NanoTech Institute Director Ray Baughman
Elected to National Academy of Engineering

UT Dallas Professor Hits the Big Time with Small Science

Feb. 8, 2008

Dr. Ray Baughman, one of the most talented and pioneering nanotechnologists of his time, has been recognized by his peers through election to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). He was one of only two Texans among 65 new members added by the Academy, according to an announcement Friday.

Baughman, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry in the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, and director of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at UT Dallas, and was tapped for membership to the NAE for his contributions to the science of nanotechnology, specifically for his work in pioneering novel applications of conjugated polymers and related materials.

Dr. Ray Baughman (right) and Dr. Anvar Zakhidov work with a magnetometer at UT Dallas.

Nanotechnology involves the fabrication of devices or structures having nanometer to hundred nanometer size. The relative size of a nanometer to a meter (about a yard) is about the same as for the diameter of a marble to the diameter of the Earth.

“The election of Dr. Ray Baughman to the NAE isn’t surprising,” said UT Dallas President Dr. David E. Daniel.  “He is one of the foremost figures in his field.  The fundamental science and engineering being done in Dr. Baughman’s labs will develop highly useful technologies, and his commitment to educating and training the next generation of scientists is commendable.”

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions that can be bestowed on an engineer.  According to the Academy, the honor recognizes “those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature,” and to the “pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”

“I've always loved science,” Dr. Baughman said. “I like to make scientific breakthroughs and see them applied to create new companies, to provide new products and to provide a benefit to humanity.”

Distinguished Career, Groundbreaking Research

Baughman is well known for his work in many different areas, including recent discoveries that carbon nanotubes, cylindrical sheets of carbon atoms, can be fabricated into strong yarns and transparent electrically conducting sheets that are useful for diverse applications.  Nanotubes are up to a hundred thousand times thinner than one strand of human hair.  They are about 60 times stronger than a steel wire of the same weight and length and could someday be used to:

  • Fabricate lightweight bulletproof vests.
  • Serve as scaffolding to reproduce or repair damaged body tissue.
  • Provide lighter, stronger material for aircraft.
  • Provide more energy efficient solar cells and lamps.

He has invented many of the diverse types of artificial muscles that are being investigated around the world. His current work is focused on improving technology he co-invented in 2006:  artificial muscles that are powered by alcohol rather than electricity and are more than 100 times stronger than natural muscles. These artificial muscles could be used for applications as diverse as:

  • Artificial limbs.
  • Humanoid robots.
  • Exoskeletons that provide superhuman strength for soldiers and rescue workers.
  • Submicroscopic valves.

Billions of printable indicators that he co-invented, which  provide a color response predicting the integrated effects of time and temperature on product quality, have been sold by Temptime Corp. and used on the “Meals Ready to Eat” rations of the U.S. Army and to help ensure that vaccines  have not lost their potency. The nonprofit Program for Appropriate Technology in Health has predicted that 140,000 lives will be saved over the next decade as a result of the protection of vaccine quality afforded by these indicators.

Baughman’s research and development spans many other areas, such as nanostructured materials for energy harvesting, storage, and conversion; materials with unusual mechanical properties; and photonic crystals, which are the optical wavelength analogue of the semiconductors used for electronics.

Before joining the University in 2001, he was a corporate fellow at Honeywell International in Morristown, N.Y.  Baughman began his career at Honeywell — formerly called Allied Signal and Allied Chemical — in 1970 as a staff scientist.

He received his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Carnegie Mellon University and his Ph.D. in materials science from Harvard University.   

Accomplishments and Accolades

Baughman holds 58 U.S. patents and has more than 280 publications, which have been cited by other researchers more than 11,000 times.

