Building Our Technology Future
When the government announced closings of military bases across the country, states panicked. But Delaware won a unique opportunity: to be part of the largest technology advancement in decades. That means job creation. Welcome to tomorrow.
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To pave the way for future collaborations and the jobs they would bring to the former industrial site, the university and the Army inked a cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, in January to share laboratories, personnel, facilities and equipment to conduct specific research associated with the agency’s mission.
“We can’t exchange money, but we can exchange laboratories, equipment, people and knowledge,” Lombardi says.
University President Patrick Harker says the formalized partnership with APG will be an important influence on the transformation of the Chrysler site into a major center of innovative science, technology and engineering as well as an incubator of new entrepreneurial businesses.
“The Army has a lot of other contractors and firms they work with,” he says. “And we are going to be working with them, and some of them may want to locate up here as opposed to down in Aberdeen.”
The document will make it easier to collaborate with the various organizations that make up RDECOM. “There’s a need on both sides to be able to work across boundaries and work together as teams,” says Weir. “This agreement—this RDECOM-level CRADA—puts that in place.”
Moreover, the opportunities extend well beyond Aberdeen—RDECOM has branches across the country, Lombardi says. Researchers from the university’s Center for Composite Materials have been working with the Army Research Laboratory since 1986.
“We’ve had a long tradition of working with them. We feel comfortable working with them. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship,” says Jack Gillespie, director of the university’s Center for Composite Materials, which was designated an Army Center of Excellence in 1996.
Composites are stronger, lighter and more durable than traditional materials. Their use as protective as well as structural materials will remain an important area, Gillespie says.
Early projects involved developing lightweight materials for military vehicles as well as materials to protect soldiers against blasts, explosions and gunshots. Now the center is working to develop conformal antennas that can be embedded in Army vehicles and soldiers’ armor to replace traditional “whip” antennas like the ones found on trucks and cars. These hidden systems will both improve communications and streamline vehicles and battlefield personnel.
“We are looking at multifunctional materials where some of the electromagnetic properties can be designed into the materials along with their inherent properties of strength and minimum weight,” Gillespie says.
Weir sees opportunities for other specialties as well. Health sciences will benefit as the distinction between “life” and “death” sciences blurs. “Prostheses are becoming a very big issue now,” he says. “That will bring together health, materials, computers, mechanical and electrical engineering.”
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