Obama Reviews ARL-ARO Funded Research
December 21, 2009
President Barack Obama recently toured laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and reviewed ARL/ARO-funded research.
Obama's visit, which took place on Oct. 23 as part of a larger visit to the university to see the MIT Energy Initiative, brought him to the laboratory of Institute of Collaborative Biotechnologies (ICB) researcher Dr. Angela Belcher.
Belcher's research team is working with ARL to apply recognized needs from the battlefield toward better technologies for the Army. This research could reduce the weight load for Soldiers and aircraft after optimization, transitioning, and advanced development are complete.
While most lithium-ion batteries are relatively bulky and must be enclosed within a hard shell, these efficient, flexible, lightweight biological micro-batteries were created using genetically-engineered viruses as templates for the battery material.
Belcher recalled that Obama was "very impressed" when she described "how much better [these] batteries were than conventional batteries." The new batteries could be used to reduce the load carried by Soldiers or allow unmanned aerial vehicles to fly longer with a larger payload.
She also noted that the President "was very engaged and asked a lot of questions... [he] repeated most of what I said to make sure he had it right, and he was exactly right."
Obama also visited several investigators within the Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) who have leveraged their work in nanoscience to provide unexpected applications in energy, thereby increasing the payoff for Army investment in this research.
Prior to presenting a speech on energy policy, Obama toured the laboratory of ISN Professor Vladimir Bulovic, where they discussed ARL/ARO-funded research in quantum dot LED lights, which could lead to more efficient lighting technology.
Obama later reviewed ARL/ARO-funded research in the laboratories of ISN Professors Marc Baldo and Paula Hammond. Baldo and Hammond demonstrated potential applications of their ISN-funded research in electron transport and layered materials assembly. The presentation included research in self-assembled solar cells and a demonstration of a system that bridges ICB and ISN research by employing a biologically-created solar cell to charge a biological battery developed from Belcher's research.