Nanotechnology to improve warhead, missile design

Published 29 June 2006

The U.S. Army wants to exploit the benefits of advanced nanotechnology to create more precise and more stable munitions

We have written several stories about advances in nanotechnology, and the U.S. Army is looking to take advantage from such advances. The U.S. Army has awarded a $4.79 million contract to a University of Missouri-Columbia professor to develop miniature devices which will help improve military capabilities and generate alternative sources of energy. Shubhra Gangopadhyay, an electrical and computer engineering professor in MU’s College of Engineering, will use the award to build small devices to enhance the performance of Army weapons systems. The three-year agreement calls for the development of numerous devices which will be used to power warheads, rockets, missiles, and guns. The devices themselves resemble electric circuits.

The first project, due within six months to a year, calls for the building of devices which generate sufficient temperature, pressure, and combustion to propel a warhead or rocket via microchip. Other projects deal with warhead thrust along with missile target recognition and explosive sensory detonation and detection. The devices, Professor Gangopadhyay said, must be fully operational and safe upon delivery to the Army. “This isn’t basic research, and we have to quickly deliver a working product. We have to make sure whatever research we are doing can be used by the soldier,” she said, noting the miniature devises are sensitive and capable of exploding in hand, causing injury. “Nanotechnology is such a new area. No one knows how it’s going to react or behave. I have to make sure the devices are safe and perform the way we want them to.”