.”
Weisenberger said that these capabilities support AFFOA’s vision to develop fibers that, when processed into a fabric, will function as electronic devices or sensors. Such smart fibers hold great commercial promise.
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