He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the World Innovation Foundation, a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and an honorary professor of three universities in China.  He is on the editorial and advisory boards of the scholarly publications Science, Synthetic Metals, the International Journal of Nanoscience and the Encyclopedia of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
 
He has received numerous awards and honors, most recently:

  • The Kapitza Metal of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (2007).
  • The Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award of Carnegie Mellon University (2007).
  • 21 for the 21st Century award (2007).
  • The University of Texas System Chancellor’s Entrepreneurship and Invention Award (2007).
  •  Nano 50 Awards from Nanotech Briefs magazine for Fuel Powered Artificial Muscles (2007).
  •  Inclusion in The Scientific American 50, a recognition of 50 American scientists and research teams for outstanding contributions in science and technology (2006).
  •  The NanoVic Prize from Australia (2006).
  •  Nano 50 Award from Nanotech Briefs magazine for Carbon Nanotube Sheets and Yarns (2006).
  • The New Materials Innovation Prize of the Avantex International Forum for Innovative Textiles (2005).
  •  The Cooperative Research Award in Polymer Science and Engineering (1996).
  •  The Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists (1995).

The Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute

Upon his arrival at UT Dallas, Baughman established the NanoTech Institute for the purposes of conducting research on the nanoscale.  The institute seeks to provide a place where physicists, chemists, biologists, ceramicists, metallurgists and mathematicians can join engineers in solving problems.

The institute was renamed in honor of the late Dr. Alan MacDiarmid, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Alan Heeger and Hideki Shirakawa for their discoveries that plastics can be made electrically conductive.  MacDiarmid, a friend and collaborator of Baughman and also an NAE member, joined the University in 2002 as the James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology and was a faculty member at the time of his death in 2007. 

Baughman is quite proud of the institute’s George A. Jeffrey NanoExplorers program that he founded, which inspires high school students by enabling them to do original research work. NanoExplorer students have co-authored scientific papers, won three of the top five awards at a recent international conference, and won $40,000 in scholarship money after placing third nationally in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

About the NAE

Baughman was one of 65 new members and nine foreign associates chosen through a vote of NAE members, bringing its U.S. membership to 2,227 and foreign associates to 194.  He will be formally inducted into the Academy on Oct. 4.  Rebecca Rae Richards-Kortum, chair of the department of bioengineering at Rice University was the only other Texan elected this year.

Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering provides engineering leadership in service to the United States.

It operates under the same congressional act of incorporation that established the National Academy of Sciences, signed in 1863 by President Lincoln.  According to the charter, whenever called upon by any department or agency of the government, the NAE is directed to investigate, examine, experiment and report upon any subject of science or art.  UT Dallas President Daniel, who also is a member of the NAE, led a panel of engineers that investigated the New Orleans levee collapse in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. 

In addition to its role as adviser to the federal government, the NAE conducts independent studies to examine important topics in engineering and technology.

The NAE includes senior professionals in business, academia and government who are among the world’s most accomplished engineers.

Notable UT Dallas Faculty, Present and Past

Prior to Baughman’s election, the University has counted three Nobel laureates among its faculty and four members of the National Academies. They include Drs. Daniel (NAE) and MacDiarmid (Nobel, NAE) and:

  • Dr. Brian J.L. Berry, dean of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, National Academy of Sciences.
  • Dr. Russell A. Hulse, Regental Professor and associate vice president for strategic initiatives, 1993 Nobel Prize in physics for his shared discovery of the first binary pulsar, considered by many to be among the top scientific discoveries of the 20th century.
  • Dr. Don Shaw, emeritus professor of electrical engineering whose research areas have included crystal growth and dissolution, kinetics of vapor phase epitaxial growth, materials for solid state microwave devices, and preparation and properties of gallium arsenide, NAE.
  • UT Dallas’ first Nobel laureate, the late Dr. Polykarp Kusch, professor of physics who shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1955.

Media contact: Meredith Dickenson, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, meredith.dickenson@utdallas.edu
or Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, jennib@utdallas.edu

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“One of the reasons I love research is the opportunity it provides to inspire students. Our NanoExplorer high school students and our undergraduate and graduate students become knights of our NanoTech Institute, and use this opportunity to do exciting original research.”

Dr. Ray Baughman

 
Career Highlights

 

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