December 15, 2011

Local Lab At Stake In Vote

By: Larry Rulison, Business Writer

Source: Times Union

ALBANY — Hopes for a new U.S. Department of Defense research lab at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering should take a huge leap forward later this week when Congress votes on the 2012 national defense bill.

Language included in the bill by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep Chris Gibson authorizes $50 million in nanotechnology research and a study to determine the need for a new Defense Department lab that would focus on nanotechnology.

New York's congressional delegation says the NanoCollege would be an ideal location for the lab, although it would have to compete with other institutions for the designation.

Nanotechnology, which can shrink battlefield sensors while making them more powerful, and can create coatings and materials that would make weapons more reliable and deadly, has huge implications for the military, says Gibson, who had a 24-year military career.

"This is innovation that will make equipment more reliable, more durable, and lighter for our service members to carry," Gibson said. "I was proud to champion this effort in the House-passed bill and appreciate Sen. Gillibrand's advocacy in the Senate."

Gillibrand says advances by the military in nanotechnology — the core technology used in computer chips, solar panels and other semiconductor devices — will also have benefits for the U.S. economy.

"Like other innovations that have made our country competitive, the Defense Department's innovation can have the additional benefit of spurring commercial investments and helping to sustain a domestic industry that not only serves the Defense industrial base but also translates into American competitiveness," Gillibrand said.

Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive officer at the NanoCollege, said that the bill — if passed by Congress and signed by President Obama — will also pave the way for the NanoCollege to become part of the Defense Department's so-called "Trusted Foundry" program in which pre-approved domestic computer chip manufacturers make chips for the military. Kaloyeros said if that happens, the military chips would be made at the school's Smart System Technology & Commercialization Center in Canandaigua, which is installing 8-inch wafer manufacturing equipment.

Kaloyeros said a defense lab at the NanoCollege would help "ensure U.S. supremacy in 21st century military technologies, equipping and protecting our troops with state-of-the-art, nanotechnology-enabled tools, safeguarding our vital national interests both at home and abroad, and attracting significant federal investment" to the region and the state.

Such defense labs can be huge job creators. Massachusetts Institute of Technology operates one at Hanscom Air Force Base outside Boston called Lincoln Laboratory that has 3,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $700 million.

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