Rowan University Engineers Developing Fiber-Strengthening Techniques with Everyday Implications

By: Joshua Gras, Follow South Jersey Higher Education Intern

Photo: Michael Mandarino | Follow South Jersey

GLASSBORO, N.J. — Rowan University engineers have been finding ways to use lasers to heat, stretch, and strengthen fibers used in everyday items like bicycle helmets, batteries, and medical devices. All of these things could potentially take advantage of the work Vince Benchley and his team are doing in Glassboro.

Benchley says what motivates his team’s work is “our inspiration is to engineer materials that are the highest performance,” which he then adds that anyone can replicate.

The National Science Foundation gave the team a grant of $523,000 for the next three years to continue their work. One of the students involved is even attending community college right now, which is a rare, but welcome sight among engineering teams like this one.

Part of the research that Beachley’s team does is to discover how different fibers reach under the same stressors.

Matthew Flamini, a student pursuing a doctorate degree and a prominent member of Beachley’s team, developed a method to heat ultra-thin nanofibers that are 200 times smaller than a piece of human hair. This allows molecules in the fiber to align and, when cooled immediately after, strengthen itself beyond what it was capable of prior to the treatment.

Another of the teams inventions that will help them is a device Beachley describes as a “loom” that runs fibers through and become strengthened.

One of the many types of fibers the team is working on is called Polylactic acid, which is a fiber used to time-disperse medicine in the body. The team hopes to improve its capabilities through more research and trials.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.