Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Materials Research Laboratory

The Materials Research Laboratory, devoted to the study of the capabilities of existing materials and the search for new types of materials, was established in 1962. The Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Defense Department (ARPA) entered a $3.5 million contract with Brown in 1961 for materials research to be conducted by the Departments of Chemistry and Physics and the Divisions of Applied Mathematics and Engineering. Chemistry professor Robert H. Cole was appointed coordinator of the program with engineering professor Gerald Heller as associate. In 1969 Heller became director of the Laboratory with physics professor Charles Elbaum as associate director. In 1967 ARPA initiated a program which brought together twelve major universities in a cooperative search for new materials with “super-properties.” The other institutions in the program were Cornell, Harvard, M.I.T., Northwestern, Princeton, Purdue, Stanford, and the Universities of Chicago, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. The five departments involved in the program are Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Applied Mathematics, and Geology. In 1973 the National Science Foundation took over funding of the laboratory and directed the definition of specific targets of its research. Four major areas of research were defined: Fracture of solids, led by engineering professor James E. Rice, – Microscopic and macroscopic dynamic plasticity, under engineering professor Rodney J. Clifton – Inorganic gasses, under chemistry professor William M. Risen – Chemisorption and related surface interactions, coordinated by physics professor Peder J. Estrup. In 1977 the laboratory was awarded a three-year $4.72 million grant from the National Science Foundation to explore the development of lightweight high-strength metals resistant to corrosion and extreme temperatures, and electronic materials for lasers and solar cells.