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MU College of Engineering breaks ground for new research facility

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 | 6:11 p.m. CST; updated 9:54 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 23, 2011
From left, Noah Manring, chairman of MU's department of electrical and computer engineering; Jim Henley, construction engineer; Marty Walker, director of administrative services for MU's College of Engineering; Jim Thompson, dean of the College of Engineering; Randy Curry, director of the Center for Physical and Power Electronics; and Sam Kiger, associate dean of research for the College of Engineering, broke ground Tuesday to celebrate the start of construction of an addition to the Center for Physical and Power Electronics.

COLUMBIA – MU’s College of Engineering broke ground Tuesday near Reactor Field for a new addition to its pulse power research facility.

The reason: a need for more space.

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An MU engineering team contracted to work on energy capacitors by the Department of Defense has been housed in the Center for Physical and Power Electronics nearby.

“We filled this one up,” said Randy Curry, director of the research team. “We have four cargo containers of equipment, and we’re getting a fifth one.”

Curry said the team will move into the new addition within four months.

The center is one of three nationwide conducting research into the field of pulse power — a form of electromagnetic energy — and ways to store that energy.

This cutting-edge research requires heavy and bulky equipment, said Marty Walker, director of administrative services for the College of Engineering.

The Department of Defense is funding half of the $600,000 cost of the additional facility, said Susan Wampler, the College of Engineering's director for external relations. The research results will have both military and commercial uses.

The facility will be used to research energy-storing devices, or capacitors. The devices are capable of storing 30 times more energy than those currently on the market.

“We can shrink the size of capacitors and build them into wind turbines, build them into electric cars,” Walker said. “The offshoot of that is that someday, every neighborhood could have its own wind turbine."

Other research projects will deal with lasers, alternative energy and algae, Curry said, but declined to explain further.

“We’re unique, and we’d like to keep it that way,” he said.


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