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Defense appropriations fund WMU research

Oct. 17, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Two Western Michigan University research initiatives that are part of the U.S. Department of Defense 2007 Appropriations Bill will lead to improved military vehicle designs and the development of tiny sensors capable of alerting troops to the presence of toxins.

Inclusion in the bill of $2.3 million in funding for the WMU projects was announced last week by U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. Both the House and Senate approved the conference committee's version of the bill, which included the WMU funding, and the legislation has been signed into law by the president.

"We are tremendously grateful to Sen. Levin for his support of the sensor project and Sen. Stabenow for her work on behalf of the vehicle design project," says WMU Interim President Diether H. Haenicke. "Our faculty researchers bring a wealth of expertise to both of these efforts, and we're delighted that their work will have an impact on the safety and efficiency of the nation's armed forces."

The defense bill includes:

A $1.3 million award for WMU research that will focus on the development of small, lightweight sensors capable of rapid detection and measurement of toxins and a rapid display of light alerts that can immediately warn users of danger. The nanosensor project is under the direction of Dr. Subra Muralidharan, professor of chemistry and director of the Nanotechnology Research and Computation Center.

A $1 million award for WMU's Center for Advanced Vehicle Design and Simulation that will be used to develop applied research simulation capability that will lead to improved reliability and performance for military ground vehicles. The center, which is part of WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was launched last year in partnership with the automotive industry. It is under the direction of Dr. William Liou, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering.

Muralidharan's work revolves around the development of molecules that emit light when they come into contact with harmful biological agents. The nanosensors will be small enough that they could be embedded in uniform fabric and even the paint on military vehicles. The molecules have been in development at WMU for several years.

WMU's Center for Advanced Vehicle Design and Simulation--known as CAViDS--will develop simulations that can predict the effects of changes to vehicle structure or the impact of use over rugged terrain on the performance of military vehicles. The simulations will allow engineers to test vehicles quickly and assess the impact of altering vehicles by adding more protective armor that can shield troops from roadside bombs.

"Michigan's proud tradition of supporting our nation's military services through world-class defense research and top-notch equipment is reflected in this defense bill," said Levin in announcing the details of the bill.

Stabenow concurred and noted that "Michigan has long been a leader in defense technology, research and manufacturing." The funding, she said, will expand those capabilities.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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