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UMass research site targets high-tech battlefield

By From the Lowell Sun

By JACK MINCH , Sun Staff
Lowell Sun

LOWELL -- Tucked away in the new federal budget is $2 million for UMass Lowell's Nanomanufacturing Center, which could put it on the front lines of high-tech solutions for the modern battlefield.

The money will be used to help equip a new $80 million nanotechnology center and develop programming; plus fund research to determine whether battlefield equipment on the drawing boards will actually work, said UMass Lowell spokesman Renae Lias Claffey.

The battlefield equipment includes a microcanary biochemical sensor to determine biological and chemical threats, , according to an announcement released yesterday by U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and Lowell Congressman Marty Meehan.

A nano-skin sensor also under development could help determine whether equipment such as weapons, vehicles or aircraft have suffered structural damage.

"UMass Lowell is known for its ability to turn highly technical science into products that can be manufactured and, in this case, used in the battlefield," said UMass Lowell interim Chancellor David J. MacKenzie. "Our nation's defense will be well-served by the nanomanufacturing team on this campus. I am pleased to see that the Congress agrees and I am very grateful for the support of our delegation in Washington."

Nanotechnology is the creation and development of tools and products built on the nano scale.

It holds potential for practical solutions to wide-ranging problems that affect all people, Kennedy said in the press release. Lowell's research ranks among global leaders, he said.

"Nanotechnology holds tremendous promise to create new methods to detect deadly diseases earlier, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and create better and lighter body armor to protect our troops," Kennedy said.

Meehan was equally effusive in his praise for UMass Lowell's work and the nanotechnology center's potential to foster a academic-commercial synergy to create jobs throughout the region.

"The nanotechnology center is crucial to the technological and economic development of Lowell and Merrimack Valley," Meehan said.

The new center is scheduled for completion in 2010 and is expected to create 8,000 to 10,000 jobs in the region in the following decade as it attracts biological manufacturers to Greater Lowell

The current nanotechnology center is on the university's North Campus.