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Posted 06.27.06

 
 
   

Army Awards $4.79 Million Contract to MU Nanotechnology Research

Miniature devices being developed and tested for use in U.S. Army explosives

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The U.S. Army, seeking to benefit from emerging advances in nanotechnology, has turned to a University of Missouri-Columbia professor to develop miniature devices that will help improve military capabilities and generate alternative sources of energy.

Shubhra Gangopadhyay, an electrical and computer engineering professor in MU's College of Engineering, has received a $4.79 million contract to build small devices 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. The devices resemble electric circuits.

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Gangopadhyay, well known for working with tiny explosive materials, was selected by Army officials because her research is "dual-use," incorporating microchip-based technology with nanotechnology. Fusing both technologies generates a powerful reaction, producing millions of shockwaves that can be used to initiate explosions or detect explosives. Nanotechnology works with microscopic particles the size of atoms.

"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 devises 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, the MU researcher also will explore nanotechnology methods to produce alternative energy solutions "for the betterment of mankind," she said.

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