KNOXVILLE, Tenn.–The College of Human Ecology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville received $3.4 million in research equipment Wednesday from Exxon Chemical Company.
The machinery enables researchers at UT’s Textiles and Nonwovens Development Center (TANDEC) to develop new fabrics using spunbond and meltblown techniques.
Each process melts tiny plastic pellets into fibers which are converted into web-like, nonwoven fabrics. The resulting materials are useful for filters, facemasks, hospital gowns, disposable diapers and other applications.
UT President Joe Johnson said the gift puts the college over its 21st Century Campaign goal of $6 million, bringing its campaign total to $7 million.
“Private gifts like this one from Exxon enable us to increase our research capabilities and better educate our students,” Johnson said. “We are very proud of the college, the TANDEC facility and our strong partnership with Exxon.”
The equipment also will be used for teaching and is expected to attract $1 million yearly in industrial contracts from companies that seek short pilot runs of experimental nonwoven fabrics.
“This equipment is a wonderful addition to the university’s ability to train students pursuing careers in the nonwovens industry,” UT-Knoxville Chancellor Bill Snyder said. “We are very pleased with Exxon’s continued support of UT-Knoxville and our programs in human ecology.”
Officials from UT and Exxon Chemical Co., a division of Exxon Corp., announced the gift at an afternoon ceremony here. Exxon and UT have signed a five-year agreement to continue the research partnership they have held since 1983.
“This donation is in recognition of the university’s dedication to plastics research for the past 15 years and its expertise in all phases of the textile industry,” Doug Selman, Exxon Chemical’s vice president for worldwide technology, said.
It also was announced that UT has acquired Exxon’s meltblown technology licensing business, which includes current patents and licensing agreements with major textile companies.
Dr. Jacky DeJonge, dean of human ecology, said control over licensing will speed the transfer of new technologies developed at UT from the laboratory to commercial application.
“Our partnership with Exxon has helped UT’s textiles science program gain international recognition for excellence,” DeJonge said. “This donation makes it possible to advance the nonwoven textile industry and allows our research to see their work improve the lives of consumers,” DeJonge said.
Contact: Darin Emberton (423-974-3574) or Dr. Jacky DeJonge (423-974-3385)