With key support from the Walmart Foundation and its U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, Clemson textile experts are working with the world’s most widely used fiber, polyester, to develop technologies that will make dyeing it more economical and environmentally friendly.
Chris Cole, a faculty member in materials science and engineering, has extensive experience in both textile and apparel design and fabrication, while her collaborator, Philip Brown, also a faculty member in materials science and engineering, is recognized nationally and internationally for his work in designing and extruding textile fibers.
The nearly $1 million award from the Walmart Foundation allows the research team to pursue three primary research objectives: reduce the amount of dyestuff required to color polyester; reduce the energy required to color polyester; and lower the amount of colored effluent from polyester dyeing processes. Effluent is the liquid waste remaining from the dyeing process, and as Cole has noted, “There’s a lot of dye used in dyeing polyester to be able to get the colors that we all know and love like our bright Clemson orange.”
The award was announced by the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the 2016 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. Clemson is one of five universities conducting research through this opportunity, which is focused on supporting research that strives to create new manufacturing technologies and to reduce the cost of producing goods in the U.S. with the ultimate goal of creating jobs that support America’s growing manufacturing base. Clemson’s award is supporting 2½ years of research.
Within Clemson’s Olin Hall is a unique machine that has enabled the research team to design a polyester fiber that will dye more easily. “The funding provided by the Walmart Foundation has allowed me to build this machine — something that has never been done before — and it’s phenomenal,” said Brown. “There’s only one in the world.” Researchers in the industry have attempted to dye polyester using copolymers, but due to fiber manufacturing technology limitations, they typically used a single polymer. This technology also suffered a very poor wash fastness unlike the technology Brown and his researchers have developed. “We might dye a fabric a brilliant orange, but after it was laundered a few times you could see the color was starting to fade with these other polymers,” said Cole. “Because of Dr. Brown’s expertise and the facilities we have at Clemson, we can now build fibers where we can take advantage of being able to get the dye in quickly with intense colors and excellent dye pickup by the fibers. We’re not leaving as much dye behind at the end of the cycle, but at the same time we’re going to be able to get the wash fastness and the light fastness that the commercial market requires.”
Materials science and engineering makes it a priority to get students involved in projects that provide them with hands-on research experience. “By being part of a major research project, students can see the techniques that we use, how to design a large project, how to build a team effectively for a large project and the communication skills you have to have,” said Cole. Another benefit is that students are introduced to the manufacturers who are their potential employers. With another award from the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund announced this year, these two researchers are optimistic about expanding their research program to look at how they might develop polyester fibers that achieve a high level of water and oil repellency at lower economic and environmental cost.
Assistant Professor of Art Todd Anderson is a printmaker, skilled at transferring beauty and wonder from landscapes onto paper. His most recent project, The Last Glacier, involved hiking more than 500 miles through Glacier National Park over the last six years.
Using the sim[PLY] Framing System, “With a click of the button, someone could order a custom-cut, flat-packed home online and construct it by hand with the help of their friends and neighbors in a matter of days,” said Kate Schwennsen, professor and director of the School of Architecture.
One of the sim[PLY] Framing System’s innovative advantages is its revolutionary interlocking tab-and-slot connection system (patent pending). Assembly is intuitive and easy; so buildings come together much like a 3D puzzle, using no nails, just steel zip ties and some screws. This means buildings can be disassembled just as easily, without causing structural damage.
“sim[PLY] is faster, safer, easier and more energy-efficient than traditional construction with power tools,” Schwennsen said.
sim[PLY] offers a rapid, low-tech construction solution with a profound reduction in a building’s total carbon footprint. Here’s how:
- sim[PLY] uses locally sourced plywood and computer numeric control (CNC) fabrication.
- Construction plans are digital and can be emailed anywhere there is a CNC controller.
- Components can be pre-cut using off-the-shelf materials, pre-measured and flat-packed, requiring less transport space and smaller vehicles versus other forms of prefabricated structures.
- Cut pieces lock into place on site with no power-operated tools or heavy equipment required.
sim[PLY]’s evolving impact:
- A national Department of Defense (DOD) building contractor has looked at sim[PLY] for Rapidly Deployable Housing applications, such as for use in temporary military housing. sim[PLY] is being considered as a potentially cost-saving opportunity to build better structures faster, safer and using less energy on the jobsite.
- sim[PLY] ’s built-in ease of construction makes it an ideal framing model for various types of do-it-yourself housing. Think: tiny homes. To explore this popular housing trend, Clemson’s architectural students have designed an energy efficient sim[PLY] tiny home prototype that could be structurally framed in just one day’s time.
- Timber is one of South Carolina’s most important cash crops, with an economic impact of $20 billion, according to the Forestry Association of South Carolina. sim[PLY]’s use of plywood would create both a positive economic and environmental impact here at home. Beyond causing a greater demand for timber, wide acceptance of the sim[PLY] process would mean a more diverse and robust use of forest resources; plywood manufacturing, unlike that of lumber, makes use of older, more mature trees.
