MIT, Army collaborate on military nanotech

The Army and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week opened the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies in Cambridge, Mass.

Funded by a $50 million grant from the Army, the institute will develop technologies to push the Army's Objective Force concept in six capability areas: threat detection, threat neutralization, concealment, enhanced human performance, automated medical treatment, and reduced logistical footprint.

The Objective Force program, the Army's long-term plan for modernization, is intended to develop a high-tech force that uses lightweight protective gear integrated with sensors, networked systems, and unmanned air and ground subsystems.

Nanotechnology systems operate at atomic or molecular levels. A nanometer is about 50,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

The institute views the soldier of the future as an "integrated platform system." Nanotechnology could reduce the weight of gear each soldier carries from currently more than 100 pounds to less than 50.

"Viewing the soldier as a system, individual research objectives should focus on enhancing the soldier's protection against the full spectrum of threats?ballistic, chemical/biological and electromagnetic," according to an Army program announcement.

The institute research program is divided into seven research teams:
  • Energy absorbing materials

  • Mechanically active materials and devices

  • Sensors and chemical/biological protection

  • Biomaterials and nanodevices for soldier medical technology

  • Processing and characterization

  • Modeling and simulation of materials and processes

  • Integration and transitioning of technology systems

  • About 150 people will staff the institute.

    Earlier this month, the House approved a bill to establish a National Nanotechnology R&D Program.

    HR 766 promises "to ensure continued U.S. leadership in nanotechnology" by authorizing $2.4 billion over the next three years for research on molecular technologies.

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