Ford and Boeing Plan to Use Nanotech in Cars and Planes

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2005 2:12 pm    Post subject: Ford and Boeing Plan to Use Nanotech in Cars and Planes Reply with quote

Ford Motor Company has announced the intent to form a strategic alliance with The Boeing Company and Northwestern University to research nanotechnology the first such alliance of its kind in the automotive industry.

"Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize a lot of different technologies," said Ed Krause, external alliances manager, Ford Research & Advanced Engineering. "For both Boeing and Ford, while not nano companies primarily, nanotechnology can impact a number of the different products that we both make."

Ford and Boeing already have a 10-year strategic alliance. The two will jointly participate in an operating committee that will formulate proposals for collaborative research, said Krause.

This alliance comes as Ford and Northwestern announced the grand opening of the Ford Motor Company Engineering and Design Center, a $30 million facility.

Northwestern is one of the top engineering universities in the country and is often ranked in the top 10 in a number of disciplines. NU is particularly noted for its materials science program, which recently ranked second behind MIT in that discipline. Materials science is the discipline that underlies nanotechnology.

"Our Materials Science & Engineering Department, which is about 50 years old, was the first one in the country," said Ira Urslander, executive director, Industry Relations, at Northwestern. "We are very heavily involved in materials, and our department is rated up in the top three."

A university alliance is an ideal strategy, says Krause, as both companies move forward in applying nanotechnology.

"Both Ford and Boeing are trying to figure out, how do we keep our eye on this, how do we get our hand in this without building a whole new building and staffing it," said Krause. "The universities are really the primary place where technical research is done in this country - some is done at national labs - but the universities are really generally the first point where the basic research gets done."

Nanotechnology has the potential to greatly impact the products of both companies. There are nano applications in aluminum forming that make it stronger. Ford is working more and more with aluminum, such as in Jaguar vehicles, the Ford GT and the Shelby GR-1 concept car. Nanocoatings that are water-shedding and ice-shedding also are being researched and have applications to Ford and Boeing.

But far from simply throwing money at general nanotech research, the alliance provides for research specific to automotive or aerospace applications.

"We will be working with professors to generate proposals," said Krause. "We won't simply look at what's out there and give them money, but will look for proposals that have specific automotive and, in Boeing's case, aerospace applications. We are really looking for proposals that will be relevant to both of us."

Ford also has an on-campus researcher, Dr. Erica Perry Murray, a Ford Motor Company visiting scholar, who is doing research on gas sensors in support of Ford's diesel programs.

"I've done considerable background work to become familiar with the research of several Northwestern faculty studying areas of nanoscale science that are of interest to Ford and Boeing," said Murray.

Under the alliance, Ford and Boeing will share any intellectual property that is developed, said Krause.

"Another benefit is we hope that the alliance with draw Ford and Boeing together even more so," said Krause. "We've learned a lot of valuable things from Boeing and they have from us over the years. This alliance will be a great way for us to start working together at universities."

Source: Ford website.

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