Materialize your business success in Greater San Marcos.
Materials science involves the use of the physical and chemical properties of solid materials, inclusive of metals and alloys, ceramics, magnetic materials, polymers, optical materials, semiconductors, superconductors, and composites, to create or improve end-products. Research in the field examines how the microstructure of a material can be changed to influence the strength, electrical conductivity, optical, or magnetic properties of a material.
Technological innovations in research at the nanoscale have greatly advanced opportunities in materials science, especially for discoveries with commercial applications. Because of the complex nature of this scientific discipline, it is intrinsically multidisciplinary, encompassing mechanical, chemical, biomedical, civil, electrical, and aerospace engineering, physics, and chemistry. Materials Science is a Greater San Marcos target industry because of the region’s existing base of manufacturers and the fast-growing innovation capacity at Texas State University and its STAR Park research complex.
The region also benefits from its strategic presence along the I-35 corridor and investments by the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation in materials and electricity manufacturing and Austin Chamber in advanced manufacturing, which includes high tech manufacturing. As a further example, in October 2014, San Antonio was the site for the third annual International Conference and Exhibition on Materials Science and Engineering, which brought together scientists, engineers, C-level executives, and student researchers from around the world to exchange knowledge and ideas.
Greater San Marcos’ Materials Science target is comprised by two niches, Production and Research. Production incorporates existing regional firms leveraging Materials Science technologies to advance production processes, while Research is focused on in-house innovation at these companies as well as the world-class faculty, facility, and equipment capacity at Texas State.
As a part of the Vision 2020 Plan, the region has assessed and reported regional companies engaged in this sector and examined the teaching, research, and physical capacity at Texas State to advance Materials Science competitiveness and job creation. There are also dynamic super-regional opportunities to supplement local innovation and training with programs at UT-Austin in nanotechnology and materials science.
A community’s manufacturing sector can also benefit from discoveries in the Material Science field. In fact, the discipline is relevant to multiple aspects of the manufacturing process, from component-design and development to the creation of finished end-products. Materials Science is applicable across an array of products in environmental, biological, medical, electronic, packaging engineering, automotive and other transportation manufacturing, and other fields.
Existing regional manufacturers leveraging Materials Science processes include, but are not limited to:
- Basler Plastics, LLC, a manufacturer of injection-molded plastic components. The company designs and builds molds and offers product development support, light assembly, and secondary services.
- Butler Manufacturing Company, which designs, creates, and markets metal building systems for commercial construction. Over the years, Butler has developed many new products, including waterproof double-lock roof seams that add to the durability of a building and aid in energy conservation and the Castrip® thin strip steel casting process.
- Ember Industries, which develops printed circuit assemblies, electronic and electromechanical devices, wire, cable, and wire harness assemblies. The company employs several technologies, including automated surface-mount technology, through-hole technologies, ball-grid array placement, automatic optical inspection, and in-circuit testing.
- Hadco, a division of Philips Lighting and a manufacturer of outdoor lighting technologies. The company focuses on creating meaningful innovative products and solutions which enhance lives with light.
- Heldenfels Enterprises, which manufactures and installs pre-cast and pre-stressed concrete structures for highways and bridges, building systems, marine uses, stadiums and arenas, and more.
- Roy Tex, LLC, a company that provides sub-assembly, knitting and customization for manufactured products and export-ready crating.
- TB Wood’s, Inc., a designer and manufacturer of electromechanical power transmission equipment for industrial applications. The firm is a recognized innovator of power transmission products, including various belted drive systems and alternating current (AC) inverters.
- Thermon Engineering, an international company focused on heat tracing, the external application of heat to pipes, tanks, and instrumentation. Thermon specializes in developing heat tracing technology, including power distribution and control panels, mechanical thermostats, and splice kits.
- TXI, which is involved in every step of concrete production, from mining raw materials to refining the finished product. TXI supplies cement and aggregate and consumer product building materials used in residential, commercial, and public works construction.
