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As a popular '80s song proclaims, we are living in a material world, and Florida State University has a new initiative under way that focuses on using materials science to push the boundaries of our future energy capabilities.

As many as eight tenure-track or tenured faculty will be hired to work in the "Materials for Energy Production, Conversion, Storage and Utilization" interdisciplinary group.

This "A-team" of talent will build on Florida State's existing expertise in these areas and foster scientific and technical advances potentially benefiting the world in unimaginable ways.

The team also could play a major role in the development, organization and success of new energy-focused, FSU-based spinoff companies, current examples of which include Bing Energy and General Capacitor.

"As a major research institution, we have a responsibility to keep knowledge and discovery moving forward, even in the face of continuing economic instability," said FSU President Eric J. Barron. "We also have a responsibility to use these discoveries to help grow and diversify our economy, as well as teach the next generation of STEM workers who will need to carry the economic torch forward. One major way we are accomplishing this is by investing in a group of gifted faculty who can bridge the gap between our existing expertise in materials and energy, use that bridge to create new ideas and inventions, and mentor other talented individuals who share a desire to positively impact the future of the state and nation."

Materials science and engineering represents a critical research focal point in the ongoing effort to capture, contain and use new and existing forms of energy, according to FSU Vice President for Research Gary K. Ostrander. Hybrid and electric cars, more efficient power grids, better lighting and solar energy-powered houses are just a few examples of how previous advances in materials science are giving society new tools to meet its rapidly growing energy needs. Key areas of research at FSU include studies of fuel cells, nanomaterials for solid-state lighting, hydrogen storage capabilities and high temperature superconductors.

"Energy, in all of its various forms and functions, is an essential part of our existence on this planet," Ostrander said. "Whether it is keeping warm, traveling, growing food, communicating or just lighting a room, energy, and the materials surrounding it, make it all possible. Staying ahead of our energy needs in the decades and centuries ahead will require significant advances in materials science, and FSU is excited to help lead the way through this new commitment."

FSU is currently interviewing top candidates from a pool of more than 450 applications and nominations from around the globe. The new hires brought on through the initiative will leverage existing strengths in academic departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, and interdisciplinary entities such as the Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics and Energy Center, Center for Advanced Power Systems, High Performance Materials Institute, National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and FSU's association as a core partner university with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"FSU boasts a proud tradition of attracting talented people who are not afraid to step outside of their expertise in order to test new ideas and approach problems from unlikely angles," said FSU Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Garnett S. Stokes. "This initiative is designed to take full advantage of that strength, and will give FSU the tools it needs to help the world tackle the significant energy hurdles that loom in our future."

By Tom Butler
7 March 2013

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