Welcome to the Composite Materials & Engineering Center at WSU
The Composite Materials and Engineering Center (CMEC) is an interdisciplinary research organization at Washington State University focused on developing new building materials and manufacturing technologies from a range of recycled and renewable resources. We also develop innovative structural systems and design methods to effectively utilize new materials while maintaining economic viability and public safety.
We value our long-standing associations with the sustainable infrastructure industry. For over 60 years, we’ve been leaders in the development of innovative, practical solutions for the building products, transportation, and related infrastructure industries.
While it is true that we’re interested in tall timber buildings—and are the inventors of many enabling technologies—we don’t dwell in ivory towers. Our 28,000-square-foot lab is equipped to conduct research in composite materials development and manufacturing, as well as structural and durability testing. CMEC embodies the traditions and the forward thinking of the land-grant university ideal: we partner with those who can benefit from our expertise.
The results of partnerships with companies are award-winning research, numerous patents and inventions—and the birth and growth of entire industries.
Our value proposition
Blue-sky development of new products
If you’ve got the idea, we’ve got the technical know-how to help you implement it.
Design methodology consultation
We know the codes and standards and can help you be first to market with your idea or project.
We’ve got the R&D facilities to help you innovate. We are nimble and responsive partners.
We can find ways to improve your existing manufacturing processes to become more efficient and profitable.
New products can be exciting, but code compliance is a necessity if you want to get to market. We can guide you through the maze to help you reach your goal.
Our faculty are experienced in developing test standards for new materials and developing design specifications recognized by building codes.
The Genesis of an Industry
Just 60 years ago, lumber mills burned residual materials that, at the time, were perceived as waste. Then Tom Maloney, one of the founders of what is now called CMEC, discovered creative ways to transform wood waste into useful building products. That was the development of particleboard, a product now used all over the world.
Particleboard was a great invention and, if the CMEC team had stopped there, it would have created enormous value all on its own. But Maloney and his colleagues realized they had also discovered a technological platform, the foundation for the development of a vast variety of wood-composite materials.
The Next Wave
Today, CMEC is also leading research in biofuels and biochemicals. WSU researchers are developing technologies that will provide liquid fuels as well as renewable versions of platform chemicals, polymers, and nanotechnologies. The ground zero for this new industry has been the biorefinery, but the vision that is emerging may move us to a more mature view, one that envisions a supply chain meshed with our industries’ current products.
A Second Life: Turning Low-Value Waste Into Industry-Building Riches
About 15 years ago, our current generation of CMEC researchers discovered a way to combine waste plastics and natural fibers into wood-plastic composites. This was a revolution that built another industry—durable composite materials that can be used in exposed outdoor applications but without the need for preservative chemicals, some of which have negative environmental impacts.
Even better, the new, natural fiber-reinforced thermo-plastic composites can be extruded into novel shapes not previously possible. With superior durability and lower cost manufacturing requirements, this sector grew into a $1 billion industry in North America.