New Hampshire colleges to develop biomaterials

by Vivek Hazari | 9/28/18 2:55am

The College may be on its way to developing biomaterials with the potential to improve human quality of life. Faculty at Dartmouth have joined the New Hampshire Center for Multiscale Modeling and Manufacturing of Biomaterials or N.H. Biomade, a statewide research effort recently awarded a $20 million five-year grant by the National Science Foundation.

The program includes a collaborative research effort between Dartmouth and other New Hampshire-based schools, including the University of New Hampshire, Keene State College and the Community College System of New Hampshire.

The objective of N.H. Biomade is to advance the field of biomaterials in New Hampshire, with a focus on manufacturing techniques. The project contains four different research areas: polymers for orthopedics, porous, conductive biosensors, sheet metals for implants and scaffolding for tissues, according to engineering professor Ian Baker.

The grant was awarded to N.H. Biomade on Sept. 14 from the NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. EPSCoR is an NSF effort to stimulate research in 23 states with relatively low levels of research funding. New Hampshire was one of seven states this year to receive this grant.

Baker, chemistry professor Chenfeng Ke, chemistry professor Katherine Mirica and Thayer School of Engineering professor Douglas Van Citters are leading the research efforts across their respective fields. University of New Hampshire engineering professor Brad Kinsey will be leading the investigation as a whole.

Baker noted that collaboration is key to making the N.H. Biomade project a reality.

“The most positive thing that will come out of this is that there will be new collaborations between Dartmouth and UNH and the community college system, since we all have a common goal for biomaterials research and development, and perhaps even commercialization,” Van Citters said.

Collaborating with people from outside the Dartmouth community increases the diversity of Dartmouth’s student body, he said. Van Citters added that undergraduate students will also have the opportunity to work on the project.

The research leaders are currently in the process of charting next steps for the project now that it has been approved, Baker said. As a result of the grant, the chemistry department is planning to add a faculty member in the field of computational materials this year and the Thayer School of Engineering is hoping to add a computational materials scientist next year, he added. Baker noted that numerous graduate students, postdoctoral students and Ph.D. positions will be incorporated into the program as well.

Ke said that his current research on biosensors, one of the four research areas, can be useful for examining the health of a patient by sensing for biologically relevant molecules such as dopamine.

According to Van Citters, he is leading the research on orthopedic bearings.

“We are hoping for a new way of designing biomaterials starting at the nano and micro scale, such that we can implement them at the millimeter and centimeter scale — manufacturing, but going all the way back to first principles,” Van Citters said.

All the N.H. Biomade research efforts will put biomaterials in New Hampshire more on the map, Van Citters said, adding that the grant is a federal recognition that the entire state of New Hampshire is going to pursue biomaterials. Another major outcome of the project is that it will provide a lens for students and faculty to see what happens with research after academia, as N.H. Biomade encompasses a push for commercial applications of biomaterials in New Hampshire.

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