U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry and University of Massachusetts Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan announced Senate defense appropriations committee approval of $4 million for the campus's nanomanufacturing research and development. Earlier this year, the House passed $2 million for the project.
“UMass Lowell’s research will help protect our service men and women and help usher in new nanotechnology-based products that will stimulate the economy. It’s a critical time to continue federal support,” Meehan said. “Sen. Kerry’s backing of the project was critical.”
“Nanotechnology is one of our most promising cutting-edge industries and, under Chancellor Meehan's leadership, UMass Lowell is leading the nanotech revolution. Investments in basic research and development in the Merrimack Valley are more important than ever and I will continue working with Chancellor Meehan to ensure the university has the resources it needs to continue developing cutting edge technologies, especially those that help protect our troops,” said Kerry.
UMass Lowell’s research is aimed at producing sensors that can detect biological and chemical agents in military environments and identify structural damage in vehicles like helicopters. With UMass Lowell’s expertise in advanced manufacturing processes, the researchers are determining how to manufacture these nanotechnology-based products in mass quantities that are usable in many environments. Commercial applications are likely to emerge.
The research will soon have a new home in UMass Lowell’s Emerging Technology and Innovation Center (ETIC), slated to break ground this spring. The federal funds will help equip the new laboratory space.
“UMass Lowell’s new Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center will be outfitted to conduct nanomanufacturing research, provided we secure funding in the final budget,” said Meehan.
The $70 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 Massachusetts Economic Investment Act of 2006. The R&D conducted in the facility is expected to spur about 300 new jobs over the next five years. Current industry partners include BASF, Textron, Nanogreen Solutions Corp., Nypro Inc., Teknor/Apex and Nynodynamics Inc.
The Army Research Laboratory in Hyattsville, Md., is helping to ensure that the multi-functional sensors research project meets the military’s needs.
“Our partnership with ARL is critical to developing sensors that will work in battlefield conditions,” said Prof. Joey Mead, who directs UMass Lowell’s federally funded nanomanufacturing research team. “We’re pleased that Congress is recognizing it’s a partnership that works.”
Two types of sensors are under development. The “nanocanary/mini-mutt” biochemical sensor would reveal the presence of biological and chemical threats, while the “nano-skin” detection system could be combined with the chemical/bio sensor to detect those agents as well any structural mechanical damage, on body armor, vehicles (for example, helicopters) and weapons.
Nanotechnology-based products are expected to have an economic impact in the hundreds of billion dollars. Some estimates put the impact at $1 trillion within the next decade.
First funded in the 2007 appropriation act, UMass Lowell has received $4.6 million in congressionally directed funding for the research project to date.
The Senate is expected to finish consideration of the defense appropriations bill by the end of September. Final passage by both chambers of Congress and President Obama's signature is necessary before the funding becomes law. The federal fiscal year 2010 begins Oct. 1.