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Lockheed, Rice Form 'Lancer'

Photonics.com
Apr 2008
HOUSTON, April 21, 2008 -- Airport scanners that can see through the soles of shoes, space-based sensors that monitor climate change, and nanomaterials that double battery efficiency or extract energy from waste heat are a few of the technologies that might result from a partnership announced today between defense contractor Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., and Rice University in Houston.

The Lockheed Martin Advanced Nanotechnology Center of Excellence at Rice University, or Lancer, will pair researchers from Lockheed Martin with Rice experts in areas such as carbon nanotechnology, photonics, and plasmonics. Lancer will develop new technologies for a range of applications in electronics, energy and security and will be based at Rice's Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, named for the university's chemist and nanotechnology pioneer.

Nanotechnology refers to devices and specks of matter that are measured in the billionths of a meter. Nanoscale objects can be thousands of times smaller than living cells and include both organic molecules like DNA and inorganic metals and semiconductors. In many instances, scientists can create nanoparticles with great precision -- even controlling the placement of individual atoms. With this precision, scientists worldwide are racing to find new materials and processes that can revolutionize everything from health care and electronics to energy production and environmental science.

"Nanotechnology promises to impact everything from the clothes people wear to the energy they consume, and it will also revolutionize the systems and services Lockheed Martin delivers to its government customers," said Sharon Smith, director of Advanced Technology, Lockheed Martin.

Lancer grew out of a series of technology exchange events between the Smalley Institute and Lockheed Martin scientists in recent years, led by Rice faculty and designed to keep Lockheed Martin researchers apprised of the latest nanotechnology discoveries.

"Lancer formed from the bottom-up, and that sets it apart from other ambitious university-industry research partnerships," said Wade Adams, director of the Smalley Institute. "The folks in the labs are the ones who came to us and said, 'Make it easier for us to work together.'"

When Lockheed Martin researchers visited Rice in March, for instance, the Smalley Institute and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship sponsored a round-robin session that initiated dozens of conversations between Lockheed Martin project managers and Rice faculty on promising areas of collaborative research. Lancer officials are evaluating a number of specific proposals that grew out of those meetings.

The kinds of technologies discussed include:
  • Nanomaterials that could double the efficiency of Lithium-ion batteries,
  • Airport scanners that can "see" through the soles of shoes,
  • Solar energy collectors that are twice as efficient as today's best,
  • Nanomaterials that can extract energy from waste heat,
  • "Neuromorphic" computers that are structured like mammalian brains,
  • Stealthy materials that are stronger and lighter than existing products, and
  • Space-based sensors that can closely monitor climate change.
Lancer officials expect to fund up to six projects per year, with priority given to projects that can either be brought to market quickly or dramatically improve upon existing technology, officials said.

For more information, visit: www.rice.edu or www.lockheedmartin.com



GLOSSARY
electronics
That branch of science involved in the study and utilization of the motion, emissions and behaviors of currents of electrical energy flowing through gases, vacuums, semiconductors and conductors, not to be confused with electrics, which deals primarily with the conduction of large currents of electricity through metals.
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.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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