Purdue MSE Professor brings IGERT initiative to campus for sustainable electronics

Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship
Circuit Board

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has established the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) to educate graduate students and faculty on tackling interdisciplinary problems in research. Over one-hundred institutions nationwide have been funded by NSF for the IGERT program spanning a range of topics from systems biology to robotics. All of these projects are unique in the sense that they tie in the necessary public policy and manufacturing concerns, minimizing the gap between laboratory research and their applications.

Here at Purdue in the Materials Engineering Department, Professor Carol Handwerker leads the IGERT program, wherein the primary focus is on sustainable electronics. Engineering these devices is a complex, multidisciplinary problem that has lasting effects on the economy and environment. Beyond our department, participants from Purdue come from a variety of fields such as Political Science, Management and Mechanical Engineering. These students funded by the IGERT program have the opportunity to collaborate with institutional partners such as Tuskegee University along with industry partners including Intel, IBM and Apple.

Working as an IGERT fellow provides two years of research funding, opportunities to interact and intern with industry sponsors and to travel overseas. Over the course of two years, students will take four classes on sustainable electronics and learn about sustainability-related topics, such as lifecycle analysis. Students, both Graduate and Undergraduates, which are not funded by the IGERT are encouraged to take the classes as IGERT associates. Upon completion of the IGERT program, all students receive the Purdue-Tuskegee Certificate in Sustainable Electronics.

One of the current research projects in the Materials Department is attempting to remove brominated flame retardants from printed circuit boards through the use of bio-derived additives, such as clay, lignin and cellulose. The elimination of Bromine from printed circuit boards will reduce health risks associated with the end-of-life phase of the printed circuit boards. For more information on the IGERT initiative beyond the activities at Purdue see the NSF website.