Material Research Institute

I recently had the pleasure of touring the Penn State Material Research Institute (MRI) at the Millennium Science Complex, University Park, Pa.  As a proud Penn State alumni, I always love returning to campus and learning about different areas of this incredible university.

The state-of-the-art community research conducted in the Material Research Institute (MRI) allows for brilliant ideas to be born and brought to life.  MRI is a catalyst for multidisciplinary education and innovations in materials.

Material Research Institute

One of the things that stood out to me was MRI’s set up utilizing collective expertise.  MRI combines 5 colleges and 15 different departments.  That’s 200 faculty, plus 100 researchers and 800 plus graduate students.

It is important to have different perspectives when solving problems.  Penn State has taken this to a whole new level by converging varying backgrounds and experiences to create a multifaceted organization that engages in crosscutting research.

They are helping to solve the most complex problems facing society today and in the future. Better yet they are not stopping in Academia, but reaching out to create partnerships with industry, which allows business to leverage their labs for competitive advantage.

There are many opportunities for industry at the Material Research Institute (MRI), from startups and entrepreneurs, to established businesses.

This facility saves companies the expense of maintaining their own state of the art equipment.  It provides access to highly skilled technical staff, which can help users come up with solutions during their process.  Not only can companies save money on capital and operational expenditures, but they can also save valuable time.

Another way that industry can benefit at the Material Research Institute (MRI), is through Penn State’s “first of its kind” Industry Friendly IP Policy.

This simple and flexible program allows companies to retain ownership of the intellectual property they sponsor.

The institute links with over 400 different companies each year. This collaboration has resulted in numerous inventions, patents and startup companies.  

MRI is broken down into a four lab solutions; the Material Characterization Lab, the Nano Fabrication Lab, the Materials Computation Center, and the 2D Crystal Consortium Center.

  • The Material Characterization Lab provides a wide variety of characterization techniques in the areas of Microscopy, Spectroscopy, and Macroscopic. These techniques help to increase the understanding of why materials show different properties and behaviors.
  • The Nanofabrication Lab offers world-class capabilities in areas of deposition, etch, lithography, material modification, and characterization. More than 65 materials can be deposited and over 70 materials can be dry etched.  This lab has the ability to develop and fabricate a wide array of novel devices and can handle non-standard materials alongside the more common materials.
  • The Materials Computation Center supports faculty and industry, by working in computer-based simulations of materials, across variety lengths and time scales.
  • The 2D Crystal Consortium (2DCC) creates materials that are only one atomic layer thick, a new field of nanoscience and engineering. The 2D materials have totally different properties than their bulky counterparts.  This allows them to be stacked which results in new amazing properties.  Combine this with collaborative research and the sky is the limit!

From the medical industry to the food industry, the Material Research Institute (MRI) is having an impact.  One patented invention born at MRI is the Bioabsorbable Foam for Wound Care and Tissue Engineering.

The material conforms to irregular wound shapes to stop bleeding. It then transitions to a porous gel, protecting newly formed tissue.  Another innovative discovery is the Metasurface Wearable Antenna.

The antenna is used for monitoring the body.  AvoColor, a natural food coloring substance was discovered at MRI.  Derived from avocados, this is a natural and healthier solution to traditional food coloring and holds great potential in the food industry.

Currently, researchers are developing a thermoelectric energy harvester. This device will require no heat sink and will produce enough power to run wireless sensors.  These are just a few examples of the exciting innovation born at MRI.

It is no surprise that Penn State would develop such an innovative resource for students, faculty, and industry members.

This is the same university that became the first to “see an atom,” the first to discover planets outside of our solar system and the first to introduce an established baccalaureate degree program in industrial engineering.

It was a great honor to explore the Material Research Institute (MRI) and learn about the many works that they perform there.

This upcoming October 17th and 18th, you and friends will be able to experience Penn State’s Material Research Institute for yourself during the official 2017 Materials Day: Hot Topics In Material.  Find out more information about the event at:

Learn more about the Penn State Material Research Institute at: and see how it can help you bring your own ideas to life.

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