Lockheed Martin, a leading defense and aerospace firm, recently entered a cooperative agreement with the Army Research Laboratory that will allow for the creation of new materials by analyzing unique biological cellular building blocks. Lockheed Martin material scientists will work with industry and Army scientists who design microbes capable of editing single-cell organism DNA.
The work will investigate a range of capabilities, including the ability to improve optical technology and coatings for defense applications.
"Cells efficiently create all sorts of materials, like a spider's silk or a butterfly's iridescent wings. We want to harness nature's process to better protect people," said Melissa Rhoads, senior research manager and Lockheed Martin lead.
Biology and technology intersect in the field of biodesign. Some fashion houses even use sustainable technology to develop fabrics for clothing, but Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center sees a number of opportunities. For example, telescopes use lenses to filter out unwanted light or to get a clearer image. However, a squid lens can filter and focus light in a compact package due to a molecule-based design.
In another example, melanin protects humans and animals alike from the Sun's UV rays. So, melanin—or similar molecules with protective functions—could be another natural substance attracting the study's attention. "We can't manufacture that kind of capability, so Lockheed Martin will try nature's way," Rhoads said.
The $10 million, five-year agreement uses the name Self-Assembly of Nanostructures for Tunable Materials and will leverage the Army's Open Campus model to enable collaboration between university, small-business, Army, and Lockheed Martin scientists and engineers.
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