University of Pittsburgh
January 9, 2001


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 10 -- Faculty and students at the University of Pittsburgh's chemistry department have powerful new tools to explore the composition of materials, thanks to a $500,000 gift from the PPG Industries, Inc., Foundation to create the PPG Materials Characterization Laboratory.

Pitt and PPG officials dedicated the PPG Materials Characterization Laboratory last month, in Pitt's Chevron Hall.

"We're delighted to support chemistry education and research because these fields of knowledge play a vital role in our success," said Gerald W. Gruber, vice president of science and technology, PPG Industries. "As one of the world's largest chemicals companies, we have an obligation to invest in the future of higher education and our industry."

"This generous gift from PPG strengthens the partnership between PPG and Pitt's chemistry department that is symbolized by the number of our graduates who work at PPG," said John Cooper, dean of the Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences. "The gift will help the department to maintain its 125 year tradition of scientific excellence, a tradition that depends critically on cutting edge research facilities."

Three instruments highlight the PPG Materials Characterization Laboratory: an X-ray diffractometer, an atomic force microscope (AFM), and a fluorescence system.

The X-ray diffractometer is essential in characterizing organic and inorganic molecules, including high-temperature superconducting materials and biologically important molecules. Researchers used X-ray diffraction to determine the structure of DNA.

The AFM functions much as an old-fashioned record player, where a sharp tip moves across a bumpy surface to generate an electrical signal describing the topography of the surface. The AFM is being used to image the surfaces of muscle tissues and new polymer structures that enable nanotechology.

The recently installed fluorescence system will be used by researchers working on biologically active compounds.

PPG Foundation support also was used to establish a laser laboratory for materials research. Under the direction of chemistry professor Sanford Asher, laser laboratory experiments cover a diverse range of materials research projects, including identifying and establishing the laws of protein folding, characterizing nonlinear optical materials used in developing optical switches, and in ordering of photonic crystals used for chemical sensing.

The PPG Foundation administers the charitable giving of PPG Industries, a global supplier of coatings, chemicals, glass, and fiber glass, with more than 100 manufacturing locations in 23 countries. PPG's sales in 1999 were US $7.8 billion.