ANNAPOLIS, Md. – May 21, 2021 – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has signed a non-exclusive license agreement for the development and use of niobium-based connectors (NiobiCon™), specifically for deep-ocean scientific research, with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).
NiobiConTM is a new way of making electrical connections underwater that enables power transfer and data exchange without using seals, oil or moving parts. Northrop Grumman developed this technology to address the inefficient recharging of unmanned vehicles in underwater environments. Niobium naturally forms a thin insulating layer when exposed to water. Niobium-based connectors take advantage of that natural phenomenon to provide insulation for open contacts. As NiobiCon™ connectors are joined, the thin molecule-size layer is scraped off, and the connection is made. Once disconnected, the layer instantly re-forms.
“One application of our patented NiobiCon™ technology is deep-ocean scientific research,” said Todd Leavitt, vice president, naval and oceanic systems, Northrop Grumman. “We look forward to MBARI developing a novel underwater energy transfer solution for their fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).”
Northrop Grumman has entered into an agreement with MBARI, a 501(c)(3) private, nonprofit, research institute in Moss Landing, California. MBARI conducts fundamental research and technology development to better understand and conserve the world’s oceans. MBARI scientists and engineers seek to develop better instruments, systems and methods for studying and monitoring the ocean, and have special expertise in designing and developing equipment and technological systems for oceanic research. MBARI will develop and use NiobiCon™ for its own internal research and development efforts pertaining to undersea connectors on its autonomous underwater vehicles.
“MBARI is pleased to partner with Northrop Grumman to address a significant and outstanding problem in our pursuit of sustaining robotic platforms in the ocean,” said Andrew Hamilton, Engineering Division Chair at MBARI. “NiobiCon™ connector technology has the potential to dramatically reduce the frequency at which our underwater vehicles need to return to shore, enabling us to achieve a persistent presence at sea.”
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