Pentagon awards $75 million for advanced textiles institute

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sensors that can detect tears in parachute nylons before they become deadly, troop uniforms studded with electronics that can sense chemical agents, and self-powered tents that can save fuel: the U.S. military is banking on a new public-private partnership to make these a reality.

The Pentagon will partner with a consortium of 89 universities, manufacturers, non-profits, and other groups to establish an institute that would research materials “that can see, hear, sense, communicate, store energy, regulate temperature, monitor health, change color, and much more,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday.

Carter announced the initiative in a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which will host the institute. The Pentagon has awarded $75 million for the purpose, funding it said had been matched by over $240 million from non-federal sources.

“The reality is that as I stand here, we don’t know all the advances this new technology is going to make possible,” Carter said.

The Pentagon said the institute would pair companies like audio equipment maker Bose, computer chip maker Intel, and nanofiber manufacturer FibeRio with textile manufacturers and users such as Warwick Mills and shoemaker New Balance.

The initiative announced on Friday is one of a series of “Manufacturing Innovation Institutes” established by President Barack Obama. The others have focused on 3D printing, lightweight metals, integrated photonics, and other areas of technology.

Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney and Phil Berlowitz