April 22, 2008 — “This is very significant for Lockheed Martin and we think we will reap benefits across the business,” said Sharon Smith, director of Advanced Technology at Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), in announcing her company’s new collaboration with Rice University for nanotechnology research. The strategic partnership, funded with $3 million over three years (but “looking to expand,” according to Smith), aims to research and develop new nanotechnologies and nano-based solutions for a wide range of applications in electronics, energy, and security.
The Lockheed Martin Advanced Nanotechnology Center of Excellence at Rice University, or LANCER, will pair researchers from Lockheed Martin with Rice experts in carbon nanotechnology, photonics, plasmonics, and more. Rice University is widely recognized for many important contributions to nanotechnology. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin has a history of proactively engaging partners in nanotech R&D.
LANCER, a “virtual” organization, will launch in June 2008 at Rice’s Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. There will be a faculty director, but no new building and no dedicated space, Smalley Institute director Wade Adams told Small Times. Adams added that Rice has 130 faculty members working on nanotechnology.
The center’s founding team is now evaluating proposals for various sized projects. LANCER officials expect to fund up to a half-dozen projects per year; priority will be given to those that can either be brought to market quickly or dramatically improve upon existing technology. The kinds of technologies discussed include:
— nanomaterials that could double the efficiency of Lithium-ion batteries
— airport scanners that can “see” through the soles of shoes
— solar energy collectors that are twice as efficient as today’s best
— nanomaterials that can extract energy from waste heat
— “neuromorphic” computers that are structured like mammalian brains
— stealthy materials that are stronger and lighter than existing products
— space-based sensors that can closely monitor climate change
LANCER grew out of a series of technology exchange events between the Smalley Institute and Lockheed Martin scientists in recent years, led by Rice faculty and designed to keep Lockheed Martin researchers apprised of the latest nanotechnology discoveries.
“LANCER formed from the bottom-up, and that sets it apart from other ambitious university-industry research partnerships,” said Adams, director of Rice’s Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, in a statement. “The folks in the labs are the ones who came to us and said, ‘Make it easier for us to work together.'”
When Lockheed Martin researchers visited Rice in March, for instance, the Smalley Institute and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship sponsored a round-robin session that initiated dozens of conversations between Lockheed Martin project managers and Rice faculty on promising areas of collaborative research. LANCER officials are evaluating a number of specific proposals that grew out of those meetings.
“Nanotechnology promises to impact everything from the clothes people wear to the energy they consume, and it will also revolutionize the systems and services Lockheed Martin delivers to its government customers,” said Smith in a statement. “We are excited to partner with Rice, a recognized leader in nanotechnology research, to collaborate on those breakthroughs leading us to next generation products and services for our nation.”
More than a quarter of the science and engineering faculty hired at Rice in the past two decades are nanotechnology experts who are affiliated with the Smalley Institute, which is named for Rice chemist and nanotechnology pioneer Richard Smalley.