On October 11, 2016, sp2nano—a small high tech business in Butte—entered into a $200 thousand agreement with Montana Tech to research promising strategies that could lead to advanced fabrics that are both light weight and bullet proof. State-of-the-art capability today can make bulletproof polymer vests that are EITHER light-weight OR able to stop high caliber bullets—never both. Yet, high strength-to-weight ratios are very desirable in materials used for body armor. Dr. Dario Prieto, in the CAMP center of excellence and assistant professor of materials science, Dr. Jack Skinner, an associate professor in mechanical engineering and the materials science Ph.D. program, and Ronda Coguill, CAMP’s materials testing director, are leading this effort at Tech.
The project goals are to: (1) functionalize a certain type of polymer fabric with carbon nanotubes and graphene; and (2) measure the mechanical properties of the resulting fabrics. The Montana Tech team, including a graduate student, will develop the processing conditions, characterize the materials, test their mechanical properties, and draft a manuscript detailing important technical findings.
“As a start-up business in a multi-billion-dollar marketplace, we know that a large part of success will be predicated on the credibility and capability of the researchers and Institution that we work with,” said SP2Nano’s founder, Hugh Craig. “At Montana Tech we are delighted to find not only that reputation and talent, but both Dario and Jack are highly experienced and knowledgeable nanoscientists. I am enthused with this collaboration and look forward to success here and in future projects.” "This is an exciting project on practical and fundamental levels,” added Prieto. “The benefits of light and strong body armor are quite clear, but this type of chemistry is much more broadly applicable---from transportation to athletic equipment."
Dr. Skinner said, “Hugh’s local support of his native Butte community after a successful international career is highly encouraging of what we do at Montana Tech in helping ordinary people lead extraordinary lives. This collaboration with sp2nano could lead to employment opportunities in Butte related to nanotechnology and materials development. We will actively pursue the creation of intellectual property to make both local and national impacts.”
“This is exciting, truly forefront research with ambitious and important goals to develop and understand advanced polymeric fabrics with nano-based properties that are both lightweight and strong. The project is a great example of what the CAMP research center can accomplish in partnership with faculty, students, and industry.” said Dr. Beverly Hartline, Vice Chancellor for Research at Montana Tech.