Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Materials Research to fund a project entitled “EAGER: Magnetic Interrogation of Mesoscale Materials.”
EAGER is a materials research program that brings together the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. The grant dollars will fund a pilot program housed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the world's highest-powered magnet laboratory, which is located in Tallahassee.
“This will be the beginning of a great research collaboration between FAMU and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, and will have a huge impact on the research capacity of FAMU,” said physics professor Mogus Mochena, Ph.D, the project’s principal investigator.
The grant proposal was a collaborative effort between Mochena, chemistry professor Nelly Mateeva, Ph.D., and FAMU-FSU College of Engineering professor Subramanian Ramakrishnan, Ph.D. The project will also enlist the research talents of additional faculty members from FAMU’s Departments of Physics and Chemistry, the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and faculty members from Florida State University’s Departments of Physics and Chemistry.
“Congratulations to Dr. Mochena and his team members on an outstanding job in preparing such a highly competitive proposal for this project,” said K. Ken Redda, Ph.D., vice president for research. “It demonstrates effective collaboration across the science disciplines of physics, chemistry and engineering and moves FAMU’s research agenda forward.”
According to Dr. Mochena, the research will focus on multiple components, including sustainable energy production systems that take advantage of water splitting. Water splitting is the separation of water into oxygen and hydrogen with the intent of extracting hydrogen. Hydrogen is a clean source of energy and is the basis for what is known as the hydrogen economy, a system of delivering or storing energy using hydrogen. Researchers will study magnetic molecules as facilitators to speed up the releasing of oxygen during the splitting process.
In addition, the project will also look into ways of synthesizing novel hard and soft magnets that have the potential to substantially decrease the United States’ dependence on imported rare-earth metals. Researchers will also study a selected series of peptides (shorter versions of proteins that consist of two or more amino acids), which self-assemble in water solutions to form nano-structured hydrogels. This research will result in a number of technological applications, such as drug delivery, tissue scaffolds for stem cell regeneration and anti-microbial/biodegradable packing.
Successful completion of the program will provide FAMU researchers with opportunities to acquire millions of dollars in additional grant funding from the NSF Partnership for Research and Education in Materials, as well as further the university’s continued efforts to help strengthen the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce.