The Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (MCC), whose head office is located in Tokyo, has opted to renew its investment in UCSB materials research, providing $8.5 to 10 million over the next four years.
In 2001, MCC – Japan’s largest chemical company – and UCSB formed a research center on campus dubbed the Mitsubishi Chemical Center for Advanced Materials (MC-CAM), located in a wing of the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL). According to a UCSB press release, the center has since yielded 33 scientific publications and 30 invention disclosures, with nine joint UCSB/MCC patent applications.
Part of the investment – $800,000 – will endow new graduate fellowships in materials science and chemical engineering.
According to the MC-CAM website, the research center is governed by a 10-member steering committee, with five representatives each from UCSB and MCC, and is affiliated with UCSB’s College of Engineering and MRL – a national center supported by the National Science Foundation.
Glenn Fredrickson, UCSB professor of chemical engineering, said the steering committee, which he directs, pushes strong areas of research for UCSB that could also be fruitful for MCC.
“We’re thinking about areas that we at UCSB have research strength, but also that Mitsubishi could license from the university to make products,” Fredrickson said. “Most of the research we do ultimately gets published, but the decision to patent depends on the collective decision between Mitsubishi scientists and our researchers here. It depends whether it is a valuable discovery worth capturing in the form of a patent or not.”
MC-CAM research focuses on creating new materials for display technologies, such as liquid crystal display (LCD) for solid-state lighting, and polymers for automotive applications.
Fredrickson said research involving solid-state lighting could lead to huge savings and energy efficiency by converting blue light and near-ultraviolet light to visible white light through the use of phosphorous materials. Solid-state lighting also produces no heat.
“A large segment of [the research] is on advanced display,” Fredrickson said. “For example, working on technologies that would be the next generation beyond LCDs – technologies that could be cheaper and better.”
The center spent an average of $340,000 for each invention it disclosed, while – according to an Association of University Technology Managers press release – technology companies typically spend $500,000 and other research institutions can spend up to $2.4 million. The UCSB partnership, therefore, is a competitive bargain.
Frederickson said the MC-CAM research unit represents an opportunity for graduate and post-doctoral research.
“We have about 30 to 40 graduate students and post-doctorates who are working in the center at any one time, and at least half of those are grad students,” Fredrickson said. “So there is an opportunity to get involved in research progress of the center.”