Ford, Boeing and NorthWestern University are in final negotiations to form a new alliance to research commercial nanotechnology applications.

The agreement, which is expected to become final later this month, is designed to pave the way for future advancements in transportation, including hydrogen cars.

‘Nano’ refers to the nanometre, a measurement of a millionth of a millimetre, and nanotechnology involves the manipulation of atoms as raw materials. Scientists hope nanotechnology will dramatically advance medicine, electronics and manufacturing.

For vehicles, nanotechnology could help Ford find ways to boost power in hybrid vehicle batteries using “nanoscale materials” that create more energy from traditional materials today. In the hydrogen arena, nanotechnology could help researchers develop higher capacity hydrogen storage tanks for cars, which would help make the fuel more practical for the future.

While the initial focus of the research will be nanotechnology, other potential research areas include specialty metals, thermal materials, coatings and sensors.

The new alliance between Ford and Boeing will be the latest development in a 10-year relationship that has resulted in improved products for both companies.

Ford and Boeing also have committed to a technology exchange programme, which includes providing access to each other’s staff, technology and processes.

For Northwestern University, the alliance is seen as an opportunity to develop even closer working relationships that are inherent in an arrangement such as this one.
Having ‘embedded; personnel leads to better understanding and identification of each partner’s needs and expertise, the university said, provides opportunities for technology sharing that benefit all.

Northwestern has been one of the early leaders in the field of nanoscience and home of one of the first nanotechnology centres in the US.