Architectural communities in Italy, Austria and Germany – countries considered to be worldwide leaders in wood construction and sustainable building – have expressed interest in sim[PLY]. Overseas and in the U.S., sim[PLY]’s sustainable performance benefits are compelling.
sim[PLY] was first developed by Clemson architectural faculty and students as part of their entry in the 2015 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. While their end result was a solar-powered, energy-efficient home, it was just the beginning for the innovative framing system that is proving it has a marketable life of its own.
“sim[PLY] is an ongoing, evolving project,” Schwennsen said. “New teams of students are being challenged to optimize the design and create newer, smarter versions to meet the needs of a variety of commercial, government and end-user market applications.”
The School of Architecture and its faculty continue to be leaders in integrating critical and creative research into its nationally ranked accredited graduate program.
The sim[PLY] team includes faculty inventors Dan Harding, Dustin Albright, Dave Pastre, Ulrike Heine, Vincent Blouin and Ufuk Ursoy; and contributing student inventors Anthony Wohlers, Michael Stoner, Eric Balogh, Tyler Silvers, Clair Dias, Alison Martin, Jon Pennington, Jeff Hammer, Will Hinkley, Justin Hamrick, Alexandra Latham, Neely Leslie, Daniel Taylor, David Herrero, Rebecca Mercer, Russell Buchanan, Amelia Brackmann, Paul Mosher, Allyson Beck and Alex Libengood.
As a public, land-grant institution, the responsibility to conduct research for the benefit of South Carolina and beyond is embedded in our foundation — and our future. Every day, faculty, staff and students are working to improve the quality, quantity and impact of our research to foster our position as a world-class research university that serves to inspire a new generation of thinkers, drive economic growth and solve real-world problems.
In the 2016 Carnegie Classification for Institutions of Higher Education, Clemson was designated a Research 1 university — putting us among universities with the highest level of research activity. This recognition raises the University’s national profile, helps us recruit top faculty and puts us in a better position to compete successfully for more research funding.
Our increasing reputation in research helps attract the best and brightest graduate students, and our faculty are continuing to bring in major funding for their work. In fact, we have seen an increase of nearly 60 percent in sponsored research and programs over the past three years — from $102 million in 2013 to $159 million in the most recent fiscal year.
For years, Clemson has created and nurtured research and economic development centers to build a knowledge-based economy in South Carolina. The University’s more than 100 research centers and institutes are dedicated to everything from automotive excellence to advanced materials, and agriculture to foresty — to name just a few — and serve as the link between academics, industry and government.
In addition to research that supports economic development, Clemson’s research also supports better health outcomes for all. As just one example of that work, in a collaborative effort with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our faculty, graduate students and undergraduates worked together to identify different strains of Legionella, the most common cause of waterborne bacterial outbreaks in the United States. As part of that research, they determined that one of the strains was novel — it had not previously been identified. You can read more about the newly named Legionella clemsonensis on page 6.
We recently announced several major grants from such institutions as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health that will help solve problems related to causes of Type 2 diabetes, the treatment of seizures, detection of infections on implanted medical devices, and critical functions for data and cyber security. And these are just a few examples of Clemson addressing real-world problems with well-researched solutions.
Our ClemsonForward plan sets a new bar for research and scholarly work. Through the implementation of this strategic plan, we will
- refocus our research mission,
- increase scholarship and funding,
- grow targeted research investment,
- raise expectations and
- reward excellence in research.
Our over-arching goal is that in 10 years, Clemson will perennially rank among the nation’s Top 20 public universities and as a Carnegie Tier 1 research institution.
James P. Clements, Ph.D.
Psychology professor Thomas Britt received the Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research, given by the Alumni Association and the Provost’s Office to tenured or tenure-track faculty members who have conducted research in residence for at least five years. The award was presented in May at the final faculty meeting of the academic year.
“[Britt] has published 70 empirical articles since his arrival here at Clemson, as well as nine books and 40 book chapters. Dr. Britt has 11 different papers that have been cited at least 100 times and his total research program is now approaching 5,000 total citations,” said Alumni Association Executive Director Wil Brasington. “[His] research moves us forward as an institution and makes us better as a society.”
Learn more about Britt at clemson.edu.
Three new historical markers at Clemson are tangible reminders of the University’s full history — a history not as idyllic as the well-manicured lawn of Bowman field and the picture-perfect walk by the library.
In April, University officials, trustees and guests broke ground for three double-sided markers: One at the intersection of South Palmetto Boulevard and Fernow Street Extension to commemorate a site where slave quarters stood on the plantation owned by John C. Calhoun and later by University founder Thomas Green Clemson; the second near Calhoun Bottoms farmland to commemorate the role of Native Americans and African-Americans in the development of the Fort Hill Plantation lands; the third near Woodland Cemetery to mark the burial sites of the family of John C. Calhoun, enslaved people and state-leased prisoners who died during their confinement at Clemson.
