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A hefty chunk of research funding within the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering comes from the Department of Defense (DoD). Active awards — as of September 2008 — amounted to more than $12 million.

“We have expertise that the Department of the Defense needs to improve capabilities and better protect the war fighter,” Sam Kiger, associate dean of research, said. “The faculty is very capable, and for some years now we’ve been working actively to increase DoD funding.”

“There are a number of faculty with different projects aimed at detecting, identifying, and neutralizing explosives, a pressing area of concern in the Middle East,” said Noah Manring, chair of electrical and computer engineering.

Technology to increase effectiveness of explosive devices, building structures that can better withstand explosions, and launchers that fire projectiles using electromagnetism instead of chemical reactions are also DoD funded projects.

“Other areas include work for the Geospatial Intelligence Agency. They do reconnaissance work, identifying potential threats, using satellite imagery,” Manring said.

Many of the projects with immediate military applications, also have civilian applications.

“What would clean up a biological contaminant would also clean up dangerous bacteria from our food,” Kiger said. “It’s hard to imagine these technologies having no civilian applications.”

“Last year the ECE department had $7 million in research funding, and $5 million was from the DoD,” Manring said. “I anticipate DoD funding growing, not diminishing.”

A few ongoing projects with military funding include:

  • Professor Shubhra Gangopadhyay and her research team are developing tunable nanoenergetic materials with explosive capabilities in enhanced blast materials, propellant initiators, microthrusters, reactive materials, and pulsed energy generation. They are also working on using nanotechnology for chemical-biological threat detection.
  • Assistant Professor Zhiqiang Hu and his research team are developing a portable wastewater treatment system for military bases. The system will screen the wastewater with advanced membranes and chemically disinfect it, producing water usable for cooking, drinking and showering.
  • Associate Professor Dominic Ho has been working on several landmine detection projects from the DoD since 1999.  He has developed both a handheld landmine detector and a vehicle-platform landmine detection system. The technology is currently used by the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the humanitarian de-mining community in some Asian countries.
  • Curator’s Professor Jim Keller, Ho, Assistant Professor Mihail Popescue in health management and informatics, and a student team are working to exploit multiple image sensors — color and infrared — in a vehicle to cue a human on  “anomalies” to investigate explosive hazards, with zoom capabilities.
  • Ho and Keller also are working to combine ground penetrating radar and image sensing – two completely different modalities – for explosive hazard detection.
  • Professor Marjorie Skubic, Keller and students are researching software that, given one or more verbal descriptions of temporal/spatial events will automatically construct a graphics sketch of the scenario and then match it to segmented satellite imagery or geospatial databases.


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