A research area that touches on several disciplines key to the Rochester economy will receive $10.3 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the next five years.
The Center for Photoinduced Charge Transfer at the University of Rochester is one of nine science and technology centers to be renewed by the NSF. The centers were created in 1989 to support long-term collaborative research in areas of very basic research. The center has already pumped more than $11 million into the local economy since it was founded six years ago.
At the center nearly 70 students and scientists, who come from Eastman Kodak, Xerox, and the University, examine how light drives an array of important chemical reactions. These range from photosynthesis, where the sun's rays are turned into food that make life possible, to data storage, to imaging techniques such as photocopying and photography -- the basis for industries that employ thousands of workers in the Rochester area.
The Rochester center was part of the first group of science and technology centers to be created by NSF in 1989. Since then, it has been held up by NSF as a model for the others to follow, primarily because of the close interaction between industrial and academic scientists.
"Our colleagues at Kodak and Xerox help set the research agenda. They let us know what's important to them. They also help teach and advise our students, who then have a better understanding of the industrial environment," says David G. Whitten, C.E. Kenneth Mees Professor of Chemistry and director of the center. It's not uncommon for University students to spend a few days each week working in Kodak or Xerox laboratories.
In one project, Whitten and scientists from Xerox and Kodak and their students are studying how molecules of dye clump together. Understanding the chemistry behind the process could lead to color copiers that produce better images, for instance, or it could improve photographs through precise color control.
"This is something my group probably would not be studying if it weren't for the center," says Whitten. "Yet the results we've gotten thus far are quite important, and we expect that our industrial partners will put them to good use."
Xerox and Kodak officials credit the center with boosting collaboration in basic areas, producing industry-savvy graduate students, and giving industry access to highly specialized scientists and equipment.
Len Brillson, chief technical officer of the Advanced Components Laboratory at Xerox Wilson Center for Research and Technology, says the center has helped Xerox make major progress in two new color printing technologies. Across town, the center has helped Kodak explore a wide variety of new research avenues to help determine the most viable paths, says Jack Chang, director of the PhotoScience Research Division at Eastman Kodak.