IRI and NSF award $500,000 to University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

The Industrial Research Institute, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, awards $500,000 to University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign for Coatings and Adhesion Research


IRI program identifies pre-competitive fundamental research questions

ARLINGTON, Va., August 19, 2010- The Industrial Research Institute today awarded $500,000 to Philippe H. Geubelle and his research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign for “Multiscale Modeling and Assessment of Interfacial Adhesion Failure in Polymeric Coatings and Multilayered Devices.”   Lead project investigator, Philippe Geubelle, is Professor and Associate Head of the Aerospace Engineering Department and The Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology, UIUC. Other project investigators include Nancy R. Sottos, Materials Science and Engineering Department and The Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology, UIUC, and John Kieffer, Materials Science and Engineering Department, The University of Michigan.

IRI developed a program to bring together leaders in industrial science to identify pre-competitive fundamental research requirements that will ultimately have a direct effect on the success of American industry.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded IRI a $1.2 million grant to pilot the Industry-Defined Fundamental Research program. The program intends to allow participating companies to influence a scientific research agenda, in a pre-competitive space, by defining key questions and then partnering with universities and companies to explore them.

“The NSF grant enables the IRI to create a new and original method of developing a scientific agenda that could lead to exciting research areas that will benefit American industry,” states Edward Bernstein, IRI president.

As part of an intensive process, an IRI advisory panel conducted background research among a diverse industry cross section of IRI member organizations to identify issues and challenges industries face in which targeted academic research might identify possible solutions. Ultimately, the IRI advisory panel focused attention on two topics: Renewable Energy related challenges and Materials.

These topics were assigned to working groups headed by volunteers from IRI member companies charged with producing white papers in each area. These groups produced detailed discussions of complex research questions in their assigned topics. The white papers present a picture of the current state of the art in areas of key importance for U.S. industry, as well as for national strategic concerns and served as the basis for Request for Proposals sent to academic scientists.

In modern devices, adhesives and coatings must not only maintain physical integrity, they must also provide specific function(s).  E.g., the interface must not provide a barrier to electrical or thermal continuity in some devices, or to chemical diffusion or osmosis in others.

Next generation models need to predict adhesive strength and functional properties (e.g., electrical, thermal, chemical conductivity) and they need to predict the factors that will cause these properties to vary over the life of the device.  Such models can facilitate development of accelerated life tests and significantly reduce both the cost and the time required to develop new products.

The goal of the “Multiscale Modeling and Assessment of Interfacial Adhesion Failure in Polymeric Coatings and Multilayered Devices” project is to formulate and implement a reliable multiscale modeling tool that can ultimately be used for material design by allowing engineers to select the polymer chemistry that is best suited for a given substrate system.

“In defining these questions and connecting industry to academia in the search for adhesion and coating solutions, the Industry-Defined Fundamental Research program promises to have a measurable effect, says Ed Bernstein.  We expect this research will lead directly to a fundamental understanding of problems common across industry, the solution of which will strengthen industry’s competitiveness and open new markets.”


About IRI The Industrial Research Institute is an organization of some 200 industrial, service companies and federal laboratories having common interest in the effective management of technological innovation. IRI member companies invest nearly ½ of the total R&D dollars of the nation's privately funded effort. These organizations, spanning diverse industries, generate over $2 trillion in annual sales, representing a substantial portion of our nation’s gross domestic product. The IRI is the only cross-industry organization creating innovation leadership solutions and best practices in innovation management developed through collaborative knowledge creation. For more information, call 703.647.2580 or visit

About NSF The National Science Foundation (NSF),, is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, its budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.