Lawrence Tech Wins $1.6 Million Grant to Develop Vehicle Armour

23 December 2009

Lawrence Technological University has been awarded a $1.6 million (US) federal grant to develop and test stronger and lighter armour made of composite materials for military vehicles.

The work will be performed at Lawrence Tech's Center for Innovative Materials Research (CIMR) in conjunction with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren and the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) headquartered in Adelphi, Md.

The goal is to develop vehicle armour that is superior in design, weight and durability to the vehicle armour currently used by the military.

The funding was included in the 2010 military appropriations bill at the request of Congressman Sander Levin. ""This award recognizes Lawrence Tech's expertise in lightweight composite materials,"" Levin said. ""The funding will help develop lighter, stronger vehicle armour that is needed to protect our troops in the field. It's an important investment in cutting-edge technology here in Michigan.""

The research project will be led by Professor Nabil Grace, the director of CIMR, who is best known for his research on extending the lifespan and reducing the maintenance costs of bridges by replacing steel components with noncorrosive carbon, glass and Aramid fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP, GFRP, AFRP) materials and other advanced composites.

""New armour materials, including composites, need to be tested and a standard specification established to facilitate acquisition requirements,"" said Lawrence Tech President Lewis N. Walker. ""We believe that the facilities and expertise available through CIMR can be developed and provide such a path for the U.S. Army.""

Lawrence Tech opened CIMR in 2006. The $3.2 million building has a 30-foot clearance height and a 25,000-pound crane to accommodate testing of full-scale structural components, such as portable battlefield bridges, up to 100 feet long. Researchers can subject structures to loads up to one million pounds. Additionally, a fire/loading chamber can reach temperatures of 2,300°F.

A full-scale environmental chamber that can simulate harsh weather conditions has just been added at CIMR. This unique new test chamber will enable full- and partial-scale vehicle and composite armour testing under harsh conditions duplicating windblown rain, salt spray, solar/UV light, high humidity and sand storm conditions, in addition to freezing, thawing and dry heat.

""CIMR has the testing facilities needed to ensure that vehicle components made from composite materials will stand up in the harshest conditions,"" Grace said. ""We hope to develop lightweight armour that will save the lives of our solders while also improving the functionality and fuel efficiency of the military vehicles they depend on.""

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