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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Five universities in Louisiana have a $20 million federal grant to design complex alloys and polymers for 3D printing and to build a sustainable research and education program in Louisiana.

The new Louisiana Material Design Alliance includes Louisiana State University, Louisiana Tech, Tulane University, Southern University and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, the state Board of Regents said in a news release.

New materials are needed to produce metal and plastic products with fewer defects and longer life, the statement said.

“This game-changing work is at the frontiers of science, engineering and education. We are committed to connecting our research discoveries to industry, so they can have real-world impacts,” said Michael Khonsari, the board’s associate commissioner for research an LSU professor and project director for the alliance.

The board will coordinate the project, which will use advanced machine learning to study the characteristics of new materials and test how they react under pressure and heat during manufacturing.

“Any trial and error in the lab would take days and years of design. This is why the team will use machine learning to figure out what type of materials to use, and how to optimize them. Essentially, LAMDA will develop a framework for material design guided by machine learning,” Khonsari said.

The grant will pay 14 new faculty members at the five universities, LSU said in a news release.

In addition to their research, the faculty will develop new courses and student-led research projects to increase Louisiana’s STEM workforce.

That includes summer training programs to teach community college faculty about 3-D printing methods and software, so they can pass the information on to their students.

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