Lab places YSU materials analysis among elite nationwide

Youngstown State University’s material analysis capabilities are now among the best in the nation with the official opening today of the new X-Ray Diffraction Laboratory in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“The state-of-the-art equipment in this lab places our STEM College and Chemistry department among some of the elite science programs in the nation,” YSU President Jim Tressel said. “It is indicative of YSU’s continued evolution into a research university of growing prominence.”

The equipment was funded via a $475,000 competitive grant awarded by the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation Program.

“In order to design and build the new economy, you have to have the technology to conduct the research and to develop the future workforce,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who joined Tressel and others on Tuesday to officially cut the ribbon on the new lab. “That’s what this grant and YSU’s STEM College are all about.”

lab cutting

YSU cut the ribbon today on the new X-Ray Diffraction Laboratory on campus, placing the university’s material analysis capabiities among the best in the nation. Pictured from the left are YSU President Jim Tressel; Tim Wagner, chair, Chemistry; YSU student Jennifer Miller; U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan; Chemistry Professor Allen Hunter; and Matthias Zeller, YSU research staff scientist who directs the lab.

The lab on the fifth floor of Ward Beecher Hall on the YSU campus is the latest step in the continued development of the YSU Center of Excellence in Materials Science and Engineering. The Center also includes labs with cutting-edge electron microscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance equipment – all of which provides structural analysis of materials ranging from metals for improved automotive parts to organic materials for the discovery of new medicines.

“With this new equipment, our capacity to conduct materials diffraction analysis is certainly second to none in the state of Ohio and among the best in the country,” said Tim Wagner, Chemistry chair.

A diffractometer shines X-rays through samples, allowing researchers to see the atomic makeup of the material, said Matthias Zeller, YSU research staff scientist who directs the lab.

Allen Hunter, professor of Chemistry and principal investigator of the NSF grant, said YSU obtained its first diffractometer 20 years ago through grants from the NSF and the Ohio Board of Regents and has been steadily upgrading and expanding its equipment since, including additional grant support from the NSF and the Department of Defense totaling more than $1.3 million. The latest grant, the fifth largest for equipment of this kind by the NSF since 2000, allowed for the purchase and installation of two new state-of-the-art diffractometers in the lab, to augment the three systems already on site.

Hunter said the lab provides hands-on experience for both undergraduate and graduate students. “Better equipment means better educational opportunities for our students,” he said.

In addition, the facility assists faculty and students at YSU in their collaborations with scientists and engineers from across the United States and around the world in their research into advanced materials, he said. In the past dozen years, these collaborations have resulted in more than 500 peer-reviewed scholarly papers, several thousand professional presentations, additional research grants and many opportunities to support regional commercial partners.

“We have built, right here at YSU, a global reputation for cutting-edge facilities and advanced analysis on an array of materials,” Hunter said. “This has helped make our graduates exceptionally competitive when they enter the job market.”