“The story of Clemson University’s founding is one of great vision, commitment and perseverance,” said President James P. Clements at the event. “However, it is also a story with some uncomfortable history. And, although we cannot change our history, we can acknowledge it and learn from it, and that is what great universities do.”
The markers are one way Clemson is working to give a more accurate public accounting of its history to acknowledge connections to slavery, segregation or other practices and viewpoints inconsistent with current institutional values.
During the event, Clements praised the work of Rhondda Thomas, associate professor of English, whose research on African-Americans who lived and labored at Clemson prior to desegregation spurred interest in the markers.
One of those stories is about Sharper and Caroline Brown, whose daughter Matilda was born into slavery but lived most of her life as a free woman. Matilda Brown’s granddaughter, Eva Hester Martin, 90, of Greenville, was a guest at the groundbreaking ceremony for the historical markers.
It’s a story Thomas pieced together from personal recollections backed up by photos, newspaper clippings, church and census records, and other documentation. The youngest of 10 children, Martin earned a degree in chemistry from S.C. State University, enjoyed a successful career as a medical technician in Chicago and Los Angeles, and raised four children.
“Our archives are a wonderful resource, and census records are a great help,” Thomas said. “For the convict laborers, however, the pardon records provide the strongest evidence of the men and boys who labored at Clemson, as the documentation specifies when they were released from Clemson College. But in some cases the records are incomplete or missing.”
Thomas hopes the University’s efforts to tell these stories will encourage more family members to come forward with information, photos, family Bibles or other materials that can confirm an ancestor’s connection to the University’s early years.
Cardiologist Waenard L. Miller ’69 has spent his career on the cutting edge of medicine, raising the level of care for patients higher and higher. Now the gift that he and his wife, Sheila, of Frisco, Texas, have given will ensure that future Clemson graduates can do the same. The two have donated $2 million to Clemson to establish the Dr. Waenard L. Miller, Jr. ’69 and Sheila M. Miller Endowed Chair in Medical Physics.
“My vision of the medical physics program is a multidisciplinary collaborative endeavor associated with excellence in research, exponential growth in innovation and outstanding educational opportunities for students,” Miller said.
Miller earned his physics degree from Clemson in 1969. He received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and completed his internal medicine residency and a fellowship in cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He also holds master’s degrees in nuclear physics, biology and medical management.
The Millers met when they were in high school in Greenville. Sheila’s father, Bernyrd C. McLawhorn, was a Greenville physician with degrees in physics and medicine.
“We had a common language in physics, but I was equally inspired by his knowledge of medicine and his commitment to his patients,” Miller said. “My father-in-law was clearly the role model for my eventual choice of medicine as my vocation.”
Sheila fondly remembers the friendship between her father and her future husband. “When I was dating Waenard, I knew I had to get to the door immediately, because if I didn’t get there right away, the two of them would go off in a corner and start talking about black holes, and we’d be late for wherever we were going,” she said.
Miller, in Air Force ROTC at Clemson, was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation and sent to graduate school in nuclear physics. He then served at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the foreign technology division as a physicist and later transferred to the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory. There he became intrigued with the combined concept of physics and biology.
Miller began practicing medicine near Dallas in 1983 and co-founded the Legacy Heart Center (LHC) in 1995. Under his leadership, LHC became renowned for leading-edge cardiovascular care. Texas Monthly magazine named him a “Texas Super Doctor” for eight consecutive years. President Clements described Miller as one of the University’s most accomplished alumni.
“Waenard and Sheila already have established a significant legacy. We are so honored that they have decided to partner with Clemson to enhance their legacy even further,” Clements said. “This wonderful gift will allow us to expand our internationally acclaimed biomedical research program and help meet the demand for medical physicists in the health care industry.”
The endowed position will be a joint appointment in Clemson’s departments of physics and astronomy and bioengineering. While collaborating with medical partners of Clemson University, the research conducted by the endowed chair holder will be at the interface of science and engineering with clinical translation as the outcome.
Mark Leising, former chair of the physics and astronomy department and interim dean of the College of Science, said, “Dr. and Mrs. Miller’s gift will invigorate our medical physics education and research programs. Bringing more physicists and physical science techniques to medicine will continue to improve patient care and fill an important need of our state.”
Martine LaBerge, chair of Clemson’s bioengineering department, noted that medical physics research is at the forefront of patient care. “With this generous gift,” she said, “Clemson University will continue to lead the field of medical diagnostics and will make a significant impact in basic and applied research to improve patient outcomes.”
The Millers’ gift is a part of the successful $1 billion Will to Lead for Clemson campaign.