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MIT and U.S. Army officially open the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 22, 2003 - The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN), a research collaboration between the United States Army and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, formally opened its doors today with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony in front of the ISN's 28,000 square-foot facility located at 500 Technology Square. More than 300 members of the MIT community, the U.S. Army and ISN industrial partners were in attendance.

Founded in March 2002 by a $50 million grant from the U.S. Army, the ISN combines basic and applied research to create an expansive array of innovations in nanoscience and nanotechnology that will dramatically improve the survivability of soldiers. Research is currently under way in three key areas: protection, performance improvement, and injury intervention and cure.

The dedication commenced at 11 a.m. and concluded with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon. Remarks were made by Dr. Charles M. Vest, president of MIT; Commanding Gen. John C. Doesburg, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (Provisional); Dr. A. Michael Andrews II, deputy assistant secretary for research and technology/chief scientist, OASA, U.S. Army; Dr. Richard E. Smalley, university professor, Nobel laureate, Rice University; Dr. Thomas M. Connelly Jr., senior vice president and chief science and technology officer, DuPont; Mr. Gregory S. Shelton, vice president of engineering, technology, manufacturing and quality, Raytheon; Dr. Alice P. Gast, vice president for research and associate provost, MIT; and Specialist Jason C. Ashline, U.S. Army.

"This is an exciting day for the ISN because we're doing so much more than dedicating a new facility," said Professor Ned Thomas, director of ISN and the Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. "We're really celebrating the coming-together of an outstanding community of researchers dedicated to improving the survivability of the brave soldiers who put themselves in harm's way to defend our country."

The ISN today also announced the addition of several new Industrial Partners to its list of research specialists including Dow Corning as a Major Industrial Member; Triton Systems, Dendritic Nanotechnologies, Inc., Nomadics, Inc. and Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc. as Small Business Industrial Members; and W.L. Gore and Associates as an Interested Industrial Participant. The companies join Founding Industrial Partners DuPont, Raytheon, and Partners Healthcare as companies that work closely with the ISN, the Army Natick Soldier Center and the Army Research Laboratory to advance the science in field-ready products.

"The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies is an exciting innovation in government-academic-industry teamwork, promising breakthrough nanotechnologies that will lighten our soldiers' loads, treat wounds and protect them from injuries," said Andrews. "This lab opening offers the Army new assets in soldier survival, which is the most powerful and patriotic objective any partnership can aspire to achieve for America."

Current ISN research focuses on several key soldier capabilities, including protection from bullets, blasts and chem/bio threats; automated medical monitoring and treatment; improved performance; and reduced load weight. Industrial partners will bring special technology expertise to the ISN, as well as helping to commercialize new laboratory innovations.

Research that was on display at the event included:

  • A new technique for combining nanoscale coatings to provide both water resistance and microbe-killing power for fabrics or other items soldiers might carry

  • The investigation of fluids that stiffen when exposed to a magnet, for use as a dynamic armor system

  • The synthesis and processing of polymers that open and shut like accordions when exposed to an electric field for use as artificial muscles or automatic tourniquets.

The overall ISN research program is divided into seven interdisciplinary teams that address various soldier challenges, as well as the problem of integrating technologies and transitioning them to the commercial sector for manufacturing:

  • Energy-Absorbing Materials: ISN researchers are developing energy-absorbing nanomaterials that will be part of the future soldier's battlesuit. These new materials will provide the soldier with protection against ballistics and directed energy, thereby enhancing the soldier's survivability.

  • Mechanically Active Materials and Devices: ISN researchers are developing nanomaterials that are capable of mechanical actuation and dynamic stiffness. As part of the soldier's battlesuit, these adaptive multifunctional materials will improve soldier performance and may provide medical assistance in the field.

  • Sensors and Chemical/Biological Protection: ISN researchers are developing protective measures that will enable the future soldier to detect and respond to chemical and biological threats. Research is taking place on the development of highly sensitive sensors as well as protective fiber and fabric coatings that can be integrated in the battlesuit. These external systems will enhance the soldier's awareness of environmental toxins, thereby providing the soldier with initial protection against chemical and biological agents.

  • Biomaterials and Nanodevices for Soldier Medical Technology: ISN researchers are looking at ways to use nanotechnology to improve the way we detect and treat life-threatening injuries such as hemorrhage, fracture, or infection. With new approaches to soldier triage and with automatic first aid for a wounded or disabled soldier, the ISN's goal is to at least begin, if not complete, recovery while the patient is still on the battlefield by developing ways to monitor patient physiology as well as novel materials for wound healing.

  • Processing and Characterization: ISN researchers are developing the processing and device fabrication technologies needed to prototype, test, manufacture and deliver functional nanomaterials and devices for transitioning to the battlespace, ultimately providing soldier protection in the field.

  • Modeling and Simulation of Materials and Processes: A key component of effective materials research and development is modeling and simulation of the new materials and processes. ISN researchers are establishing basic insight into the structure and properties of nanomaterials with the intention of providing direct guidance for engineering and materials research, particularly on the novel properties of nanosized materials and on the synergistic effects achieved through hierarchical materials design.

  • Integration and Transitioning of Technology Systems: Two of the biggest comprehensive challenges of designing the battlesuit of the future are integrating all the technologies into one smoothly working system and transitioning the technology innovations from the laboratory to the real world in a timely and cost-conscious way. Industry will play a key role in addressing both of these challenges.

"The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies has a state-of-the-art facility where the very best faculty, staff and students are performing cutting-edge science and engineering research," said Gast. "MIT has an outstanding track record of turning basic research into technologies that change the world, and I'm confident the research performed in ISN will follow in that great tradition."

The opening of ISN marks another major step in MIT's history of applying revolutionary technologies to the country's war efforts. In World War II, for example, MIT's Radiation Laboratory rapidly developed radar that saved untold numbers of lives by warning of incoming aircraft. And during the Cold War, MIT's Instrumentation Laboratory (now Charles Stark Draper Laboratories) developed critical inertial guidance systems for missiles.

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