Throughout its history the Particle Engineering Research Center (PERC) has been a role model for innovation and excellence in research, education, industrial collaborations and interdisciplinary efforts. PERC was established in 1994 as the “NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Particle Science and Technology.” The mandate for the Center was to build a bridge between industry and academia by fostering industry-related research in the area of particle science and technology.
Research: In the early years of the Center, research focused on four main areas of technology: (1) online analytical systems, (2) concentrated particulate dispersions, (3) transport and handling, and (4) treatment of particulate effluents. The research focus of the Center evolved throughout the years to address societal and industrial needs. At the successful completion of the NSF grant in 2005, the Particle Engineering Research Center had five Thrust areas: (1) particle characterization, (2) separations, (3) engineered particulates, (4) cohesive powder flow, and (5) nano-bio systems. Though the research program has always aimed for technologically useful outcomes, it was consistently underpinned by solid basic science and engineering.
Industrial Program: The ERC Industry program started with commitment from 25 members comprised of large and small companies. Over the ensuing 11 years of the NSF center grant, the research program continuously evolved according to the needs of the students, faculty and the Center's industry partners. Industry membership rose from 25 to a high of about 50 participating companies, finally settling at an equilibrium level of about 40 companies, where it remains today.
Service Center: In 1998 the Center moved into the newly-constructed Particle Science and Technology Building funded by the State of Florida. The characterization facilities and equipment were assembled into the Characterization Research Instrumentation and Testbed (CRIT) facility. The mission of the CRIT has been to support the Research, Education and Technology Transfer goals of the Center. In 2001, the CRIT name was changed to the PERC R&D facility. The facility was made a UF auxiliary in the summer of 2004 enabling it to operate as an “Educational Business.” With the impending completion of the NSF funding cycle, the PERC “Service Center” began charging fees for usage of equipment and technical staff time to help offset costs.
After graduation from NSF funding, PERC now relies upon its industry partners, the Service Center, and federal, state, and industry grants to generate the research and operational funds necessary to maintain healthy research, education and industry programs.