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Pact to strengthen Sandia-UNM collaboration

Sandia National Laboratories. (Source: Sandia National Laboratories)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico entered into an agreement this week that will increase cooperation between the two institutions on national security, science and engineering projects.

Sandia business development specialist Jason Martinez told the Journal the umbrella Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the two entities would allow each to have greater access to the other’s staff, facilities and research. It will allow greater access for projects that have been ongoing, in addition to future projects.

“In my perspective, this takes the relationship between UNM and Sandia to the next level,” said Edl Schamiloglu, UNM’s special assistant to the provost for laboratory relations. “This CRADA facilitates ongoing relationships between UNM faculty and facilities with Sandia technical staff and facilities and will allow for expansion of these interactions.”

Martinez said the agreement could also give Sandia greater access to funding from grants UNM receives for research and development projects.

Martinez said Sandia and UNM have been working on projects together before the agreement. But standard CRADA agreements involve single projects in one technical area. An umbrella CRADA covers multiple projects and technologies.

“Under previous CRADA agreements, it was cumbersome,” Schamiloglu said, explaining that each new project had to go through the bureaucratic process.

“This simplifies the process,” he said.

Martinez called the agreement “long overdue.”

“We’ve had umbrella agreements with other universities such as the University of Alaska-Fairbanks,” Martinez said. “This gives us an agreement with a university in our own city.”

The agreement is for five years, but Martinez said the agreement can be extended.

He said the agreement puts the strategic and legal frameworks together for the collaboration.

The areas of collaboration under the agreement include quantum information science; computational science and engineering; cybersecurity; data analytics, systems analysis and intelligence science; nuclear engineering and high-energy density science; advance materials and devices; energy and water; bioscience for national security; and emerging science and engineering capabilities for national security.

In one of the first projects under the umbrella CRADA, Sandia will test and validate electronics and other materials UNM uses to develop advanced particle detector designs for the Atlas Detector on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Atlas has been used in several well-known physics investigations, from the search for the Higgs boson, known as the “God particle” (which helps give mass to all elementary particles that have mass), to dark matter particles. Schamiloglu said UNM professor Sally Seidel has led the development of the particle detector.

The UNM components will be tested at Sandia’s Gamma Irradiation Facility and the Ion Beam Laboratory to predict their responses to the experimental conditions like those possible when the Large Hadron Collider restarts operations. The results will be shared with several programs requiring radiation-hardened detectors, electronics and materials.

The agreement allows UNM to use Sandia’s facilities and allows Sandia to use the data.

“It’s a win for both of us,” Schamiloglu said.

Another project will allow Sandia to assist UNM researchers with characterizing fuel plates used to power the university’s low-power teaching reactor, said Sandia engineer John Miller.