A Piece of Research at the University District

A dynamic, growing presence on the east end of downtown Spokane is the University District, a place where innovation, research, education and more rule the day. Washington State University Spokane, Eastern Washington University, Whitworth University, Gonzaga University and Community Colleges of Spokane all utilize real estate in the U-District.

We have been working with various groups in the community to grow the district. Our U-District is a higher education hub with WSU’s Health Science Campus as its anchor.  One of the district’s best kept secrets is the Applied Sciences Laboratory (ASL), a part of Washington State University’s Institute for Shock Physics.  ASL is a contract research organization providing multidisciplinary expertise in Research & Development and Materials Characterization for government and industry.  Research scientists at ASL have expertise in material science and advanced materials development, optical science, lasers, polymer chemistry, computational modeling and much more.

For instance, did you know there’s team researching ways to detect IEDs to protect U.S. soldiers? And did you know there are studies determining the best way to destroy biological agents, such as anthrax? All of this is vital for our nation, and it’s happening right here in Spokane’s U-District.

The Department of Defense benefits greatly from the laser technology research to detect IEDs. The lab is looking for molecules from the explosive compound to collide with laser-excited nitrogen in the air, which would lead to the emission of light. The team is working to optimize this process and to detect that light, so it can spot an IED before it is triggered and explodes.

The Office of Naval Research sponsors the IED project, but some local and regional businesses are also contracting with ASL.  Avista Utilities, Itron and Boeing have partnered with ASL researchers to find solutions for industry problems.

Avista, for example, uses hydraulic fluid for hydroelectric machinery located in the Spokane River. They are working with ASL to find a fluid that is environmentally acceptable, and still meets the required performance standards. Boeing also approached the lab looking for help in identifying coatings to prevent corrosion on its airplane parts. The coating needs to be environmentally safe, yet also cost-effective. Itron needed improved sealants for its electronics and worked with ASL to develop a new formulation.

Simply put, companies may go to the lab with a challenging problem related to advanced materials, energy, and national security. ASL will partner with the company through a customer-focused relationship in order to solve the problem. ASL works with local industry partners to develop solutions, whether that may be an analysis of current approaches, development of a new product, or redevelopment of existing solutions.

Spokane is fortunate to have such a high-tech research facility for our local industry to use.

ASL turns science into solutions for industry and government.  To learn more call 509.358.7700 or email


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