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Lawrence Tech wins $1 million grant for military testing

Release Date: November 30, 2007

Southfield, Mich. A $1 million federal appropriation has been secured for Lawrence Technological University to build an environmental chamber for testing vehicle components for military uses. It is anticipated this latest addition to Lawrence Tech’s Center for Innovative Materials Research (CIMR) will be completed by the summer of 2008.

The $1 million appropriation, which was championed by Congressman Sander Levin and supported by U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, was included in the $471 billion military appropriations bill recently signed into law by President George W. Bush.

“Innovative materials are playing a growing 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.” 

CIMR was built in 2006 with the help of a cooperative research agreement with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) that involves TARDEC, the Army’s research and development center in Warren.

The environmental chamber made of insulated ceramic blocks will be 12 feet long, 12 feet wide and 20 feet high. It will sit on an insulated foundation and have a steel superstructure to hold an actuator, a device built into the roof of the chamber capable of delivering impact blows with up to 150,000 lbs. of force on components being tested. The environmental chamber will measure the impact of both repeated and static loads in simulated climatic conditions ranging from Antarctica to Iraq.

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

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

Grace said he expects TARDEC to use the new test facility to measure the capabilities of ceramic-tile armor systems for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs). Under the ongoing agreement with ARL, Grace and his team of researchers have been working with TARDEC on applications for carbon fiber in a structural fabric frame to hold blast-resistant ceramic tiles.

Grace said the new environmental chamber could also be used for civilian projects, such as testing different types of concrete, steel, wood, composites, or hybrid beams used in bridges.

“This latest investment will allow us to test materials under a wide range of simulated climatic 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 chamber will complete the plan for four major research components that Grace envisioned for CIMR when it opened in 2006. The research facility can test bridge components up to 100 feet long for stress under both static and repeated loads up to 1 million pounds of force. A fire chamber installed earlier this year can test structural components up to 2300 degrees Fahrenheit and approximate conditions at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Equipment for nanotechnology testing also was installed earlier this year.

Lawrence Technological University,, offers more than 60 Undergraduate, Master’s, and Doctoral degree programs in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. Founded in 1932, the 5,000-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 Livonia, Clinton Township, Traverse City, and Petoskey. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia.