UML Gets $4M for Nanotech

12/23/2009
By From the Lowell Sun

LOWELL -- UMass Lowell officials are cheering the defense appropriations bill approved by Congress over the weekend, which carries a $4 million windfall for the campus' nanomanufacturing research and development program.

"UMass Lowell is the place to go to get nanotech-based products that will work in battlefield conditions. Our Congressional delegation and the U.S. Army know that," UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan said in a statement.

"The sensors we have developed will be the proverbial canary in a coal mine for our soldiers -- determining whether an area is free of biological or chemical substances so no one risks his or her life entering it."

The program was first funded in the 2007 appropriations act. UMass Lowell has received $4.6 million in congressionally directed funding for the research project to date.

Meehan said the funding wouldn't have been possible without support from Sens. John Kerry and Paul Kirk, and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas.

"This funding for further development of nanotechnology sensors will help better protect our servicemen and women, while simultaneously creating new opportunities for UMass Lowell students," Tsongas said in a statement.

In addition to the development of threat-detecting sensors, UMass Lowell's research team is also developing methods to detect structural damage in vehicles like helicopters, a technology that can provide significant cost savings to the military. For instance, rather than replace helicopter rotors on a scheduled basis, as is often the practice, the monitors would detect when structural damage begins and replacement should occur.
Federal funding this year will also help equip the university's new Emerging Technology and Innovation Center, which is scheduled to break ground in the spring. The $80 million ETIC will be the first new academic building on campus in more than 30 years. Significant funds for the ETIC were provided under the state's Economic Investment Act of 2006. Meehan was a congressman that year. He and U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, were able to come up with a portion of the funding that year. s

This year's appropriation of $4 million doubles the previous high-water mark of $2 million, which the university received in 2007.

Research and development conducted in the facility is expected to spur about 300 new jobs over the next five years. Industry partners include BASF, Textron, Nanogreen Solutions Corp., Nypro Inc., Teknor/Apex and Nynodynamics. UMass Lowell also partners with the Army Research Laboratory in Hyattsville, Md., and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research and Development and Engineering Center, also known as the Natick Labs.

The defense appropriations bill cleared its final congressional hurdle when it passed the Senate Saturday. It is now before the president, who is expected to sign it.