In addition to the aforementioned established companies in Greater San Marcos, Texas State’s STAR Park enhances the region’s employment base through the incubation of startup companies with expertise in Materials Science. In fact, nearly all the firms housed in Phase I of Texas State STAR Park (the STAR One building) are focused on Materials Science products, processes, and applications. Indeed, a key goal of STAR Park is to satisfy a regional demand for laboratory space from early stage companies. Because of its industry-friendly approach, less stringent intellectual property policies, and availability of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of cutting-edge research equipment for contracted use, Texas State is becoming a more prominent player in the super-regional commercialization landscape.
Two specific Materials Science production firms incubating at STAR One are:
- Quantum Materials Corporation, which manufactures tetrapod quantum dots for products like solar cells, lasers and photonic devices, computer memory, and storage devices. Texas State’s Advanced Functional Materials Laboratory assists Quantum Materials’ nearby Wet Labs in special projects designed to produce department scientific papers advancing tetrapod quantum dot research.
- MicroPower Global, which produces semiconductor devices that convert heat directly into electricity. The company uses approximately 3,500 square feet of dedicated and shared space to house its entire production staff. In addition, the company maintains a development team on the University’s campus to continue the evolution of its thermoelectric chip technology.
Texas State University is the principal anchor institution for the Research niche of the Materials Science target. Texas State has made significant strides in its quest to become a major research university, including its reclassification by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2012 as an Emerging Research University. The institution’s goal is to join UT-Austin and Texas A&M as state-classified Research Universities. The university is increasingly attracting research funding, including a $4 million grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which was added to a $4.5 million investment by Freescale Semiconductor to create, operate, and staff the Center for Multifunctional Materials, which focuses on information processing, high-density, light-weight information storage, more efficient solar power generation, and other computing approaches.
Among its many notable research assets is the university’s Materials Science, Engineering, and Commercialization (MSEC) program in the College of Science and Engineering, which has the largest and best-equipped group lab for polymer and nanocomposite synthesis and characterization west of the Mississippi. Its signature piece of equipment is a nine-chamber molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) machine donated by Freescale Semiconductor and subsequently enhanced by Texas State through grants and other contributions. Additional equipment includes a prototype-production metal organic chemical vapor deposition system; organic film deposition; a graphene chemical vapor deposition system; and a state-of-the-art electron microscope. True to the multi-discipline nature of Materials Science, MSEC research areas include: thermoelectric and photovoltaic materials, next-generation microelectronic materials, epitaxial oxides, power electronics and novel semiconducting, and ferroelectric and ferromagnetic materials.
The ability to access Texas State’s equipment, faculty, and students is a key draw for firms both inside and outside of STAR Park. Besides the previously referenced firms incubating at STAR One, additional companies – from startups to huge multi-nationals – have also partnered with Texas State to use the MBE and other machines either beyond their budgetary reach or infeasible to purchase. In addition to buying access time for the machines, partnering for-profit companies must commit to supporting Texas State by teaching classes, working with professors, and/or providing real-world research experience to students.
Bolstering research strengths at Texas State, the Greater San Marcos region has access to the materials science-related talent and research produced at nearby University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas at San Antonio. The following are programs currently administered by these nearby institutions:
- The University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Materials Institute (TMI) was established in 1998 as a “virtual” department that guides graduate education and research in materials science and engineering. The department offers degree programs at the master’s and PhD levels and provides research opportunities to both students and faculty. Current research areas are clean energy materials, nanomaterials, structural materials, electronic and photonic materials, polymers and biomaterials, and computational materials science.
- The Center for Nano- and Molecular Science at The University of Texas at Austin was created in 2000 and focuses on education, training, and research and development related to nanoscience and nanotechnology. Within the Center, existing doctoral students can enroll in the Doctoral Portfolio Program in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, which is a certificate program that provides offers credentials in nanoscience and nanotechnology to doctoral students while they are completing the requirements for a doctoral degree at UT-Austin. Current research concentrations include thermomechanics, energy storage, and fuel cells.
