It's no secret to the Pittsburg State University community - or to bioscience organizations and researchers across the world - that the Kansas Polymer Research Center is home to some pretty incredible science.
With patents, awards, and new discoveries happening consistently, the KPRC, with its team of researchers and scientists from across the world, is on the forefront of polymer research.
Led by research director Dr. Zoran Petrovic, a polymer scientist who has been with the center since its inception in 1994, the center has been awarded 15 patents and multiple honors including 2007's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The KPRC remains the only institution in Kansas to receive one of these prestigious awards.
Creating polymers that are the backbone of products such as "green" floor tiles, flexible foams used in chairs, and even a temperature-sensitive gel used in athletic shoes, the focus of the KPRC's research has been using sustainable oils like soybean and even algae to make products that are more sustainable.
Petrovic first came to the United States from his hometown of Novi Sad, Serbia, as a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amhurst in 1992. After a few years, a student of his became a professor at PSU, and told him about the small university in Kansas that had an innovative Center for Design, Development and Products - the place that quickly evolved into the KPRC when Petrovic came to PSU.
Now working in the state-of-the-art Tyler Research Center, built on the eastern edge of campus in 2007, Petrovic and his team have come far from their modest beginnings in Shirk Hall and that first grant in 1994 from the United Soybean Board for the utilization of soybean oil.
The work the KPRC continues to do is not only innovative, it is collaborative, as well. Partnerships with Cargill, Noveon, the United Soybean Board, Titlest, and more have created multiple opportunities for funding and research. In addition to receiving the Glycerin Innovation Award in 2009, the center most recently received a patent for their development of a new soybean oil-based concrete that is 10 times stronger than traditional formulas.
"When I look back at our history, I see we've really achieved a lot," Petrovic said. "Nothing has just been given to us, our materials and equipment were made possible because of the funding we've earned. Now, we're the best-equipped polymer lab within several neighboring states."