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New Jersey Institute of Technology To Develop Smart Coating for U.S. Army

NEWARK, November 20-- A team of researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) recently signed an $838,000 contract with the U.S. Army to develop a smart coating that would enable military vehicles, if corroded or scratched, to detect and heal themselves. The vehicles could also change color on the battlefield, creating instant camouflage and rendering tanks, helicopters and military trucks virtually invisible. The research team expects an additional $1.5 million to fund the smart-coating project for the following year.

The team is lead by Daniel J. Watts, Ph.D., executive director of the York Center for Environmental Engineering and Science and Panasonic Chair in Sustainability at NJIT. The team includes researchers from Clemson University.

The coatings will be embedded with, and driven by, nano-technology known as nano-machines. The microscopic electromechanical machines will send signals to Army personnel, alerting them if the coating is impaired; thus the name, smart coating.

(Editor’s Note: NJIT researchers working on this project, along with their hometowns, appear later in this release. Call Robert Florida, (973) 596-5203, to arrange telephone or in-person interviews.)

Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the futuristic coatings are intended for use on a wide array of military vehicles as well weapons systems.

The coatings could also reduce the sensitivity of explosives and thus make them safer for soldiers to handle. The smart coatings will allow the Army to become a lighter, and thus more lethal, mobile force, Army officials say.

Army experts are eager to develop the smart coatings, since the paints now used by the Army are expensive and labor intensive to apply. And most of the paint, if scratched or corroded, needs to be repainted, which can hide damage to metal and other materials.

Army leaders estimate the current cost for corrosion-related problems at $10 billion per year, $2 billion of which is related to painting and scraping.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, New Jersey’s senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, who secured funding for the smart-coating research, said, “NJIT is a leading technological research university that, in partnership with Picatinny Arsenal, is doing work vital to our national security. Smart-coating technology will make our armed forces more high tech and more effective. I was pleased to lead the fight to fund such cutting-edge research.”

The smart-coating project is one ideally suited for NJIT. The NJIT team has expertise in various disciplines, including device physics, nano-technology and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), polymer engineering, chemistry and environmental engineering and materials characterization. NJIT researchers also have backgrounds in polymeric coatings, micro-sensor fabrication, large-area circuits, nano-structures and nano-composites, each of which provides a foundation for the development of this new generation of coatings.

NJIT Smart-Coatings Research Team

Dongguang Wei, Ph.D., of Kearny, microscopy specialist in the materials characterization lab at NJIT, and Xueyan Zhang, Roselle, also a microscopy specialist in that lab, will research advanced microscopic techniques that will characterize the features of smart coatings and predict performance capabilities.

John Federici, Ph.D., of Westfield, associate chair and professor of physics, and Gordon Thomas, Ph.D., of Princeton, distinguished research professor of physics, will research the concept of a coating as a large flexible circuit - research that could enable the nano-machines to achieve the desired effect.

Marino Xanthos, Ph.D., of Fort Lee, professor of chemical engineering and director of research of the Polymer Processing Institute (PPI) at NJIT and Ming-Wan Young, Ph.D., of Basking Ridge, senior research engineer at the PPI, will research modifications to existing polymeric coating systems - changes that will help incorporate the smart performance features.

Som Mitra, Ph.D., of Bridgewater, professor of chemistry and environmental science, and Zafar Iqbal, Ph.D., of Morristown, research professor of chemistry and environmental science, will research the development of camouflage and damage-detection capabilities through the use of electro-properties of light.

Iqbal, along with Haim Grebel, Ph.D., of Livingston, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Electronic Imaging Center at NJIT, will research whether modified carbon nanotubes can change key electrical properties of coatings, which will in turn make them smart coatings.

Roumiana S. Petrova, Ph.D., of New Milford, a special lecturer in the physics department, will research the formation of nano-structured coatings with smart properties using boron-containing materials.

Roman Dubrovsky, Ph.D., of Riverdale, New York City, associate professor of mechanical engineering, will research cost-effective approaches to the preparation of carbon nanostructures.


NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics, multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar astrophysics. Yahoo! Internet Life magazine cites NJIT as a "perennially most wired" university.

Contact Information:   Robert Florida
Public Relations
(973) 596-5203 




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