- The Microelectronics Research Center at UT-Austin is focused on materials and electronic devices and is funded by the National Science Foundation through the National Nano-Technology Infrastructure Network. Current major research areas include circuit structures, hot electron transport, device processing, advanced crystal growth of compound semiconductor materials, optoelectronic and photonic applications, and device packaging.
- The International Center for Nanotechnology & Advanced Materials (ICNAM) is a collaboration between The University of Texas at Austin and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia de Mexico (CONACYT). The goals of ICNAM are to increase the number of Hispanic students in UT and to foster collaboration in specific research areas, including nanostructured materials nanoparticles, novel nanomaterials, modeling and simulations for applications to clean energy, biosensing, electronics, photonics, molecular machines, and environmental and other impacts of nanotechnologies on humans.
- The University of Texas at San Antonio is collaborating with Northwestern University in a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM). The main goal of PREM programs is to enhance diversity in materials research and education by pairing minority-serving colleges and universities and centers and facilities supported by the NSF Division of Materials Research. Current research centers on studying and developing biological applications of nanoscale materials.
- UT-San Antonio’s Department of Physics and Astronomy has forged a 2+2+4 partnership with Northwest Vista College (NVC), a community college in San Antonio, to create a pipeline for minority students into the materials science. Students complete a two-year nanotechnology program at NVC and enroll at UTSA to finish a bachelor’s degree of science in physics. Students who complete the bachelor degree can then go on to continue studies at UTSA toward a doctorate degree in physics with an emphasis in nanotechnology.
- Another collaboration between UTSA and NVC is the Center for Microsystems and Nanotechnology Education. The Center focuses on STEM areas, particularly, Microsystems and nanotechnology, as they relate to the U.S. Department of Defense.
- NVC offers specialized equipment instruction through its Nanotechniques & Instrumentations course. Students are taught the fundamentals, operation, and maintenance of sophisticated research equipment at various scientific departments at UTSA, including scanning and transmission electron microscopes, atomic force microscopes, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopes.
Texas State offers a number of undergraduate majors that could be applied to Master’s and doctoral work in Materials Science. These include:
- Clinical Laboratory Science
- Concrete Industry Management
- Construction Science and Management
- Engineering, Electrical
- Engineering, Industrial
- Engineering, Manufacturing
- Engineering Technology
- Industrial Technology - General
- Industrial Technology - Manufacturing Technology
- Technology, Engineering
- Technology, Industrial - General
- Technology, Industrial – ManufacturingTexas State offers Master’s programs in Biochemistry, Chemistry, Engineering, Materials Physics, and Physics, though it could be argued that the Materials Physics degree is the most direct and applicable path to Materials Science employment.
The University’s PhD in Materials Science, Engineering, and Commercialization (MSEC) is an integrated curriculum based on the university’s biology, chemistry and biochemistry, physics, engineering, engineering technology, and business school disciplines. MSEC’s goal is to train graduate scientists and engineers to perform interdisciplinary research while equipping them to emerge as effective entrepreneurial leaders in the advancement of 21st-century global discovery and innovation. It is the only materials science-based PhD program in the country with a mandatory commercialization component and has greatly increased the profile of Texas State in the field.
Another program engaging students in learning and training opportunities in Materials Science is the Texas State Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) Center on Interfaces in Materials, whose mission is to increase participation by underrepresented groups in materials research. Classified as a Hispanic Serving Institution, Texas State Education ranks 14th in the nation for the number of bachelor’s degrees and 30th in the nation for the number of master’s degrees awarded to Hispanics. The PREM Center has a collaborative relationship with the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; each summer, participating students are able to spend the summer at Duke and North Carolina State University working on cross-collaborative research projects through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.