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Army Awards $5M Nanotech Contract to MU Researcher

Photonics.com
Jun 2006
COLUMBIA, Mo., June 28, 2006 -- A professor who uses microchips and nanotechnology to make tiny explosive materials has received a contract worth nearly $5 million from the US Army to develop miniature devices that will help improve military weapons systems and detonate or detect explosives.

Gangopadhyay.jpgShubhra Gangopadhyay, an electrical and computer engineering professor in the University of Missouri-Columbia's college of engineering, has received a $4.79 million contract to build small devices resembling electric circuits to enhance the performance of Army weapons systems. The three-year agreement is based on military need and calls for the development of numerous devices that will be used to power warheads, rockets, missiles and guns.

Gangopadhyay, well known in her field for working with tiny explosive materials, said she was selected by Army officials because her research is "dual-use," incorporating microchip-based technology with nanotechnology, which is the development of materials or devices on the atomic scale. Fusing both technologies generates a powerful reaction, producing millions of shockwaves that can be used to initiate explosions or detect explosives, she said.

"Our goal is to use microchip technology to make smaller and better controlled warheads and munitions systems," said Gangopadhyay, who also heads MU's International Center for Nano/Micro Systems and Nanotechnology.

The first project, due within six months to a year, calls for the building of devices that generate sufficient temperature, pressure and combustion to propel a warhead or rocket via microchip. Other projects deal with warhead thrust, along with missile target recognition and explosive sensory detonation and detection. The devices, she said, must be fully operational and safe upon delivery to the Army.

"This isn't basic research, and we have to quickly deliver a working product. We have to make sure whatever research we are doing can be used by the soldier," said Gangopadhyay, noting the miniature devices are sensitive and capable of exploding in hand, causing injury. "Nanotechnology is such a new area. No one knows how it's going to react or behave. I have to make sure the devices are safe and perform the way we want them to."

Although the agreement focuses mostly on the development of defense-system solutions, Gangopadhyay also will explore nanotechnology methods to produce alternative energy solutions "for the betterment of mankind," she said.

For more information, visit: www.mizzou.edu


GLOSSARY
nanotechnology
The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
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