The Pentagon has honored Abraham Pannikottu and his team for designing airless tyress for the Stryker armored vehicle.
This was a well-earned honor for Abraham, manager of Akron Rubber Development Laboratory's engineering group, based in Akron, Ohio. He and his team have toiled for three years to come up with the tyres, which can run a long distance without deflating even after being shot through.
"It will be able to go more than 150 miles," said Abraham, pointing out the importance of mobility in war. If the vehicle is incapacitated, it leaves the occupants sitting ducks.
Abraham's team worked on improving the carbon fiber used to make the tyres. While carbon fiber is light, till recently it was very expensive.
'The price is coming down. So civilian companies may also use it in future," said Abraham. He expects the Stryker vehicles to get the new airless tyres in two or three years, given that the test drives have been a success.
At a function at the Pentagon, Claude M Bolton, Jr, assistant secretary of the army for acquisition, logistics and technology, presented Abraham with the 2006 Army Small Business Innovation Research award and the Small Business Technology Transfer Quality Award.
The SBIR program is a Congressionally mandated program established in 1982. The Small Business Technology Transfer program, like SBIR, is a government-wide program, mandated by the Small Business Research and Development Enhancement Act of 1992. It recognises exceptional performance that exemplifies the goal of bringing innovative technologies to the soldier.
American Engineering Group, a subcontractor, executed the actual project.
This year, 254 Phase II projects were eligible and Abraham's project was chosen from 34 nominations from across the army. The army finally selected 6 exceptional Phase II projects to receive the Quality Award.
Kerala-born Abraham has a mechanical engineering degree from the Sardar Vallabhbhai Regional Engineering College in Surat (currently known as National Institute of Technology). He later completed graduate studies in polymer science at the University of Akron. He has written several research articles on engineering applications of polymers.
He lives in Akron with his wife Mini, a dietician, and two children.