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Lawrence Tech wins $800,000 federal grant for military testing

Release Date: October 27, 2008

Southfield, Mich. - Lawrence Technological University has been awarded an $800,000 federal grant for the development and installation of an environmental/loading chamber that will be used to test vehicle armor and armor structural components made of advanced materials in its Center for Innovative Materials Research (CIMR).

This unique new test chamber will enable full- and partial-scale vehicle and composite armor testing under harsh conditions involving salt spray, rain, salt water, solar/UV light, high humidity and sand conditions, in addition to freezing, thawing and dry heat.

Championed by Congressman Sander Levin and supported by U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, the federal grant for this environmental chamber was included in the military appropriations bill recently signed by President George W. Bush.

"Innovative materials are playing a vital role in the development of military technologies that protect our troops in the field," said Rep. Levin.  "It is important to develop these cutting-edge technologies here in Michigan because of our strong roots in research and development." 

Lawrence Tech has been working on vehicle armor research for several years with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the Army Tank-Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren. CIMR, which was dedicated earlier this year, was built with the help of a cooperative research agreement with ARL and close technical and research direction from TARDEC.

The environmental/loading chamber to be completed in 2009 will be 20 feet long, 12 feet wide and 12 feet high. Constructed of insulated blocks, it will sit on an insulated deep foundation and have a steel superstructure to hold a heavy-duty, fatigue-rated actuator, a device built into the roof of the chamber capable of delivering impact blows and repeated forces up to 150,000 lbs. on components being tested.

"The chamber will be able to simulate the ability of vehicle components and building construction components to handle loads in different conditions, from freezing and thawing, dry heat and 100 percent humidity," said University Distinguished Professor Nabil Grace, CIMR director and chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at Lawrence Tech.

The environmental/loading chamber will be built to military testing standards, which are more rigorous than industry standards.

"This latest investment will allow us to test materials under a wide range of simulated climate conditions," said Lawrence Tech President Lewis N. Walker. "This important work should help develop better ways to protect our troops and their vehicles, and we anticipate that there may be additional commercial and consumer applications that can help diversify and expand Michigan's economy."

The environmental/loading chamber will complete Grace's plan for four major research components in CIMR. The research facility can test highway bridge components up to 100 feet long for various types of stress under both static and repeated loads up to 1 million pounds of force. A fire/loading chamber installed in 2007 can reach temperatures of 2300 degrees Fahrenheit for testing structural components. Equipment for nanotechnology testing was installed earlier this year.

Lawrence Technological University,, offers over 80 undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree programs in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes 75 years ago, and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech's 102-acre campus is in Southfield, with education centers in Lansing, Livonia, Clinton Township, Traverse City and Petoskey. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.