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Ford partners with PSU to solve plastics problems
Heather Knechtges, a senior product design engineer with Ford, visits with Jody Neef in his lab at PSU.

Ford partners with PSU to solve plastics problems

Ford Motor Company has partnered with researchers at Pittsburg State to solve a longstanding problem with plastic fuel systems.

When Heather Knechtges needed help solving some inherent problems with automobile fuel systems made of plastic, she knew just where to turn.

“This is specifically very tailored to plastics and that’s what Pitt State is really good at,” said Knechtges, a senior product design engineer in the Global Fuel System Engineering Division of Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Mich.

Knechtges said she was well aware of the research capabilities available at PSU because she is a Pitt State alumna, having earned both a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in plastics engineering technology from PSU.

Recently, Knechtges visited the campus to deliver a check for $45,000 for the first year of what could be a three-year research project aimed at finding ways to make plastic fuel systems electrically conductive in order to reduce the dangers of electrostatic discharge.

Jody Neef, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, along with Assistant Professor Ram Gupta, will conduct the research. Neef and Gupta were both brought to PSU as part of the university’s Polymer Chemistry initiative.

Knechtges said the research could have global implications.

“If this works, it will be a huge benefit for Ford,” Knechtges said. “I also hope it will be a huge benefit for PSU.”

Neef said this and similar research projects are a valuable part of the educational process for the students who help with the research.

“Being able to work on cutting edge research and involve students is a fantastic opportunity for Pitt State,” Neef said.

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